Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir police have arrested a young man from Srinagar for uploading “fake photographs” on Facebook last year. Imtiyaz Ahmad Kawa had accused the armed forces of vandalism in Kupwara district of north Kashmir.
The arrest comes days after the police warned internet users in the Valley against the “misuse” of social media platforms and filed an FIR on the matter.
Kawa, a resident of the Saida Kadal locality, was arrested by the Kupwara police on Wednesday, said senior superintendent of police, Kupwara, Ambarkar Shriram Dinkar. He has been charged under Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code.
The Exception in Section 505(3) of the IPC reads:
“It does not amount to an offence, within the meaning of this section when the person making, publishing or circulating any such statement, rumour or report, has reasonable grounds for believing that such statement, rumour or report is true and makes, publishes or circulates it 8 [in good faith and] without any such intent as aforesaid.”
The police official said Kawa, a driver, had uploaded a fake Facebook post around three months ago, accusing security forces of damaging property worth lakhs of rupees in Panzgam village.
“The post was aimed to incite violence in the area when no such incident had taken place. Though we had registered an FIR in this regard, the accused was absconding ever since. He was identified a few days ago and arrested from his residence,” said the SP.
A statement issued by the Kupwara police said Kawa had resorted to “rumour-mongering” to “malign the image of the forces in public and also to disrupt peace and tranquility in the area”. It described Kawa’s arrest as tough action against “online miscreants”.
“Police is resolved to take tough action against the rumour-mongers who want to disrupt peace through disinformation and fake news,” said the SP.
Following his arrest, the 34 year old has been sent to the sub-jail Kupwara on judicial remand. The arrest was made days after Kashmir’s cyber police registered an open FIR against those who use virtual private networks (VPNs) to circumvent the ban on social media sites in the Valley.
Family contests police claims
Kawa’s father, Mohammad Rajab, told The Wire that his son had no information about the case registered against him. “We were never informed by the police or anybody about the case. My son was not absconding; he has been busy earning a living,” said Rajab at his two-storey residence.
According to the family, two policemen in plainclothes arrived at their residence on the morning of February 18 and said that Kawa should report before Kupwara police “before he lands in some trouble”.
“When we informed him (Kawa), he left for Kupwara, saying he has nothing to hide. But he was arrested the same day,” said Rajab.
Kawa runs a Facebook account by the name ‘Imtiyaz Kawa’, said his younger brother Arshad Ahmad. “But he is totally illiterate and can’t read or write anything. For uploading any picture, he has to seek help from others.”
According to Ahmad, his brother hasn’t written any posts on Facebook. “But his mobile number had been mentioned in the post on a separate Facebook page ‘Kashmir, paradise on earth’, on the basis of which he was arrested,” said Ahmad.
Kawa works with a private tour operator and ferries tourists to different places across the Valley. “That is the only thing he knows. He has been driving for more than 17 years,” said Ahmad.
For the past week, the police have been repeatedly cautioning netizens in Kashmir against the “misuse” of social media. The police have identified “hundreds of social media abusers”, based on the contents posted by them on different platforms, and started a probe.
Social media was banned by the J&K home department on January 14 to curb its “misuse by miscreants for propagating false information having the effect of causing social instability.”
Low-speed 2G mobile internet was restored in the region on January 25, more than five months after all means of communication were snapped on August 5 last year, when the Centre read down J&K’s special status.