"The FIR is against several individuals cutting across religions," police said.
Two weeks after objectionable statements against Prophet Muhammad and Islam by two BJP leaders, one on national television and the other on Twitter, the police have registered a case against several people for hate speech, inciting groups, and creating situations that disturb society's peace and harmony. Two FIRs have been registered, naming BJP spokespersons, an MP, a journalist, social media users, and members of religious organisations.
"The cases have been registered against those who were posting and sharing messages against the maintenance of public tranquillity and were inciting people on the basis of various divisive lines," police said. Sections 153, 295, and 505 which relate to provocation for communal riot, insult to religious symbols, and public mischief have been invoked.
Notably, the police action comes soon after a massive diplomatic storm caused by objectionable and communal remarks by now suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal, the party's Delhi media cell head who has also been expelled. While Ms Sharma's comments were made during a debate on a news channel, Mr Jindal is under fire for a tweet.
The Delhi police have also named All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief and MP Asaduddin Owaisi, and hatemonger Yati Narsinghanand who is out on bail in the Haridwar hate speech case.
The delay in police action has been questioned by many as similar hate speech has often been made both on TV and social media. The timing, right after over 16 countries slammed the remarks by the two BJP leaders, has also caused speculation. It is still unclear if the case was registered based on a complaint or if the cyber unit of Delhi Police's special cell took suo motu cognisance. However, police said the case was registered after social media analysis.
Police said notices will be sent to the social media intermediaries to ascertain more details.
Several countries in the Gulf region had summoned Indian Ambassadors and conveyed their concerns about "growing extremism and hatred". Many have even demanded a "public apology" from New Delhi for the comments that were considered "Islamophobic".
Among those named in the police case or FIR, registered by the Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operation (IFSO) unit of the Special Cell, are Naveen Kumar Jindal, the expelled head of Delhi BJP's media unit, Shadab Chauhan, the chief spokesperson of Peace Party, journalist Saba Naqvi, Hindu Mahasabha office-bearer Pooja Shakun Pandey, Maulana Mufti Nadeem from Rajasthan, Abdur Rehman, Anil Kumar Meena and Gulzar Ansari, the police said.
Pooja Shakun Pandey, who uses the alias 'Annapurna Maa', was recently charged for her controversial call to ban Friday prayers. She has also been accused of giving a public call to arms and incitement to mass murder.
A second FIR was also registered under similar sections against suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma and other social media users, police have said.
"The FIR is against several individuals cutting across religions," Deputy Commissioner of Police (IFSO) KPS Malhotra has said.
"The unit will investigate the roles of various social media entities in promoting false and wrong information with an intention to create unrest in the cyberspace and that have ramifications on the physical space thereby compromising with the social fabric of the country," Mr Malhotra said.