Goa Police’s attempt to arrest a Facebooker for making anti-Narendra Modi comment is snowballing into a major controversy here.
Civil society activists have now jumped into the fray claiming that such heightened police interest in a Facebook post is draconian.
A protest will be held Saturday outside the police headquarters in Panaji. Chodankar was booked under various sections of the IPC, the Representation of the People Act and the Information Technology Act. Some of the sections are non-bailable.
“We will raise slogans, hold placards protesting against application of draconian laws to curb free speech. Today it is Devu Chodankar, tomorrow it could be any of us,” Samir Kelekar, an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay alumnus, told IANS.
The Congress has now claimed that the “active” police cyber cell in Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Goa refused to probe a complaint against BJP leader and MP Meenakshi Lekhi in December.
The avalanche of comments on social media as well by ppposition and civil society activists has now forced the complainant, city industrialist Atul Pai Kane, to claim that he is being intimidated and forced to backdown.
Congress spokesman Sunil Kawthankar said his complaint under section 228 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against Lekhi was not even registered in December by the cyber cell which functions under the Crime Branch.
“They simply refused to register an FIR claiming the tweets were not made in Goa. Till date I’m wondering how they came to the conclusion without investigating the case,” Kawthankar told IANS.
Lekhi was accused in the complaint after she allegedly leaked the name of the Tehelka rape victim in one of her tweets. The New Delhi MP claimed that her Twitter account was hacked and misused.
On Thursday, Devu Chodankar’s anticipatory bail application was rejected, clearing ground for his arrest by Goa police which suspected that the 31-year-old shipbuilding professional of having a “larger game plan to promote communal and social disharmony in the state”.
In the run-up to the Lok Sabha 2014 election campaign, Chodankar, who is from Mumbai, had in a post on Goa+, a popular Facebook group with nearly half a lakh members, claimed that a holocaust would follow and Christians in the state would lose their identity.
“There is imminent threat of Holocaust as it happened in Gujarat through the garb of cunning government policies of Parrikar (sic),” Chodankar said before deleting the post.
Subsequently, in Goa Speaks, another Facebook group well known for discussions on state-related issues, Chodankar apologised for his choice of words but not the sum of his argument.
But Atul Pai Kane, who regularly defends the BJP and Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on social media, lodged an FIR against the shipbuilder. Kane said in his complaint that Chodandkar threatened Facebook users against voting for the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls.
Kane now claims on his Facebook post, that some “lawyers” and “some IITians” are forcing him to withdraw the case.
“Instead of spending time in correcting a wayward youth, people are spending time trying to convince me (read intimidate) to withdraw the case,” he said.
Later, the Congress too joined the chorus against Chodankar’s arrest, claiming the cyber cell was a virtually dead unit of Goa police which has now been specially revived for the purpose of harassing the Modi-baiter.
“We will protest tooth and nail against this harassment by police… During Tarun Tejpal case too we tried to complain against Madhu Kishwar for revealing the rape victim’s name, we were told that the cyber cell was not functional,” said party spokesperson Durgadas Kamat.