‘Sensation’ or Honest Mistake?: Hows & Whys of UP Man’s Oxygen SOS
Controversy erupted in Amethi after a man’s SOS tweet for oxygen for his ailing grandfather had him facing charges.
A controversy erupted in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi after a man’s SOS tweet for oxygen for his ailing grandfather had him facing charges under various sections of the IPC and the Disaster Management Act.
While the whole episode can be perceived as a desperate plea of Shashank Yadav for his ailing grandfather, which led to an unprecedented turn of events among the authorities, the Amethi Police have said that Yadav tweeted only to create ‘sensationalism and panic’.
The twitter fight, that had Union minister and Amethi MP Smriti Irani, The Wire journalist Arfa Khanum Sherwani, the Amethi Police, and the Amethi administration involved, have had many take note of the alleged crackdown by the Yogi Adityanath government on SOS messages.
However, the entire episode has several perspectives to it.
It All Began With One Tweet
It all began with Ankit, a friend of Shashank Yadav reaching out to The Wire’s Arfa Khanum Sherwani seeking help with oxygen for Yadav’s grandfather.
Sherwani then amplified the tweet by marking Union minister and Amethi MP Smriti Irani and the Amethi DM.
Irani replied to the request saying that the authorities have been trying to reach out on the numbers mentioned by Sherwani but received no response.
Sherwani was then informed by Ankit that Yadav’s grandfather had passed away. Sherwani replied to Irani’s tweet informing her of the same.
What Action Did the Police Take After the Tweet Exchange With Irani?
On the afternoon of 27 April, the Amethi DM’s office replied to Sherwani’s tweet and shared a report by the Amethi Chief Medical Officer about the man’s death, stating that he was not suffering from COVID-19 and had been undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Durgapur.
However, neither Sherwani nor Yadav had in any of their pleas mentioned that the patient had been suffering from COVID-19.
A few hours later, the Amethi Police also replied to Yadav and Sherwani’s tweets in which it said that the man who died wasn’t suffering from COVID-19 and did not have a prescription for oxygen either. The police said that the man had died of a heart attack.
“Spreading these kinds of rumours is not just condemnable but a criminal offence,” the police said in the tweet.
Sherwani then replied to the Amethi Police, saying that she was only amplifying tweets of people who needed help and reached out to her for the same.
“Citizens are helping each other in difficult times. Being a responsible citizen myself, I have been tweeting people’s pleas for help. Attaching a screenshot for your reference here,” she said, attaching the messages sent by Ankit.
The police then clarified that the case was registered against Shashank Yadav, adding that he was booked under Sections 188, 269 and 505 (1)(b) of the Indian Penal Code, along with Section 3 of the Epidemic Act and Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act.
‘Sensationalism’: What Amethi Police Clarified on Controversy
After the controversy, the Amethi Police took to Twitter to share a video message narrating the developments that led to the registration of the case against Yadav.
“The first tweet that came at around 8 o’clock on 26 April stated that, ‘I need oxygen for my grandfather in Amethi.’ It is our responsibility to reach out to people in need so along with the CMO we tried to reach out to the person immediately. When he did not pick up calls, we electronically traced his location and rushed a team there. We thought that he might be in difficult circumstances and might not be able to take calls,” Amethi SP Dinesh Singh said in the video message.
“With time, what we learnt was that the deceased was Shashank’s grandfather. Shashank left his home at 6 pm on 26 April and travelled 20 km (where his grandfather was) and stayed there for five minutes, returned home and put out the tweet in the meanwhile,” Singh said.
“His grandfather was 88 years old, he was not suffering from COVID-19 and was not prescribed oxygen by the doctors. He tweeted the need for oxygen for his grandfather only to sensationalise the issue. When the team reached his place, he was found sleeping. We realised that to instill fear and sensation among the people, he put out an irresponsible tweet,” adding that the police were only acting under the rules of the Disaster Management Act and the motive was not to harass anybody.
He said that Yadav has been let go after a warning.
(With inputs from The Wire)
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