The FIR alleges Kanojia had tweeted a morphed Facebook post of Hindu Army leader Sushil Tiwari, with the intent of defamation. His wife has denied that Kanojia posted such a tweet.

18 August, 2020 5:28 pm IST

New Delhi: Journalist Prashant Kanojia was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police Tuesday from his residence in Delhi in connection with a tweet, his wife Jagisha Arora confirmed .

A journalist with the Transcontinental Times and formerly with The Wire, Kanojia was arrested around 1.30 pm, Arora said, adding, “There were five-six people. Only one of them was in uniform. The rest were in civil clothes. At first, they gave us no reason as to why he was being arrested, except to say that orders had come from above.”

She also said, “I reached the Vasant Vihar police station around 3 pm to ask for Kanojia but the police said he was not there. Last thing I was told is that the men along with Kanojia have crossed Noida and were en route Lucknow.”

FIR, was filed in Lucknow Monday by one Dinesh Kumar Shukla who accused Kanojia of disrupting communal harmony via social media.

The FIR has been filed under sections 153 (A), 153 (B), 420, 465, 468, 469, 500, 505(1)(b), 505(2) and 66 of the Indian Penal Code. These sections deal with defamation and “attacks upon the religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc of any particular group or class or upon the founders and prophets of a religion”, among others.

Tweet on Hindu Army leader

The Hindu Army is an outfit which reportedly came into existence in 2019. In January this year, the Hindu Army had put up posters which read, “Jaago Hindu jaago” (‘Rise, Hindu, rise’) in sensitive areas like the Tilewali Mosque in Lucknow. There are several videos of Tiwari still available on social media in which he openly incites Hindus to boycott Muslim vegetable sellers, hair cutting salons etc.

The FIR against Kanojia, which was filed yesterday, August 17, by a policeman from Hazratganj police station, one Dinesh Kumar Shukla, reads:

“Today, on 17/08/2020, while on official duty, we found that on Twitter and WhatsApp, a Facebook post taken from Sushil Tiwari of Hindu Army was morphed with the intent to defame Sushil Tiwari. Prashant Kanojia wrote, “It is Tiwari Ji’s direction that entry for SC/ST/OBC be banned in the Ram Mandir and everybody should raise their voice for this.”

“This was being circulated as a screenshot of Sushil Tiwari’s post. The viral screenshot of his social media message has been attached here. This kind of objectionable post will result in disturbing communal harmony, create tension between different communities and can hurt religious feelings, which can threaten law and order.”

Further, it said, “I request you to register an FIR against this and take action.”

The FIR invokes nine sections of the Indian Penal Code. Sections are 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 465 (punishment for forgery), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 469 (forgery for purpose of harming reputation), 500 (punishment for defamation), 500 (1)(B) (with 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), and 505(2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes).

Kanojia has also been booked under Section 66 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which pertains to computer-related offences.

The FIR alleges that Kanojia had tweeted a morphed Facebook post by Sushil Tiwari of the Hindu Army, with the intent of defaming the latter.

On 10 August, Tiwari had shared a Facebook post saying Islamic studies should be replaced by Vedic studies in the UPSC syllabus. The FIR says this post was subsequently edited to state that OBC/SC/ST will not be allowed in Ayodhya’s Ram Mandir. This edited photo was then tweeted by Kanojia on 16 August. The journalist had later deleted the tweet.

The FIR notes that Kanojia’s tweet was objectionable and could have resulted in disturbing communal harmony, create tension between different communities and hurt religious feelings, which can threaten law and order.

His wife Arora, however, said, “He had not tweeted this at all. Someone edited that image to make it look so. I am 100 per cent sure that he has not tweeted anything of the sort.”

ThePrint tried to reach Joint Commissioner of Police (JCP) (law & order), Lucknow, Naveen Arora and Commissioner of Police Sujeet Pandey via phone calls but did not receive a response until the time of publishing this report.

Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad said Kanojia’s arrest was a testimony to the “dictatorial attitude” of the Uttar Pradesh government. “Now the government is suffering due to people reading and writing,” he added. “We are constantly surrounded by times of emergency. Immediate release of Prashant Kanojia is to be ensured.”

बहुजन पत्रकार @PJkanojia की गिरफ्तारी उत्तर प्रदेश सरकार के तानाशाह रवैए का प्रमाण है। अब लोगों के लिखने पढ़ने और आवाज उठाने से सरकार को तकलीफ होने लगी है। हम लगातार आपातकाल के दौर से घिरते जा रहे हैं। तत्काल प्रशांत कनौजिया की रिहाई सुनिश्चित की जाए। @lkopolice— Chandra Shekhar Aazad (@BhimArmyChief) August 18, 2020

This isn’t the first time Kanojia has had run-ins with the law. Earlier this year, an FIR was filed against him for making “objectionable remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on social media”.

A local BJP leader Shashank Shekhar, who filed the complaint based on which the FIR was registered, said, “I also found some of his tweets containing hate comments which could divide communities, and also disturb law and order in the state.”

In June 2019, Kanojia was picked up from his residence for “a post he shared about a woman wanting to marry the chief minister”#agencies