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The Wire journalist arrested in India for allegedly tampering tweets

Police in India's capital Delhi arrested a journalist on Tuesday for allegedly manipulating comments by a right-wing group Hindu leader

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Police in India’s capital Delhi arrested a journalist on Tuesday for allegedly manipulating comments by a right-wing group Hindu leader on a new temple in the northern city of Ayodhya, a police report said.

Prashant Kanojia was accused of “spreading hatred” by posting a doctored image of a social media post by Hindu Army leader Sushil Tiwari, according to the report released Monday by local police in Lucknow, the capital of the northern Uttar Pradesh state, where the Ram Temple is located.

Kanojia’s wife confirmed that he had been arrested

Kanojia’s wife confirmed in a tweet that he was picked up by police from his residence.

She also said, “I reached the Vasant Vihar police station around 3 pm to ask for Kanojia but the police said he was not there. Last thing I was told is that the men along with Kanojia have crossed Noida and were en route Lucknow.”

A copy of the FIR, which Arora later received, is with ThePrint. It was filed in Lucknow Monday by one Dinesh Kumar Shukla who accused Kanojia of disrupting communal harmony via social media.

The FIR has been filed under sections 153 (A), 153 (B), 420, 465, 468, 469, 500, 505(1)(b), 505(2) and 66 of the Indian Penal Code. These sections deal with defamation and “attacks upon the religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc of any particular group or class or upon the founders and prophets of a religion”, among others.

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Tiwari had demanded on Facebook that Hindu Vedic studies be included in bureaucratic recruitment tests in place of Islamic studies.

Police say tweets could have potentially disrupted communal harmony

On 10 August, Tiwari had shared a Facebook post saying Islamic studies should be replaced by Vedic studies in the UPSC syllabus. The FIR says this post was subsequently edited to state that OBC/SC/ST will not be allowed in Ayodhya’s Ram Mandir. This edited photo was then tweeted by Kanojia on 16 August. The journalist had later deleted the tweet.

The FIR notes that Kanojia’s tweet was objectionable and could have resulted in disturbing communal harmony, create tension between different communities and hurt religious feelings, which can threaten law and order.

His wife Arora, however, said, “He had not tweeted this at all. Someone edited that image to make it look so. I am 100 per cent sure that he has not tweeted anything of the sort.”

ThePrint tried to reach Joint Commissioner of Police (JCP) (law & order), Lucknow, Naveen Arora and Commissioner of Police Sujeet Pandey via phone calls but did not receive a response until the time of publishing this report.

Tweets were about Hindu right wing group

The Hindu Army is an outfit which reportedly came into existence in 2019. In January this year, the Hindu Army had put up posters which read, “Jaago Hindu jaago” (‘Rise, Hindu, rise’) in sensitive areas like the Tilewali Mosque in Lucknow. There are several videos of Tiwari still available on social media in which he openly incites Hindus to boycott Muslim vegetable sellers, hair cutting salons etc.

Kanojia’s wife told The Wire that Kanojia had deleted the tweet shortly after posting it as he had felt it was not the right thing to publish.

Kanojia was working for the wire

A journalist with the Transcontinental Times and formerly with The Wire, Kanojia was arrested around 1.30 pm, Arora said, adding, “There were five-six people. Only one of them was in uniform. The rest were in civil clothes. At first, they gave us no reason as to why he was being arrested, except to say that orders had come from above.”

However, according to the photo shared by Kanojia, Tiwari’s had “ordered” in the post that “No SC [Scheduled Caste], ST [Scheduled Tribe] or OBCs [Other Backward Classes] will be allowed inside Ram Mandir [Temple],” referring to the lowest groups in India’s outlawed caste system.

Kanojia had previously been arrested last year for social media posts criticizing Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

His arrest had sparked a debate over freedom of expression on social media. His wife later challenged the arrest in the Supreme Court.

While the UP police would not comment on Prashant Kanojia’s whereabouts, indications are that he is being taken to Lucknow. It is not clear if the arresting policemen have obtained transit remand from a Delhi magistrate, as required by law, before taking him out of the state.

Jagisha said it was her birthday yesterday and the police’s action was like an ironical present for her.

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The court ordered his immediate release, saying the fundamental right to liberty was “non-negotiable.”

Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk