"A policeman called me and asked me to take my post on ventilators down as people were getting scared. I agreed and deleted the post. It was barely uploaded for three to four hours. It was only through the media that I got to know that a sedition case was slapped on me," BJP Yuva Morcha vice president Simranjit Singh alias Simar Chandok speaks to The Quint from an undisclosed location.
Thirty-two-year-old Simar was booked for sedition by Punjab police for the following post, “Ludhiana ch koi ventilator nahi hai. Ludhiana Blood Sewa vallon 5100 da yogdaan keemat 250000 baaki vi sangat yogdan kare. (There are no ventilators in Ludhiana. Ludhiana Blood Sewa (his NGO) will contribute Rs 5,100 but total cost of ventilator is Rs 2,50,000. Please donate for the remaining amount).”
Station house officer of Ludhiana's division 3 police station said that raids are being conducted to arrest the accused. "The man has not been arrested yet."
Speaking about the charge of sedition, the police officer said, “When there is already an atmosphere of fear he wrote that the civil hospital does not have ventilators so one should donate money. This hurts the sentiments of the people and the government and is misleading.”
When asked if the post was deleted after the police called him up, as claimed by Simar, the police officer said they can't answer the question right now.
Contrary to the claims made, local MLA and food supplies Cabinet minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu told The Quint that there are ventilators in Ludhiana. "We have facilities here. One should not worry or create worry. It is important you write in support of the Punjab government. We have two medical colleges and prominent hospitals like Fortis, Max and Apollo. There is nothing to worry about or panic."
Why Did Simar Upload the Post?
Regarding his intention behind uploading the post, Simar says, "I have an NGO called the Ludhiana Blood Seva and Welfare Society. It is registered with the government as well. We have also won a national award. On hearing that there are no ventilators in Ludhiana, we thought since there is a need we should take initiative. We decided to start a donation drive so we can give as much money to the civil surgeon of Ludhiana. How is this grounds for sedition?" Simar asked.
Simar has two kids, one is seven and the other s three years old. Other than social work he is engaged in transport business in Ludhiana. Scared, he is not at home anymore and is underground.
Simar says his family is shocked with the case of sedition. "Nothing like this has ever happened. Never have policemen ever come home or called regarding me. Ever since news of the FIR came no one has eaten at home either," Simar said while adding that he is working towards getting anticipatory bail. "They can come and arrest me anytime. I am very confused. With all the courts closed till at least 14 of April, do not know how we will be able to do this. Let's see what we decide tomorrow."
Other Details in the FIR
The FIR reads that Simar "tried to create panic, mislead the administration during ongoing lockdown and attempted to create a feeling of hate towards government” and says that the Facebook post was an act of “complete disobedience”.
Other than being charged under Section 124A (sedition), Simar has been charged for Section 188 (disobeying orders duly promulgated by public servant), 505(1)(b) (intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility) as well as Section 54 and 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act.
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