The Uttar Pradesh Police has arrested a person from Azamgarh district for a Facebook post, appealing for hosting flags on houses to show solidarity with Palestine. However, the family members of Yasir Akhtar, who lives in Saraimeer village in Azamgarh, claim that the Facebook post was not for India but was related to Gaza.
Senior Superintendent of Police Sudhir Kumar Singh told Al Jazeera, “He was running a page and he made the message viral through Facebook that after Friday prayers, people should hoist the flags on their vehicles and homes.”
“This is a congested area and multiple Muslim sects live here. Making a mass appeal post prayers could have resulted in violence. If he wanted to hoist a flag, he could have but calling others is not right. Many people opposed it, so we had to take action,” he added.
WHAT DOES HIS FAMILY HAVE TO SAY?
Akhtar has been running two Facebook pages, ‘Azamgarh Express’ and ‘Saraimeer Express’, since many years. Speaking to Quint Hindi, Akhtar’s younger brother Shahid said:
“On the night of 19 May, Yasir shared a news from Palestine on the Facebook page ‘Azamgarh Express’ and wrote, ‘After Friday prayers, appeal to wave Palestinian flag on homes and vehicles.’ Then, he went to sleep and when he woke up, he read the comments that the post had garnered. He then realised that he had missed using the word ‘Gaza’ in his post and because of which, people are misinterpreting it.”
“He immediately edited his post and wrote that in Gaza, on Friday, after Jummah, an appeal has been made to hoist the Palestinian flag on homes and vehicles,” Shahid added.
He further said that by then, somebody had complained to the police, after which he was arrested.
Azamgarh SP issued a statement on the incident and said that an FIR has been registered under Section 505 (2) of the Indian Penal Code.
WHAT DOES LAW HAVE TO SAY?
But the question now arises that even if Akhtar had appealed to hoist a flag in support of Palestine, should there have been an FIR as a statement promoting hatred among the classes? For this, Quint Hindi spoke to Anas Tanveer, Advocate-on-Record at the Supreme Court of India.
“Section 505 (2) is imposed when someone’s feelings are hurt and the person complains about it or when someone says something that could lead to hatred between two communities. Suppose we speak against a particular religion in India and if someone is hurt, then a case can be filed under Section 505 (2).”Anas Tanveer, Advocate-on-Record at the Supreme Court of India
“But waving a flag in support of Palestine is not an act of hurting any religion or community. Therefore, it will be considered illegal to apply this clause in this case. India is showing support to Palestine and even if the citizens of this country are supporting it, then how can you arrest them?” he added.
Advocate Tanveer further said that when football or matches related to any other sport happen with Brazil, France or any country, people hoist flags in support of those nations.
“Will you put them in jail? No. There is no provision for arrest for hoisting flag of any country, except an enemy country of India. But if someone insults the flag of India, then there is a provision of punishment in the law,” he said.
INDIA ON ISRAEL-PALESTINE
While clearing its official stand on the Israel-Palestine unrest, India on 16 May, told the United Nations that it condemned the attacks by Hamas on Israel, and at the same time also discouraged the “retaliatory” attacks by Israel that have led to the loss of life and property in Gaza.
Speaking at the UN Security Council debate, India’s Permanent Representative to UN, Ambassador TS Tirumurti said that the situation must not escalate to the brink.
“The indiscriminate rocket firings from Gaza targeting the civilian population In Israel, which we condemn and the retaliatory strikes into Gaza have caused immense suffering and resulted in deaths including women and children. India has also lost one of its nationals in this rocket fire,” he said, a statement being seen by many as India not supporting Israel openly as was expected.
“We reiterate our strong condemnation of all acts of violence, provocation, incitement, and destruction. Immediate de-escalation is the need of the hour so as to arrest any further slide towards the brink. We urge both sides to observe extreme restraint,” he said, adding that neither sides should “unilaterally change the existing status quo including in East Jerusalem and its neighbourhood.”
(With inputs from Quint Hindi, Al Jazeera)