New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh Police Sunday filed an FIR against The Wire’s founding editor Siddharth Varadarajan in the Rampur district, for tweeting a report about the death of Navreet Singh, the lone fatality in the violence that erupted during the farmers’ Republic Day tractor rally.
While Singh’s postmortem report, accessed by ThePrint, said he died of head injuries, the protesting farmers and his family have been claiming that he lost control of his tractor after he was shot by police.
Varadarajan had Saturday tweeted a news report by The Wire, which had the Singh family disputing the Delhi Police’s claim that the protester had died because his tractor overturned. Varadarajan referred to a statement made by Singh’s grandfather, who claimed that “a doctor who was part of the autopsy told him a bullet caused the injuries ‘but my hands are tied’”.
Hardeep Singh Dibdiba, grandfather of the youth killed in tractor parade, levels a sensational charge—that a doctor who was part of the autopsy told him a bullet caused the injuries “but my hands are tied”. @IsmatAraa has the story https://t.co/ulMIDPbLPq via @thewire_in
— Siddharth (@svaradarajan) January 30, 2021
The FIR against Varadarajan, based on complaint from Rampur resident Sanju Turaha, has been filed under Sections 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 505(2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill will between classes) of the Indian Penal Code.
The FIR refers to Saturday’s tweet. It states that the news report was presented in such a way that it seemed like the statement was made by the autopsy doctor himself, leading to confusion.
“As a result, Rampur’s people have become resentful, and tension has increased,” it added. “This post certainly seems to be a part of a conspiracy to incite violence with the aim of making an unfair profit by harming the general public.”
The FIR asserts that Navreet Singh’s postmortem was conducted by three panel doctors and was duly videographed. It also claims that all the three doctors have denied giving any such statement to anybody, against what is claimed by The Wire’s report.
“Despite this, the tweet has not been removed yet,” the FIR states, adding that post was intended to “disturb peace and law and order” by “intentionally posting provocative posts through social media- Twitter without knowing the right facts”.
The post, it said, wrongly quoted the government medical officer to claim that Singh had died due to a gunshot, in order to “incite” the general public.
The FIR is the second filed against journalists and others over the past week in Uttar Pradesh on this issue. On Thursday, the Noida police had charged six journalists and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor with sedition over their “social media posts” regarding the farmers’ tractor rally that turned violent during Republic Day Tuesday. The six included Mrinal Pande, Rajdeep Sardesai, Vinod Jose, Zafar Agha, Paresh Nath and Anant Nath.
DM Rampur had tweeted about ‘law and order problem’
The FIR against Varadarajan was preceded by exchanges between The Wire’s founding editor and the official Twitter account of the Rampur district magistrate.
In response to Varadarajan’s original tweet, which is still up on Twitter, the official account of the Rampur district magistrate had responded, saying, “We ardently request you to please let’s be sticking to facts and facts only. We hope our request will be sincerely taken up by you. Thank you.”
We ardently request you to please let's be sticking to facts and facts only. We hope our request will be sincerely taken up by you. Thank you.
Here is the official declaration. pic.twitter.com/2dowcoMriM
— DM Rampur (@DeoRampur) January 30, 2021
Accompanying this tweet was a denial note by the three government medical officers who conducted the postmortem, claiming that none of them had spoken to anybody from the media and had not made any statement to any journalist about the autopsy.
In response, Varadarajan informed the DM that the report has been updated to include the official declaration by the three doctors.
To this, the DM tweeted asking, “Hope you understand your story could cause a law and order problem here. It has already caused tensed situation here. Responsibility?” Hours later, the FIR was registered.
Varadarajan responded to the FIR Sunday morning on Twitter, calling it “malicious prosecution”. “What’s the IPC provision for ‘malicious prosecution’? Here is the UP Police indulging in it, filing an FIR against me for tweeting about what the grandfather of farmer who was killed in the tractor parade had said on the record!” he tweeted.
What’s the IPC provision for “malicious prosecution”? Here is the UP Police indulging in it, filing an FIR against me for tweeting about what the grandfather of farmer who was killed in the tractor parade had said on the record! https://t.co/yRMAXtAXKm
— Siddharth (@svaradarajan) January 31, 2021
With inputs from Prashant Srivastava.
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