A blogger from India’s eastern state of Bengal, Tarak Biswas, was arrested on Thursday for criticising Islam on social media.
Minutes after Biswas posted the message on social media, a local leader from the ruling Trinamool Congress party, Sanaullah Khan, registered a complaint with Cyber Police Station of the Howrah Police Commissionerate demanding his arrest.
According to the police, Tarak was arrested under sections 295A and 298 of the Indian Penal Code (hurting religious sentiments and hate speech), besides 66, 67 and 67A of the IT Act (posting, sending offensive messages through communication services). He was produced before a local court where he was remanded to police custody for seven days.
“Sanaullah Khan had registered a first information report (FIR) against Biswas for hurting religious sentiments. Based on the complaint filed, we arrested him. He is in police custody,” said a senior police officer of the Howrah Police Commissionerate who did not want to be named.
Meanwhile, a rights group has demanded Biswas's immediate release and withdrawal of all cases against him. “We do not support the comments posted by him on social media. At the same time, a person has every right to express himself. We demand his immediate release and withdrawal of all charges slapped on him,” said a member of the rights group, Ranjit Sur.
While state government officials refused to comment on the issue, rights activists took a dig at the government for allegedly putting him behind bars for hate speech on social media. “The state government’s tendency has always been to put freethinkers behind bars. A few years ago, a professor was jailed for circulating a cartoon of chief minister Mamata Banerjee. We can’t expect the state government to allow its people the privileges of free speech,” added Sur.
The cyber space was soon abuzz with messages expressing solidarity with Biswas.
Samir Kumar Mondal, a resident of Ilambazar, who posted one such message on social media, was reportedly arrested by the police.