Hathras fallout: Yogi Adityanath smells ‘international’ plot to destabilise UP govt
Sedition charges invoked in one of 19 FIRs lodged in seven districts; probe to focus on website that hosted information about date, time and location of protests.
The Uttar Pradesh government ordered a probe on Monday into an alleged international conspiracy hatched by groups and individuals in foreign countries to defame the state government and foment caste violence in the backdrop of the murder and gang-rape of a 19-year-old Dalit woman in Hathras district.
The state police filed 19 first information reports (FIR) in seven districts on Sunday in connection with allegations that some political groups and other organisations were trying to incite caste-related violence.
Besides, chief minister Yogi Adityanath blamed Opposition parties and “anti-national” elements with foreign funding for trying to destabilise the state.
The main FIR, filed at the Chandpa police station in Hathras, invoked charges of sedition, promoting enmity, inciting caste-based violence and other sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against unknown persons and groups.
Additional chief secretary, home, Awanish Kumar Awasthi, said the state government has ordered a probe into the conspiracy to instigate the caste clashes by launching a website and that strict action will be taken against the culprits.
The probe, conducted by the state home department, will focus on people and groups behind justiceforhathrasvictim.carrd.co that hosted information about date, time and location of protests that have swept India over the past week, as well as resources on how to avoid detention, mobilise demonstration and trending hashtags.
“Our preliminary probe indicates that along with local people, organisations and people based in some foreign countries launched the website to incite caste riots in UP on the lines of race-related clashes in the United States,” said a senior state government official.
The website was taken down but the police have archived materials from the platform, the official added.
Earlier in the day, CM Adityanath told party workers that “anti-national” and “anti-social” elements were conspiring to trigger riots in Uttar Pradesh.
“Our opponents are conspiring against us by trying to lay a foundation for caste and communal riots through international funding. For the last one week, Opposition parties were keen to see riots. We need to move forward amidst all these conspiracies,” he said. On Sunday, too, he had said those who do not like development wanted to incite ethnic and communal riots in the state.
A senior police officer said on condition of anonymity that the website was created overnight and posted morphed photos, collected funds, targeted police and administrative officials and peddled hate speech.
“Misleading and objectionable information about the Hathras incident was also posted on the website to create caste tension,” the officer said.
Additional director general of police (ADG), law and order, Prashant Kumar, refused to elaborate on the allegations of international conspiracy but in a press conference earlier in the day, said efforts were on to vitiate the atmosphere through social media posts and posters.
He also said some groups offered Rs 50 lakh to the victim’s family to speak in their favour.
“These groups used social media platforms to spread hatred, inciting people for caste-based conflict and unlawful gathering in times of the Covid-19 pandemic. The police has lodged several FIRs regarding the matter and it will be too early to reveal the names or more details without a proper investigation,” he added.
The officer did not present any evidence to support his claim. “Police teams are checking the veracity of these messages. Action will be taken against those involved if anything comes up in our investigation,” Kumar said.
Six FIRs were lodged in Hathras district while others were filed in Bijnor, Bulandshahr, Lucknow, Prayagaraj and other places, he added.
In the FIR lodged at Chandpa police station, unidentified groups were booked under 20 sections, including sedition (124A of Indian Penal Code) and for inciting caste-based violence. Besides sedition, the accused have been booked under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion), 153 B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration), 465 (forgery), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 469 (forgery for purpose of harming reputation) along with other sections of the IPC and Information Technology Act.
Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad, members of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) were mentioned in three separate FIRs lodged in Hathras.
In other districts like Lucknow, FIRs were lodged against people who posted messages or allegedly morphed images on social media platforms in connection with the Hathras incident. At least six people, including two in Lucknow, have been arrested in connection with these FIRs.
In Hathras, the police filed three separate FIRs against the Bhim Army chief, RLD and SP workers for violating section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, barring the public assembly of four or more people, and provisions of the Epidemic Act during their visits on Sunday, officials said.
On September 14, the victim was raped by four members of a dominant caste in Hathras district when she had gone to the fields to collect cattle fodder. She was partially paralysed in the attack.
As her condition deteriorated, she was moved to Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital on September 28 and died in the early hours of September 29. At 2.30 am the next day, the police forcibly cremated the body without the family’s consent in a field near the village.
Since then, Opposition leaders have made a beeline to the village even as the police and the Hathras district administration have denied that she was raped, citing the forensic report. Five police officials have also been suspended in line with preliminary recommendations of a special investigation team (SIT).