Guwahati, Assam: An 18-year-old B.Com student, a 26-year-local journalist, a state police constable, a 49-year-old cleric who was the general secretary in the Badruddin Ajmal led political party of All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) have all been arrested by the Assam police. They are among the 15 people whose social media posts had allegedly "supported" the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan.
Almost all of them have been booked under the UAPA- Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The 15 were arrested on Friday from some 11 districts of the state while nearly 2,500 kms away people scrambled to flee Afghanistan after the Taliban seized back control of the country, almost two decades after they were ousted by a US-led coalition.
Maulana Fazlul Karim Qasmi, who hails from Assam's Darrang district, 73 km away from the capital city, was suspended from the post of general secretary of AIUDF the day after he was arrested. He was also been suspended from the post of secretary of Assam State Jamiat Ulama. The police said that his social media post supported the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
Who Are The Accused?
The other accused were identified as Abu Bakkar Sidique, Saidul Hoque from Kamrup rural; Mozidul Islam, Faruk Hussain Khan from Barpeta; Saiyad Ahmed, Arman Hussain from Dhubri; Mujib Uddin, Mortuza Hussain Khan from Karimganj; Jawed Mazumder from Cachar; Nadim Akhter from Hailakandi; Khandakar Nur Alom from South Salmara; Yaseen Khan from Goalpara; Basiruddin Laskar from Hojai and Rafiqul Islam from Baksa district.
Besides Qasmi, two other Muslim clerics -- Yaseen Khan and Basiruddin Laskar -- have been arrested, according to the the Assam police (special branch), which has been monitoring the case.
Barpeta police said the two arrested in the district, Mozidul Islam and Faruk Hussain Khan, both unemployed, were "glorifying" the Taliban. Jawed Mazumder, a bank employee, was nabbed from Sonai town for his post in which he allegedly said that the Taliban had done a "good job".
In Hailakandi, Md Nadim Aktar, a third semester of MBBS at Tezpur Medical College, was arrested for allegedly making "communally provocative comments" in favour of the Taliban on Facebook.
Among the two arrested by Karimganj police, one Mujib Uddin is a teacher while the other arrested person identified as Mortuza Hussain Khan is a B.Com student. Accused Abu Bakkar Sidique, alias Afga Khan Avilekh, is a teacher at a private coaching centre.
One of the accused, Saidul Hoque, is a constable of the 21st AP (IR) Bn located in Karimganj. Another accused, Khandakar Nur Alom, is an employee in unorganised businesses sector. Rafiqul Islam is a journalist in a local news outlet.
There is not much clarity on what the social media posts were; they could not be traced as they have all been taken down. The police did not share much details into this.
Why Were They Arrested?
A day after the arrest, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said he has directed the police to act without "fear and favour".
The police confirmed that the investigation has found 18 such accounts, from which posts were made on social media in support of the Taliban, recently. They said they were not able to arrest the remaining three profile owners as they are based in Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Mumbai.
"After an analysis of their social media posts, we have booked most of them under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA)," police informed. Sources added that out of the 15, at least 14 were reportedly slapped with UAPA besides IT Act and IPC.
The accused were booked under 120 (B), 153(A), 505(1)(c) and 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code (covering conspiracy, posting of defamatory content, religious offence) and Section 39 of the UA(P) Act, 1967 (covering support to a terrorist organisation). Sections of the Information Technology Act were also imposed on the accused.
A top police official monitoring the case said that all the posts were such that they "attracted the penal provisions of Indian law". The official said that since Tehreek-e-Taliban finds an entry in the ISIS and Al Qaida sanctions list maintained by the United Nations, state police have sufficient grounds to book them under UAPA.
GM Srivastava, Strategic Analyst, Security Environment & Business and former Director General of Assam Police, told BOOM, "The Taliban is known as a militant group all over the world due to its fundamentalist nature and acts of violence, nipping it in the bud of such elements is urgent and should be dealt with iron hands."
He said that the social media posts were an indication that the "fundamentalist have spread their roots into this corner of the world too". He said that the police in Assam is keeping a "strict surveillance" so they "uproot it before it becomes dangerous".
"Taliban carry arms and wherever they go they will create enmity between various sections of the society which itself is a big offence as per Indian law," Srivastava said. He said that the Indian law provides some of the provisions and that it has to be used. "We can't allow it to grow or to wait whether the Taliban is considered or declared as a militant group or not," he added.
The police said that they have taken a suo moto based on the findings of Assam Police's social media monitoring cell. However, a Twitter handle @HinduITCell with over 95k followers claimed that they helped the police nab one of the accused.
On Sunday, all the 15 persons were sent to judicial custody.
The author is an independent journalist based out of Assam, covering North-East India. He tweets at @Pranjal_khabri.