BHOPAL- On July 24, 2022, Hafiz Samiullah Khan was arrested by the police from his home Shajapur in Madhya Pradesh after a video went viral that purportedly showed his supporters raising Pro-Pakistan slogans during his victory rally in the panchayat polls. The video was found to be morphed.
A week after the 35-year-old won the election from Ward 12 of Shajapur city, he was arrested. Three days later, he was informed that the National Security Act (NSA) had been invoked against him.
The case may have ended but Hafiz Samiullah cannot forget that the local media was quick to brand him a terrorist over a fake video.
"I was treated like a fugitive. A section of the media hounded my family by circulating my handcuffed videos and photos showing me in a poor light," he told BOOM, a month after the charges were dropped against him.
Videos of 'Pakistan Zindabad' slogan, often fake, have repeatedly made their way to WhatsApp groups and social media platforms. In most of these cases, Muslims have been accused of raising these slogans. Fact-checkers have been busting these viral videos for a while now, but the claims keep reappearing - just with changed geographies.
Here are 11 fact-checks that BOOM has done on specifically these false claims of 'Pakistan Zindabad' slogans.
The videos in most cases are not morphed but the slogan is misheard. But the fake videos are enough for complaints and arrests.
The Trouble Of Fake Videos
For months before he was arrested, Hafiz Samiullah was a "well-respected social worker". His support to provide food during the pandemic, helping with the supply of oxygen and performing cremation of unclaimed bodies made him popular in the neighbourhood.
All that work paid off when he was elected councilor of ward 12 of Shahapur Municipal council. He contested the urban Panchayat poll on the ticket of Social Democratic Party of India and secured 607 votes out of 1400 polled votes in the ward with a mixed population. His victory rally, attended by hundreds of his supporters, also had a strong police presence.
"At least half a dozen cops accompanied my victory procession carried out on July 17 from ITI Square to ward 12. Some of them filmed it too," recalled Samiullah. A video from the rally went viral with claims that Samiullah's supporters raised 'Pakistan Zindabad' slogans. Six days later, the police lodged an FIR when members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal protested at the bus stand demanding stern action against the local leader.
"The protests were based on a fake video," he said.
The police lodged an FIR against Samiullah under section 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and 153-B (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) the day the right-wing groups protested.
Three days after the arrest, when Samiullah was charged under NSA too, the police handcuffed him and took him to the district hospital to conduct a medical checkup as part of the standard protocol before transferring him to the Ujjain Central Jail. Photos and videos of him in handcuffs went viral and reached his family's WhatsApp groups too.
A month later, a Home department's tribunal revoked the NSA order granting Samiullah immediate release. The tribunal pulled up the police for "exhibiting lack of maturity and insensitivity in handling the case".
'Pakistan Zindabad Not Anti-National Slogan'
In August 2021, taking cognizance of viral video clips of less than 15 seconds, Ujjain Police arrested 16 Muslim youths invoking sedition and NSA charges against six. The police claimed that pro-Pakistan slogans were raised in a Muharram gathering. The video was tweeted by journalists and Hindu right-wing Twitter handles demanding "stern action".
Ten months later, the Ujjain Sessions Court dismissed the sedition charges.
"While dismissing the sedition charges, the court of Additional Sessions Judge Santosh Shukla pointed out that Pakistan Zindabad is neither an anti-national slogan nor it amounts to sedition. The court also referred to the recent order of the Supreme Court which cautioned over placing sedition charges," Devendra Singh Sengar, advocate of 11 accused in the Ujjain sedition case, told BOOM.
There was confusion over the video that was shared by the Ujjain police back then. The Muharram procession's organisers had released a 2.20 minute video in which people can be heard shouting "qazi sahab zindabad". The Ujjain police then released a clip of the same event in which people can be heard shouting "Pakistan zindabad" and "qazi sahab zindabad".
Ujjain superintendent of police Satyendra Shukla had told reporters, "We have taken action only on the basis of an authentic video shot by police personnel and officers of the district administration. We have no doubt on the authenticity." "Earlier too, such incidents have been reported from the area, and this time we recorded the procession," he added.
"Even after a year, the police did not produce a single piece of evidence to prove that Pakistan Zindabad slogans were raised in the event," Sengar said, adding that all the accused have secured bail.
Despite several attempts to reach the Ujjain SP through phone calls and text messages, he did not respond to BOOM's queries.
How Do These Videos Go Viral?
Raisa Begum, a BJP leader of Madhya Pradesh's Katni district won Chaka Panchayat election for the fourth time in a row in a Hindu majority village, in July 2022. Soon after her victory with merely 10 votes, her supporters gathered outside her house and raised slogans in praise of her and her husband Wajid Khan. Hours later, a morphed video turned her victory into a nightmare.
Her Hindu opponent allegedly morphed the video replacing Wajid Bhai Zindabad with 'Pakistan Zindabad' and complained to the police. Wajid found out about the video and sought protection from the police. The following day, a mob of over 100, armed with sticks and iron rods tried to barge inside Wajid's house accusing him of raising pro-Pakistan slogans. The police foiled their attack.
Later, the police investigation found that the video was morphed.
In the last year, Madhya Pradesh has witnessed over a half dozen such cases in Shajapur, Ujjain, Katni, Mandsaur, Chhatarpur districts. Muslims were jailed over allegations of raising pro-Pakistan slogans in their political and social rallies. But the majority of the cases did not stand in the courts.
Morphed viral videos with 'Pakistan Zindabad' slogans have emerged from states like Karnataka, Jharkhand, Assam, West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan too.
In most of the cases, Hindu right-wing groups accused members of the Muslim community of raising pro-Pakistani slogans. A section of mainstream media, members of the ruling party and right-wing Twitter handles fan these rumors defaming and questioning the nationality of the minority community till the police is forced to take action.
The Attacks And Slander
Samiullah was in jail for nearly two months before the Indore High court granted him bail.
Speaking to BOOM, Samiullah Khan said, "I was framed and branded terrorist. My family suffered because I belong to a Muslim community and won an election defeating the candidates of ruling as well as opposition parties."
He was finally out of jail on September 16, 2022.
"When the tribunal asked the police the reason for invoking NSA, a senior officer of the police argued that pro-Pakistan slogans were raised at the procession rally that was carried out without permission," Samiullah said.
According to section 12 of the National Security Act (NSA) - 1980, within 45 days of detention, the Home Department has to submit a report to the NSA Advisory Board to justify the reason for invoking the draconian law. Based on that report and the in-person appearance of the victim, the advisory board, headed by a high court judge, reviews the case and passes a verdict. If the advisory board finds no sufficient cause for detention, the order is revoked.
Based on the observations of the advisory board, on August 26, Home Department (C-section) snapped the NSA charges against Samiullah. In the subsequent week, Indore High Court granted him bail under section 153-B and 188 of the IPC.
Samiullah recalled the court proceedings that took place in Jabalpur a week before his release order.
"The court questioned, 'How many wards are there in Shajapur?' The officer replied over 30. The court then asked if over 30 victory rallies would have been carried out that day. The officer replied in the affirmative. The court asked, how many of them have taken permission, the officer replied, none, after a long silence. 'Then why did the police file a case only against Samiullah for doing the same?' the tribunal asked."
"When police were present in his rally and filming it, why did it take five days to lodge an FIR? Were they waiting for a right-wing group to protest?" Saimullah said. The officer, he said, had no reply.
Similarly, when the police booked 16 Muslims in the Ujjain case, many media and right-wing groups branded the accused as 'Taliban'.
The family of the accused continued to face slander. They were called 'traitors' and 'sympathizers of India's foe Pakistan'. Meanwhile, a year later no evidence was produced in the court to prove their crime.
"If the police did not stop them, the mob would have lynched my entire family," Wajid Khan, BJP leader Raisa Begum's husband told BOOM.
"That fake video tarnished my image and questioned my loyalty to my country," he said. The locals, he said, mock him with names like 'Talabani' and 'Pakistani'. "It happened even when the police gave a clean chit to us," he said.
Speaking over the repeated claims of 'Pakistan Zindabad' sloganeering videos, former DGP of Chhattisgarh MK Ansari told BOOM that this is a result of the arbitrary action of the police and right-wing groups.
"Before police file an FIR and subsequently arrest the accused, it's their duty to ensure that allegations are prima facie true. After checking the merit of the case, police lodge an FIR under the relevant sections and take the case forward. But, things have changed these days. Anyone walks in with wild allegations and without checking the merit or evidence, police not only invoke stringent sections but also treat the accused as a fugitive, level slanders and deliberately leak them to the media," he said.
"As a result, the cases do not stand in the court," he added.
"In any sovereign state, these cases should not have been lodged in the first place unless the police deliberately tries to defame or harass a particular person or the community he belongs to. They do it all, knowing the fact that the case will not stand in the court," he said.
He said that the police should practice caution in "filing such mischievous cases as it paints a bad picture of police".
NSA For Sloganeering?
Last year, the Allahabad high court granted bail to three Kashmiri students who were arrested for raising 'Pakistan Zindabad' slogans during a cricket match. The court observed, "India's unity is not made of bamboo reeds that will bow down to the winds of mere slogans".
In 1995, a Supreme Court bench of Justice AS Anand and Justice Faizanuddin made a strong remark in the Balwant Singh and Another v State Of Punjab. Balwant Singh and his accomplice had raised anti-India slogans in Chandigarh, on the day Indira Gandhi was assassinated on October 31, 1984. The slogans were "Khalistan zindabad", "Raj karega Khalsa (Only the believer shall rule)", and "Hinduan nun Punjab chon kadh ke chhadange, hun mauka aya hai raj kayam karan da (We will drive Hindus out of Punjab; now is the chance to establish our rule)". The Punjab Police had then invoked sedition charges.
But the apex court had observed, "Raising of some lonesome slogans, a couple of times by two individuals, without anything more, did not constitute any threat to the Government of India… (nor) could (it) give rise to feelings of enmity or hatred among different communities…"
On 'Khalistan Zindabad' slogan, the top court revoked the sedition charges by noting that despite the slogan being raised a couple of times, the people, in general, were unaffected and carried on with their normal activities.
Speaking to BOOM, Anas Tanveer, a Supreme Court lawyer said that the imposition of the sedition charge or NSA in cases of pro-Pakistan slogans is an abuse of law as the Supreme Court gave a very clear judgment in 1995 in Balwant Singh and Another vs State Of Punjab case.
"Just like it is not a crime to chant 'America Zindabad, Germany Zindabad, Sri Lanka Zindabad or Japan Zindabad, when the two countries continue to maintain diplomatic relations, chanting Pakistan zindabad is not a crime. There is no law that prohibits or hurts anyone's religious feelings or national owner's act," he said.
However legal experts may feel, the cases have continued.
In Madhya Pradesh, Chhatarpur, police arrested Mohammad Younus on September 19 who allegedly wrote pro-Pakistan slogans in support of the Pakistani cricket team on his social media account. Police booked Younus under section 153-B (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) of the IPC on the complaint of VHP District president Rajkumar Gangle.
Similarly, on the complaint of right-wing groups, Shahpur police lodged FIR against 50-60 Muslim men on August 11 for allegedly raising pro-Pakistan slogans in a Muharram procession carried out on August 10. They were booked under section 153-B (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) and 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the IPC.
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