OMAR RASHID, The Hindu
A month after he was arrested and later granted bail for a Facebook post, critical of the ruling Samajwadi Party, the possibility of being arrested once again looms large over Dalit scholar Kanwal Bharti.
This comes even as the Supreme Court recently issued notice to the State government to explain Mr. Bharti’s arrest.
Mr. Bharti alleged that the Rampur police acted under the “pressure” of SP workers and sent an application to the court seeking revocation of his bail.
“The Samajwadi Party workers in large numbers went to the office of the SP [Superintendent of Police] and asked why no proper action was taken against me. They feel my arrest was not enough and I should be given stricter punishment. Communal tension had spread in Rampur due to my Facebook post, so I should be arrested, they contended,” Mr. Bharti told The Hindu.
“How can a common man fight against power? This is clearly misuse of the government machinery,” he rued.
Mr. Bharti was arrested for the post critical of SP Minister Azam Khan and coming in support of suspended IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal. Muslim clerics in Rampur, an Assembly seat held by Urban Development Minister Azam Khan, had approached the police, demanding that Mr. Bharti be arrested under the National Security Act as his post was communally inciting.
On why he thought his hounding continued despite support from the media and the public, Mr. Bharti said his writings had challenged the “[Minister] Azam Khan’s dominance over Rampur.”
“There was nobody to question or challenge him in Rampur. Due to my opposition, I have become an irritant for him. It has become a prestige issue for him and he is resorting to pressure tactics,” Mr. Bharti alleged.
“I’m not worried. Let them arrest me if they have to. What can we do against the powerful?” he said.
Rampur SP Umesh Kumar Singh did not respond to this correspondent’s phone calls and text messages.
The Additional SP was approached but when this correspondent raised the question the phone was disconnected. When she was contacted again, her phone had a “busy” tone and then was “switched off.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Bharti has filed a petition in the Allahabad High Court demanding compensation from the government and quashing of the FIR against him. The petition also prayed for a stay on the investigation in the case. It submitted that Mr. Bharti’s freedom of speech and expression was violated and his arrest was done with mala fide intentions. He was charged under Sections 153 and 295 A of the IPC, which deal with “provocation with intent to cause riot” and “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.”