Mumbai: Sameet Thakkar, a BJP sympathiser who was arrested last week in Nagpur for allegedly making derogatory posts about Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his son, state minister Aaditya Thackeray, is one of at least 50 accused (including people and social media accounts) named in police complaints in the state since April over similar allegations.
Over the past six months, the legal cell of the ruling Shiv Sena has approached Mumbai Police with multiple complaints alleging derogatory comments about its leaders and the Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government. These complaints have resulted in 10 FIRs that name 50 accused, Dharmendra Mishra, an advocate who heads the Shiv Sena legal cell, told ThePrint. There have been arrests in five of these cases, Mishra added.
The cases have set the stage for the latest face-off between former allies Shiv Sena and the BJP, who now lead rival alliances in Maharashtra.
According to Mishra, most of the people who make “sweeping statements” about the Thackerays and the MVA with “derogatory language” are supporters of the BJP. The latter, however, accuses the Shiv Sena of misusing power to “silence detractors”.
Other FIRs and arrests
The first such complaint that the Shiv Sena’s legal team filed under the MVA government was in April, against Paresh Borse, a resident of Navi Mumbai. Borse had allegedly posted an image on Facebook showing the CM and son Aaditya carrying a coffin on their shoulders and smiling. “Corona rugna sarvat jasta Maharashtrat, Corona mrutyu sarvat jasta Maharashtrat. Avghad ahe (The number of Covid patients is the highest in Maharashtra. The number of Covid deaths is the highest in Maharashtra. Looks tough),” the post said.
The same month, Mumbai Police arrested Borse for allegedly morphing the images of the CM and Aaditya. While Borse’s arrest did not attract too much spotlight, a few other cases shot to attention on social media platforms.
One such case was that of Sunaina Holey, who was arrested by Mumbai cyber police in August for allegedly posting objectionable content about the Thackerays and circulating messages on social media that were aimed at disturbing peace. Holey has been directed to appear before the Bandra Kurla Complex cyber police cell on 2 November, while her next court hearing is on 23 November, a police source said.
On Twitter, Holey describes herself as a “proud bhakt, swayamsevika and proud Hindu” in her Twitter bio, said on the social media platform, “Whoever has set this fake narrative of Sameet Thakkar being abandoned, used & thrown, not getting any help from BJP, Devendra Fadnavis, BJP doesn’t help it’s supporters, Palla Jhaad Diya etc will soon be exposed. I know how it started & who it is..FYI he is helped 100%… (sic)”
Whoever has set this fake narrative of @thakkar_sameet being abandoned, used & thrown, not getting any help from @BJP4India, @Dev_Fadnavis, BJP doesn't help it's supporters, Palla Jhaad Diya etc will soon be exposed!
I know how it started & who it is..
FYI he is helped 100%.
— Sunaina Holey (@SunainaHoley) October 30, 2020
In August, a Shiv Sena member filed a complaint against YouTuber Saahil Choudhary, alleging that he had posted objectionable content about Aaditya Thackeray in relation with the investigation into actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. The following month, Choudhary, a resident of Haryana who also goes by the name Pradeep Choudhary, was arrested by Mumbai Police for allegedly posting videos containing offensive language against women.
Earlier this month, Delhi-based advocate Vibhor Anand was arrested for allegedly spreading conspiracy theories in connection with Rajput’s death.
Another complaint from the Shiv Sena targets a YouTube channel operated by one Bhaiya Tiwari. “It’s the same old pattern of targeting the CM and the government,” Mishra said.
Mishra added that the Shiv Sena is “not against criticism, but these people make sweeping statements without any basis using derogatory language about the CM, Aaditya ji and the government”.
“Most of them are supporters of the BJP. Some of these people have also made offensive comments about women, and yet senior BJP leaders back them and follow them,” Mishra alleged. The Shiv Sena, he added, wants police to investigate who is backing and funding these accused persons.
However, Maharashtra BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhye said the Shiv Sena was silencing dissent. “In a democracy, there is bound to be criticism and dissent, but here they seem to have come up with a new law that no one speak against the government and its leaders. They are misusing their power to silence detractors.”
Thakkar faces multiple FIRs
Thakkar, who is followed on Twitter by many senior BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, faces multiple FIRs, including three filed by the Shiv Sena.
Mishra said the Shiv Sena filed the first complaint against Thakkar in Mumbai in April, alleging that he was misguiding people about the state government’s handling of the Covid crisis through his tweets.
A second FIR followed in July, after he allegedly described Uddhav as “modern-day Aurangzeb” and referred to Aaditya as “Penguin beta”. Penguin is a moniker Aaditya’s critics often employ. It is a reference to the younger Thackeray’s initiative of getting penguins to Mumbai’s Byculla zoo.
Meanwhile, a case was registered against him in Nagpur by another complainant for the same tweets. Mishra said, “The Mumbai Police went to search for him in Nagpur, where he lives, in July, but he was absconding. While absconding, he tweeted something defamatory again in August. That’s when we registered an FIR with Mumbai Police’s cyber cell.”
The Shiv Sena’s legal cell has also flagged to police a set of Thakkar’s tweets where he has purportedly abused senior journalists, politicians and women in offensive language.
While on the run, Thakkar approached Bombay High Court seeking the quashing of the FIRs against him. However, the petition was dismissed.
On Friday, a Nagpur court extended his police custody till 2 November.
A senior BJP leader who did not wish to be named said, “Thakkar is officially not associated with the BJP, but is a party volunteer. The party is unofficially extending all help in fighting the case.”