Hegde allegedly told interrogators he had the ‘blessings of several top Right-wing leaders’, which is why police are looking into investments in the portal.
Bengaluru: The Bengaluru Police is investigating if Right-wing portal Postcard News, whose co-founder and editor Mahesh Vikram Hegde was arrested last week for posting ‘fake news’, has the backing of BJP leaders.
State BJP leaders have already accused the Congress government of chief minister Siddaramaiah of pursuing the case with political motives ahead of the 12 May assembly elections.
Police sources claimed that Hegde had told interrogators that he had the “blessings of several top Right-wing leaders”, as a result of which they were looking into the investments made in the portal.
Hegde was arrested after Postcard News, on 18 March, published a ‘fake report’ about an attack on a Jain seer by a Muslim youth. The ‘fake information’ was also published on the Twitter handles of the portal and Hegde.
The arrest, however, sparked a political controversy with questions being raised about why he had not been booked in the past following similar complaints. The BJP alleged that the Congress government had acted against Hegde for political gain.
Last November, an FIR was filed against the website following a complaint by the Karnataka Congress IT cell in-charge, Karthik Somayaji, about what he said were derogatory tweets and posts made by three social media pages, ‘I support BJP’, ‘Support Pratap Simha’, and ‘Narendra Modi fans from Karunadu’, and PostcardKannada.com.
Simha is the BJP MP from Mysuru. He was the first to tweet about Hegde’s arrest, saying he had been framed and called the move “a witch-hunt” by the Congress government.
Hegde’s lawyer Tejaswi Surya said the Jain seer case involved “inadvertent misreporting” and did not warrant Hegde’s arrest.
Accusing the police of being “politically motivated”, Surya added, “The high court will be dealing with the case Thursday and I am sure the court will take serious note of these allegations”.
Surya also said that linking Simha to the portal is “nothing but a political ploy to frame the BJP MP”. “I do not know about the funding, but linking Pratap Simha to this is a political ploy because he is an upcoming political star in the BJP,” he said.
Simha also told ThePrint he has no links to the portal.
According to information of the investigation accessed by ThePrint, the origin of the ‘fake news’ case is in a stray tweet that was debunked online but still went viral.
- It all started with a tweet about the Jain muni episode from the handle Aashu@AashuSpeak at 10.33 am on 18 March. A person with the Twitter handle @rkhan_tech alerted Bengaluru Police to the tweet, attaching the link to a report from Ahinsakranti, a news website for Jains, clarifying that the seer was actually injured in an accident.
- Bengaluru Police missed the tweet and no action was taken.
- At 9.27 pm, an ex-serviceman named Rajendra Kasargod Pilikunje posted the news on his Facebook page and Twitter handle. It was retweeted by several others between 9.41 pm and 10.30 pm.
- At 10.30 pm, Hegde posted a tweet as well as the ‘fake story’ about the Jain muni.
- The story went viral, and the police swung into action.
- Police discovered earlier complaints against Hegde over allegedly offensive articles where he said Karnataka’s women warriors Onake Obava, Rani Chennamma and Belawadi Mallamma had “shared a bed with the British”.
- When police questioned Hegde after his arrest, he is first believed to have said he had not posted any tweet on the Jain muni, as he had allegedly deleted it. When confronted with the tweet, which police had retrieved with help from Twitter, Hegde allegedly broke down and sought pardon “for his mistake”, police sources claimed.
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