Talking about the arrests, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said he had directed police to “act without fear and favour”.
An 18-year-old B.Com student, a 24-year-old medical student, a 26-year-old local journalist and a 49-year-old associated with the AIUDF are among 15 people who have been arrested by the Assam Police — almost all of them under the UAPA — for allegedly putting up social media posts that “support” the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
Talking about the arrests, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said he had directed police to “act without fear and favour”. Sharing a post by a local news channel on Twitter, Sarma said: “Need cooperation from everyone to maintain peace and harmony.”
Assam Special DGP (Law and Order) G P Singh tweeted a list of 14 arrested people, belonging to 10 districts — Kamrup (Rural), Darrang, Barpeta, Dhubri, South Salmara, Goalpara, Hojai, and the Barak Valley districts of Hailakandi, Cachar and Karimganj. Most of them were arrested between Friday night and Saturday morning. On Saturday evening, one more arrest, from Baksa district, was confirmed.
While most of the police officials refused to share the exact posts that were allegedly incriminating, Singh told The Sunday Express: “All the posts are such that they attract the penal provisions of Indian law.” He said most of the arrests had been made under IPC Sections 120 (B)/ 153(A)/ 505 (1) (c) / 505(2) of IPC (covering conspiracy, posting of defamatory content, religious offence) and Section 39 of the UAPA (covering support to a terrorist organisation).
Singh added that they were checking if the posts were still up.
Deputy Inspector General Violet Baruah said they consider the comments posted by the accused “harmful for national security”. “Our social media monitoring cell has been keeping a watch and we noticed these posts, so accordingly we took action,” she said.
Hitesh Chandra Roy, SP, Kamrup (Rural), confirmed the arrest of two in the district. “Abu Bakkar Sidique, alias Afga Khan Avilekh, 55, is a teacher at a private coaching centre and Saidul Hoque, 29, is a constable of the 21st AP (IR) Bn located in Karimganj.”
From Darrang, police arrested Maulana Fazul Karim, 49, for posts that “favoured the Taliban”. “He is general secretary with the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and also secretary of the state Jamiat,” said Susanta Biswa Sarma, SP, Darrang district. An AIUDF spokesperson told PTI that Karim is being suspended from the party till completion of an inquiry.
The Barpeta police said the two arrested in the district, Mozidul Islam, 25, and Faruk Hussain Khan, 32, “were glorifying the Taliban”. “Both are unemployed… We are investigating whether they are part of any group. We cannot share any more details right now,” said Amitava Sinha, SP, Barpeta.
Khandakar Nur Alom, 51, employed in unorganised small businesses, was arrested in South Salmara district. “We do not know if there are links with organisations… We are investigating,” said Subodh Kr Sonowal, SP, South Salmara district.
Cachar SP Raman Dhillon said they arrested 30-year-old Jawed Mazumder from Sonai town. “He works in a bank… In the post, he said that whatever the Taliban has done, it was a good job.”
In Hailakandi, Md Nadim Aktar, 23, was arrested for “making communally provocative comments in favour of the Taliban on Facebook” said Gaurav Upadhyay, SP, Hailakandi. “He is in the third semester of MBBS at Tezpur Medical College,” Upadhyay said.
The two arrested in Karimganj are Mujib Uddin, 24, a teacher at a coaching centre/ private school, and 18-year-old Mortuza Hussain Khan, a B.Com student. “They were supporting the Taliban… If you openly support a banned organisation like the Taliban… we have to use provisions like the UAPA,” said Padmanabh Baruah, SP, Karimganj.
One of the first arrested was Goalpara’s Yaseen Khan, 26, who was held on August 17. “He is a Maulana in Lakhipur and also owns some small shops,” said V V Rakesh Reddy, SP, Goalpara district. Reddy added that Khan had not been booked under the UAPA when he was picked up.
Basiruddin Laskar, 65, was arrested in Hojai. “He is a retired Maulana… His post was supportive of the Taliban and created disharmony in the population,” said Barun Purakayastha, SP, Hojai.
From Dhubri district, 27-year-old Saiyad Ahmed and 25-year-old Arman Hussain were arrested. While The Sunday Express could not reach Abhijit Gurav, SP, Dhubri district, he addressed the press Saturday, saying, “We got information that pro-Taliban posts were uploaded on social media. We located the users of the profiles and we are now interrogating them… One post was made from a personal account and the other from a page.” Special DGP Singh said the Dhubri Police was in the process of registering the case.
The Baksa arrest was of 26-year-old Rafiqul Islam, from Sunbari village. Singh confirmed the arrest, saying Islam was apprehended Friday night for “social media interaction in support of Taliban”. Islam works as a temporary teacher at a high school and is a reporter for two local news outlets.
On the use of the UAPA, Singh said, “Tehreek-e-Taliban finds an entry in the ISIS and Al Qaida sanctions list… established and maintained by United Nations… Entry 33 of MHA list provides for organisations listed in UN Lists. Sufficient for us to take action at this stage.”
Deputy Inspector General Baruah asked the public to inform police if any such posts come to their notice. “#assampolice are taking stern legal action against pro #Taliban comments in the social media platform that are harmful to the National Security. We’re registering criminal cases against such persons. Please inform the police if any such thing comes to your notice,” she tweeted.
Addressing the press, Singh said:“I humbly appeal that people should not make such posts on social media that are anti-Assam and anti-India… or supportive of a terrorist organisation… People should think before posting on social media… and consider the fallout of the law.”
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