Dozens detained in India over social media comments after Babri Mosque ruling

Published: November 11, 2019
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Security has been stepped up in the Indian city of Ayodhya ahead of a Supreme Court verdict on the future of a disputed religious site. Photo: AFP

Security has been stepped up in the Indian city of Ayodhya ahead of a Supreme Court verdict on the future of a disputed religious site. Photo: AFP

NEW DELHI/AYODHYA: Dozens of people in India have been detained on suspicion of publishing inflammatory social media posts and setting off celebratory firecrackers after the Supreme Court ruled to give a disputed religious site to Hindus, police said on Sunday.

The statement added that authorities had acted against more than 8,270 posts, with steps including “reporting the posts to the social media platform” and “directly messaging the user to delete the message”.
Most of the content targeted — more than 2,800 posts — was on Twitter. There were 1,355 allegedly inflammatory comments on Facebook, and 98 YouTube videos, authorities said.¬†Eight other arrests were reported in the central state of Madhya Pradesh for social media comments. A jail warden in the city of Gwalior was also arrested for celebrating with fireworks after Hindus were awarded the site.

The court awarded the bitterly contested site in the northern town of Ayodhya to Hindus on Saturday, dealing a defeat to Muslims who also claim the land that has sparked some of the country’s bloodiest riots since independence. In 1992, a Hindu mob destroyed the 16th-century Babri Mosque on the site, triggering riots in which about 2,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed.

Babri mosque: Here are key arguments made in court

No major violence was reported after the ruling over the weekend. Authorities said they were showing a “zero tolerance approach” towards potentially inflammatory content on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp. About 77 people were arrested as of late Sunday in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state and the site of the contested land, state police said on Sunday. Police have acted upon 8,275 social media posts across the state by either reporting them to the platform or asking users to delete them, the police said in a press note issued late on Sunday.

 

“Any illegal conduct on the internet will be noticed and
acted upon,” PV Rama Sastry, additional director general of
police for law and order in Uttar Pradesh’s capital Lucknow,
told Reuters earlier on Sunday. The police also said they had sealed a local office of right-wing Hindu nationalist group Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha and detained its national Vice President Ashok Sharma. They did not provide further details. In another part of the state, at least seven men were arrested for setting off firecrackers or creating disturbances while distributing sweets in celebration. The Home Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for information on arrests. The government has deployed thousands of members of
paramilitary forces and police in Ayodhya and other sensitive
places.

“DISHEARTENED”

The court’s decision paves the way for the construction of a
Hindu temple on the site, a proposal long supported by Prime
Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu-nationalist party. Hindus believe the site is the birthplace of Lord Ram, a physical incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, and say the site was holy for Hindus long before the Muslim Mughals, India’s most prominent Islamic rulers, built the Babri mosque there in 1528. The Supreme Court called the 1992 demolition of the mosque illegal but handed the 2.77 acre (1.1 hectare) plot – about the size of a soccer field – to a Hindu group. It directed that another plot in Ayodhya be provided to a Muslim group that had contested the case. Some scholars and activists saw the judgement as unfair, particularly given that the 1992 razing of the mosque was deemed illegal.

In pictures: Security on alert in India after Babri mosque verdict

“Why has the 2.77 acres been gifted to the very elements who
were party to this?,” Syeda Hameed, the president of the Muslim
Women’s Forum, wrote in the Hindustan Times, referring to the
mosque’s destruction. Muslim leaders have called for peace between majority Hindus and Muslims, who constitute 14% of its 1.3 billion people. Some seemed to have resigned themselves to the decision. “I am disheartened with the verdict and leaving it to Allah,” said Mohammad Azam Qadri, a community leader in Ayodhya.

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