The Uttar Pradesh police have registered an FIR against nine including social media platform Twitter, journalists, Congress leaders and news website The Wire for tweets posted in connection with the assault on an elderly man in Ghaziabad. UP police has booked journalists Rana Ayyub, Saba Naqvi, co-founder of fact checking site Alt News Mohammed Zubair and three Congress leaders Shama Mohamed, Salman Nizami and Maskoor Usmani.
The police have invoked sections pertaining to provoking enmity for tweeting a video of the victim, Abdul Samad Saifi, alleging that he was forced to chant Jai Shri Ram by his attackers who also beat him up and cut off his beard. The FIR claims they did not verify claims before sharing and added that Twitter made no attempts to stop the video from spreading, thereby furthering communal disharmony.
WHAT WAS THE INCIDENT?
A viral video showing of a disturbing attack on 72-year-old resident of Loni, Abdul Samad Saifi went viral on Twitter and Facebook. The audio less video showed Saifi being beaten, slapped, kicked and one of the accused also chopping off the elderly Muslim man's beard. The same was widely shared on Facebook and Twitter calling attention to the brutal assault.
BOOM reached out to Ghaziabad police who confirmed that the incident is from June 5, in Hazipur Bheta in the district and that three people have been arrested for the same. The Ghaziabad police booked six people - Parvesh Gujjar, Kallu Gujjar, Himanshu, Adil, Aarif and Mushahid, all residents of the area. Investigation has led to the arrest of three - Parvesh and Kallu Gujjar and Adil.
Dr Iraj Raja, Superitendent of Police, Ghazipur dehat district told BOOM that Saifi claimed he had been allegedly kidnapped while travelling in an autorickshaw, taken to a secluded place and beaten up. "The elderly man in the FIR said that he was not aware of who the accused were and that they had taken him to a forested secluded area where they assaulted him.We first registered a case against unknown persons," Raja said.
NO COMMUNAL ANGLE TO THE INCIDENT : GHAZIABAD POLICE
A second viral video showed the victim Saifi talking to the camera and describing his injuries and narrating the sequence of events of the day in detail. Saifi in the video can be heard alleging that he was forced to chant Jai Shri Ram while being beaten and slapped and then his beard cut off.
The video was first uploaded as a Facebook Live by Ummed Pahalwan Idrisi, a local Samajwadi Party leader from Loni and also shows him sitting beside the victim. The video starts with Idrisi introducing himself and then gives a gist of the incident claiming Saifi was on his way to pay his condolences to a deceased's relatives family. Idrisi then claims the crime was done by people wanting to "disturb the harmony of Loni" and the attack motivated because Saifi wears a cap and has a beard. He further claims the accused told Saifi that "the police have caught us before. This is what we do to Muslims and if you were young, we would have killed but are letting you go because you are a senior citizen."
Saifi then appears in frame and emotionally narrates his ordeal and says he was beaten up and assaulted and shows his injuries. He also further alleges that when he was screaming out in pain, the accused forced him to chant, "Jai Shri Ram" and said they recorded the whole incident on video and threatened to make it public if he reported them.
Ghaziabad police refuted the communal claims and said that Saifi did not mention that he was made to chant Jai Shri Ram while registering the FIR. "The victim in his FIR did not say that he was made to chant any religious slogans. He only said he had been beaten up and assaulted," said Raja.
He further said that during investigation, the police learnt that the victim knew the accused and that he had gone to Hazipur Bheta to meet them. Raja said the victim sold a taaviz (amulet) to one of the accused and the accused along with his associates called him to meet claiming the powers of the taaviz backfired instead of helping his family. "We have phone recordings of the accused and the victim talking to each other several times before the assault. The main accused Parvesh in his statement has also revealed that he knew the victim and hatched the plan to beat him up after one of his family members suffered a miscarriage and he blamed it on the taaviz," said Raja.
NDTV on Wednesday reported that the Saifi's son has refuted the police's claims that his father sold taaviz. Babloo Saifi, the victim's son was quoted as saying, "The police is wrong in saying that my father used to sell 'tabeez' (amulets). No one in our family does this business. We are carpenters. The police are not saying the right thing - let them investigate and prove it."
Ghaziabad police has booked the accused for assault and under section 295/A (deliberate malicious acts to outrage religious feelings by insulting religion or religious beliefs) but have said there is no communal angle to the incident.
"The accused beat up the victim because of personal enmity and not because of religious motive. Plus the accused are from both religions unlike what viral forwards are claiming. The act of cutting his beard can be perceived as an attack on his religion and that is why we have registered the case against them for the same,"said Raja.
BOOM has tried repeatedly to contact Saifi via his son Babloo but the phone numbers have been switched off. Idrisi refused to comment on the video or the police statement.
WHY HAS UP POLICE BOOKED THE WIRE, TWITTER, JOURNALISTS AND CONGRESS POLITICIANS
After videos of Saifi getting beaten and his subsequent video statement about being made to chant Jai Shri Ram went viral, several journalists and politicians shared both on their Twitter accounts. Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of Alt News first tweeted the video of Saifi being beaten describing the events in the video and then tweeted the second video citing that the victim had alleged he was made to chant Jai Shri Ram.
Following the UP police statement that there was no communal angle to the incident, Zubair deleted his tweet and said, "I have deleted the videos that I had posted. The victim's version of him being forced to chant "Jai Shri Ram" at this point in time do not seem to add up based on my conversations with police authorities and other journalists reporting on this issue."
News outlet The Wire which published stories about the incident also issued a statement saying the FIR was, "...an attempt to criminalise the reporting of anything other than the official version of events." Detailing the outlet's reportage of the incident and the tweets about the published stories, the news organisation said, "The Wire condemns the registration of a criminal case by the UP Police over a news story and tweet based on accurate and truthful reports, by many media organisations, of what the victim of the crime has himself said about the incident."
Maskoor Usmani, Congress leader from Jale, Bihar also tweeted a statement saying, "The recent FIR that has been lodged against me and five others are not mere personal attacks but a larger message that the government wants to propel that there can be no dissent from civil society, opposition parties and independent media houses."
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