The Uttar Pradesh Police have filed a First Information Report (FIR) against The Wire and four other people for allegedly spreading false information and trying to create religious animosity through a video uploaded on Wednesday, 23 June, about the demolition of a mosque in Barabanki district in May.
The four people who have been named include two of its journalists, Seraj Ali and Mukul Singh Chauhan, along with Mohammad Anees, the secretary of the mosque committee, and Mohammad Naeem, a local resident.
Barabanki District Magistrate, Adarsh Singh, claimed that the documentary shows false and baseless information that is aimed to spoil communal harmony.
“The video contains several wrong and baseless statements, including the one which says that the administration and police threw religious scriptures in a drain and river. This is false. Nothing of this sort happened. With misinformation like this, The Wire is trying to spread animosity in society and disturbing communal harmony,” Singh said in a statement on Thursday night, according to The Indian Express.
The case has been filed under Sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups), 505 (1) (b) (intent to cause or likely to cause fear or alarm among the public), 120 B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (criminal act done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.
SP Barabanki said the name of the local man, Naeem, was added because he is the one who was 'making the false claims about religious books being thrown in the river and drain.'
In a statement, founding editor of The Wire Siddharth Varadarajan, said that all these cases were baseless. “This is the fourth FIR filed by the UP Police in the past 14 months against The Wire and/or its journalists and each of these cases is baseless. The Adityanath government does not believe in media freedom and is criminalising the work of journalists who are reporting what is happening in the state,” he said.
Earlier, when the mosque was demolished, Zufar Farooqui, chairman of the Sunni Waqf board had condemned the action.
“I strongly condemn the patently illegal and high-handed action of the tehsil and district administration particularly that of the sub-divisional magistrate for demolition of the 100-year-old mosque situated near the tehsil compound in the name of alleged removal of encroachment,” he said.
The video story also showed members of the mosque committee alleging that they had documents to prove that the structure, that has now been demolished, was legal.
A petition was then moved in the Allahabad High Court by Sunni Waqf Board to challenge the demolition and is being heard currently. Representing the board are advocates Aftab Ahmad and Farhan Habib. The next date of the hearing is on 23 July.
(With inputs from The Hindu, The Indian Express and The Wire)
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