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MP Police Arrest Muslim Student Over WhatsApp Status on Atiq Ahmed

Kashif Kakvi |
The complainant is a childhood friend of the arrested youth and is associated with the Hindu Jagran Manch.

Bhopal: Putting up a WhatsApp status referring to the murder of gangster-turned-Politician Atiq Ahmed has landed a 22-year-old Muslim youth in jail in Madhya Pradesh.

The Muslim youth, identified as Farhan Khan, is a resident of Sheetal Mata Mandir locality, which falls under the Nalchha Police Station of Dhar district in Madhya Pradesh.

Farhan is a student in class 12 and the youngest among three siblings. His father Ishak Khan (55) is a truck driver, and the elder brother is a cab driver. His mother is a homemaker, and his disabled sister is preparing for competitive exams.

Farhan's family said that the police lodged the FIR on the complaint of Kanha Mandloi (22), a childhood friend of the arrested youth. Mandloi is associated with the Hindu Jagran Manch and lives across the street from the family.

On the night of April 16, three youths identified as Lavlesh Tiwari (22), Sunny Puraney (23) and Arun Kumar Maurya (18) murdered Atiq Ahmed and his brother Ashraf, who were transferred to Pratapgarh district jail from Uttar Pradesh's Prayagraj in chains.

It happened in the presence of two dozen policemen and the media. Subsequently, the UP government formed a three-member probe committee and sacked over a dozen police personnel.

Hours after Atiq and his brother's murder, Farhan allegedly posted a WhatsApp status.

Alleging that the post may disturb peace in the locality and it had hurt Hindu sentiments, members of the right-wing group Hindu Jagran Manch complained to the Nalchha Police, demanding strict action with the screenshot of the status.

Subsequently, the Nalchha police booked Farhan under Section 151-A (creating enmity between the two groups) of the IPC and arrested him at midnight.

"On the complaint of Hindu Jagran Manch, we have lodged an FIR against Farhan, who tried to disturb the peace. The court sent him to district jail," said Abhinav Shukla, the officer-in-charge of Nalchha police station.

When questioned about the legality of the FIR, he replied, "It's a sensitive area and religious festivals are round the corner. To prevent any uprising, action has been taken."

Defending his son, Ishak Khan said, "The complainant Kanha and Farhan are childhood friends. They attended school together and live across the street."

"When he posted the status, which doesn't have names, photos or reference to any incident, Kanha took the screenshot and went to the police station with his friends to lodge FIR," he added.

"Police arrested Farhan in the middle of the night without revealing the reason for it," he explained. "His elder brother, who went to the police station the next morning to know the reason for arrest, was shouted away. The police sent him to jail without giving a fair chance to apply for bail at the SDM court," he claimed.

Foolishness Isn't a Crime: Expert

To understand the legality of the case, NewsClick reached out to the senior advocate of Indore High Court, Ajay Bagadiya and former Director General of Police, Chhattisgarh, MW Ansari.

Speaking to NewsClick, Bagadiya said, "The post doesn't mention the name, incident or the community of the attackers. In that case, how it does it hurt the sentiments of a particular community or disturb peace?"

He pointed out, "What the accused has done can be considered an act of foolishness, which is not a crime in our country. Such flimsy cases don't stand in the court of law."

Speaking on the nitty-gritty and notion of lodging an FIR, former DGP MW Ansari pointed out, "Police check three things before lodging an FIR: legality of the case, violation of the law and evidence. What he had posted neither violates any law nor legally stands in the court of law."

He added, "The status wasn't provocative, but lodging an FIR arbitrarily on such groups surely may heat up enmity between the two communities or create tension between them."

"It appears that the FIR has been lodged to appease the Hindu fundamentalist and the ruling government, and not to uphold the law," Ansari said.

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