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Koregaon-Bhima raids: 250 Twitter handles created to spread misinformation, claims police

The Maharashtra Police report states that an elaborate online campaign was launched to highlight the Koregaon-Bhima violence at the international level.

Koregaon-Bhima raids: 250 Twitter handles created to spread misinformation, claims police
File photo

MUMBAI: Maharashtra Police, which is probing the Koregaon-Bhima violence, has claimed that around 250 Twitter handles were created to spread misinformation about the last year's violence in Pune in which one person was killed and several others injured.

In a detailed report sent to the state home department, the Maharashtra Police claimed that the Twitter handles were created to mobilse support for allegedly holding demonstrations abroad to defame the Narendra Modi government.

The report states that an elaborate online campaign was launched to highlight the Koregaon-Bhima violence at international level.

"A deliberate mobilisation and misinformation campaign was carried out on social media by circulating videos and speeches on the Koregaon-Bhima violence," a senior police official said.

As a result of this campaign, there was "a large-scale mobilisation" in the UK and a "known group" supported these protests, the official said but declined to name the group.

The Maharashtra Police has found 'suspicious videos' of speeches in which activists from the UK can be heard talking about the Koregaon-Bhima violence, he said.

Protests were held in front of the Indian High Commission in London in mid-January to condemn the violence that broke out on January 1 during the 200th-anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Koregaon-Bhima in Pune district.

"We suspect that such demonstrations were held to ensure negative publicity and to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government," the official said.

In a related development, Maharashtra government on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that the five rights activists were arrested due to the cogent evidence linking them with the banned CPI(Maoist) and not because of their dissenting views.

The state's response came in the backdrop of the apex court ruling staying the arrest of the five activists on August 29 till September 6, categorically stating that "dissent is the safety valve of democracy".

The Maharashtra Police had filed an affidavit in response to a plea of historian Romila Thapar and four others challenging the arrest of the five activists in connection with the Koregaon-Bhima violence case, claiming they were planning to carry out violence in the country and ambush the security forces.

The police said there was sufficient evidence to "dispel" the claim that they were arrested for their dissenting views.

While prominent Telugu poet Varavara Rao was arrested from Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira were nabbed from Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bharadwaj from Faridabad and civil liberties activist Gautam Navlakha was arrested from Delhi.

The raids were carried out as part of a probe into an event called Elgar Parishad, or conclave, on December 31 last year, which had later triggered violence at Koregaon-Bhima village in Pune district of Maharashtra.

The police sought their custody and questioned the locus of Thapar, economists Prabhat Patnaik and Devaki Jain, sociologist Satish Deshpande and legal expert Maja Daruwala, dubbing them as "strangers" to the investigation in the matter.

"The petitioners, who are strangers to the offence under investigation, are also praying for bail on behalf of the persons arrested during an ongoing investigation, strictly in accordance with the Code of Criminal Procedure after the investigating agencies having gathered requisite incriminating material against the said individuals," the affidavit said.

The police also told the court that the activists were part of the criminal conspiracy and active members of the banned CPI (Maoist), who had arranged public meetings under the banner of 'Elgaar Parishad'. 

The affidavit said the state was committed to protecting fundamental rights of every citizen and a mere dissenting view, difference in ideology or vehement objections to political thinking, cannot only not be prohibited but should always be welcomed in any democratic country. 

"Some of them have suggested training and laying of booby traps and directional mines. They are also found to be providing strategic inputs in furtherance of the objective of armed rebellion as per the strategic document of the banned terrorist organisation namely CPI (Maoist)," it said.

The affidavit said the house arrest of the activists merely restricted their physical movement and they can always ensure the destruction of evidence elsewhere while alerting other potential accused by being at home.

(With Agency Inputs)