Hours after a case was filed in Uttar Pradesh's Ghaziabad against Twitter and eight others, including journalists and Congress leaders, over posts linked to an elderly Muslim man's assault that allegedly "provoked communal sentiments", a new twist has emerged in the controversy. The family of Abdul Samad, the elderly man who was attacked, has denied the police's claims that he sells amulets.
Abdul Samad had alleged he was forced to chant "Jai Sri Ram" and "Vande Matram" and his beard was cut off by the accused when he was taken to a forested area and locked up in a room on June 5. The UP Police, however, denied any "communal angle" in the case, adding that he was beaten up over the amulets he sold to some men, which they believe "didn't work".
He was attacked by six men - Hindus and Muslims - and he knew them, police said. Journalists Rana Ayyub, Saba Naqvi, and Congress leaders Salman Nizami, Shama Mohamed and Maskoor Usmani are among those who have been accused of sharing "misleading" posts - linked to the incident - that were re-tweeted by thousands of people, according to the FIR filed against them. Twitter has been accused of taking no action against the posts even as Ghaziabad Police had put out "a clarification" on Monday, according to the complaint.
His son, however, has refuted the police's claims. "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," Babloo Saifi, Abdul's son, told NDTV.
He further said: "We filed a FIR at the Loni police station on June 6." Elaborating the sequence of events, as explained by his father earlier, Babloo Saifi said that on the day of the incident, Abdul Samad was taken forcefully to a deserted place after he took an auto. "The men took my father to a deserted place. Then he was beaten up and his beard was cut off. But my father's life was saved. He was tortured for four hours," he claimed.
Three people have been arrested so far in the assault case. "When we investigated this case, we found that he (Abdul) came on June 5 from Loni border area. From there, Abdul Samad, who makes amulets, went to Hazipur village. He already knew the accused. The men, who were upset with him over the amulets, had called him," Ghaziabad police officer Iraj Raja is heard saying in an official video statement.
The FIR against Twitter and eight others has been filed under IPC sections 153 (provocation for rioting), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295A (acts intended to outrage religious feelings), 505 (mischief), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention).
Journalist Rana Ayyub tweeted this afternoon: "I shall wait for the truth to prevail at the earliest." Journalist Saba Naqvi also posted her response in a tweet.
It seems the Ghaziabad police is investigating the case of the elderly Muslim man and has put forward a different version. My comment on Twitter was based on a newspaper report. I will wait for the investigation to be completed before further comment.— Saba Naqvi (@_sabanaqvi) June 16, 2021
This is the first case against Twitter after the government's new rules for online news publishers came into effect; sources in the government have said Twitter can face liability for third party content. Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in series of tweets today said "what happened in UP was illustrative of Twitter's arbitrariness in fighting fake news".
"While Twitter has been over enthusiastic about its fact checking mechanism, it's failure to act in multiple cases like UP is perplexing and indicates its inconsistency in fighting misinformation," he added.