Tarun Sengupta, the Secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) IT cell, was arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on 12 July for allegedly posting ‘fake’ images and video on social media that contain communally sensitive material, Hindustan Times reports.
After being arrested from Asansol, West Bengal, non-bailable sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) were issued against Sengupta in Suri police station. Sengupta reportedly posted a communally sensitive video a few weeks ago. He will be produced in Suri Court on Wednesday, 12 July.
Sengupta is the third person since Sunday to face charges over fake news. All three were arrested or charged in relation to last week’s Basirhar riots. Sengupta shared an age-old YouTube video and claimed that the video depicted Muslim IPS officers physically harassing a Hanuman Bhakt on Hanuman Jayanti this year. He has since deleted his post.
Nupur Sharma, a BJP spokesperson in Delhi, had two non-bailable cases registered against her by the Kolkata Police. Sharma had shared a photo of the 2002 Gujarat riots on social media, claiming it to be a photograph of the Basirhat riots last week.
Police also arrested a man from Sonarpur for posting “fake” pictures that he claimed were of Basirhat. The Cyber Crime Cell of Kolkata Police arrested this man for posting a photo from a Bhojpuri movie and claiming it was captured in Basirhat. The photo showed a group of male actors pretending to molest a woman on screen but the man passed it off as an instance of the communal riots. Additionally, this photo too was shared by several BJP leaders.
West Bengal CM accused BJP of peddling fake news to instigate riots
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has accused the BJP for making and sharing misleading and fake pictures on social media with the intention of triggering communal violence.
“The people of Bengal will not tolerate the fact that BJP is using social media platforms by posting fake pictures and fake news to meet their political ends,” Banerjee said while addressing a public meeting in East Midnapore district on Monday.
The Chief Minister has announced that a judicial inquiry headed by a retired judge of the Calcutta High Court will be constituted to find how the communal riots in Basirhat were sparked.
“The purpose of this inquiry is to identify those who instigated the violence and spread fake news on social media, using clippings and stills from a movie and of violence that took place in other places, even Comilla in Bangladesh,” she said.
Communal violence had broken out in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district over an “objectionable” Facebook post.
According to The Indian Express, trouble started after a Grade 10 student posted a derogatory meme on prophet Muhammad on Monday morning. The violence broke out on Tuesday, 4 July, and an escalation of the same prompted the centre to rush 300 paramilitary personnel to aid the local administration in maintaining law and order.
The clashes are overtly communal in nature, pitting members of the Hindu and Muslim communities of Baduria, North 24 Parganas against each other.
Local train services and internet connections have been disrupted while shops have been shut down and the streets have become deserted in the region. According to Hindustan Times, angry Muslim mobs set fire to shops and houses belonging to Hindus in Baduria, Swarupnagar and Taki blocks of the district. The car of the additional police superintendent of the district was also attacked.
The violence has also caused a rift between Chief Minister Banerjee and Governor Tripathi.
Banerjee accused Tripathi of acting like “a BJP block president” and “threatening” her. While reacting to her conversation with Tripathi over the violence, Banerjee said she felt so offended that “I once even thought of leaving (quitting as chief minister)”.
A Raj Bhavan statement quoted Tripathi as having said nothing happened during the talks over which Mamata should feel “insulted, threatened or humiliated”.
“The talks between the Hon’ble chief minister and the Hon’ble governor were confidential in nature and none is expected to disclose it,” a statement issued by Raj Bhavan in Kolkata said.