Amid opposition TDP’s allegations that the CID is working on the behest of the ruling YSRCP, TNM travelled to Andhra Pradesh and met 4 individuals who have been arrested by the CID over social media posts.
It has been greater than seven years for the reason that Supreme Court docket struck down Part 66A of the Info Know-how Act — which made posting ‘offensive’ feedback on-line against the law punishable by jail — as unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated an individual’s freedom of expression. However in Andhra Pradesh, if allegations by activists and supporters of the opposition Telugu Desam Occasion (TDP) are to be believed, the Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress Occasion (YSRCP)-led authorities has discovered an alternative to the draconian Act within the Crime Investigation Division (CID) of the Andhra police. Speculations are rife that Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy has been utilizing the CID as a software to curb dissent, with the division reportedly having booked and arrested a number of folks in the course of the previous three years over dissident social media posts.
The CID has made a complete of 146 arrests in three years — 44 in 2020, 52 in 2021 and 50 to date this 12 months — as per the data accessed from the division. Regardless of TNM’s request, the division didn’t reveal the variety of social media circumstances it had registered throughout this time. It could be famous that the CID often offers with critical crimes corresponding to riots, forgery and counterfeiting, in addition to the circumstances referred by the state authorities or the Excessive Court docket. In Andhra Pradesh, nevertheless, a number of current circumstances registered by the CID have been associated to social media misinformation, which lends weight to the TDP’s allegations of a authorities clampdown on dissent.
So then, what’s the truth of the matter? Is the Andhra CID actually clamping down on dissenting voices and concentrating on those that oppose the YSRCP authorities? To know the bottom actuality, TNM met with 4 individuals who have been arrested by the CID in numerous circumstances — starting from forwarding misinformation on WhatsApp to sharing one’s opinion on governance-related points — over the previous three years.
Case 1: Ankababu Kollu, senior journalist
Senior journalist Ankababu Kollu, a 73-year-old resident of Vijayawada, was booked by the CID simply final month, apparently for forwarding a WhatsApp information alert to a bunch. It’s a behavior for Ankababu, sending out information alerts all through the day to WhatsApp teams to alert fellow journalists of necessary breaking tales.
On September 9, like another day, Ankababu had forwarded a message he had acquired. The translated model of the Telugu message learn, “Spouse of CMO official caught smuggling gold. DRI officers from Hyderabad seized the gold and detained the lady at Gannavaram airport.” Practically two weeks later, round 7.30 pm on September 22, eight CID officers turned up at his residence, seized his and his spouse’s telephones, and requested him to associate with them to the native police station.
Ankababu, who can also be a lawyer, had requested the officers to problem him a discover beneath Part 41A of the Code of Felony Process (CrPC). The CrPC Part requires the police to problem a discover to an accused particular person previous to the arrest, which can in flip make the latter obliged to indicate up on the place and time specified on the discover. The officers, nevertheless, refused to provide him a discover, claiming that they have been solely taking him to report his assertion, stated Ankababu. “I had protested this. I’m a diabetic, have hypertension and coronary heart points. I had even confirmed them my medical data, requesting if I might come the subsequent morning as an alternative. However regardless of all of this, they insisted that I ought to accompany them. After I resisted, they pulled me by my lungi and threatened to forcibly take me away. One among them was recording all of this on their cellphone,” he recalled.
Ankababu was quickly taken to the CID regional workplace in Guntur. He stated he was handled nicely by the CID officers, and that they didn’t bodily or verbally harass him. His vitals have been additionally checked each few hours to make sure he was holding nicely. “I defined to them what had occurred. I hadn’t forwarded that message with any explicit intention. It was only a information alert, and I had forwarded it as acquired. They, nevertheless, insisted that it was executed to tarnish the popularity of the Chief Minister’s Workplace,” he stated.
Ankababu was booked beneath varied sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) together with 153-A (Selling enmity between two teams), 505(2) (Making statements resulting in public mischief), and 201 r/w 120-B (Felony Conspiracy). “After I requested them why I used to be being focused regardless of me not being the supply of the message, they stated it was as a result of I used to be of the Kamma caste. In addition they stated they’d no alternative however to comply with orders from their seniors,” he stated.
The Kammas are a dominant caste extensively thought of to be politically related to the TDP, with many of the occasion’s distinguished leaders together with Chandrababu Naidu belonging to this caste group. Quite the opposite, the YSRCP is generally populated by one other dominant caste group, the Reddys. The political tussle between the 2 events have usually been framed by critics as a caste battle between the Kammas and Reddys.
“[The CID] was making an attempt to painting me as a TDP supporter. Of their data too, they’d talked about beside my identify that I used to be a TDP supporter. I had protested and made positive that they eliminated the declare. However the remand report too referred to me as a TDP supporter. Chandrababu Naidu himself had clarified in a gathering that I’m not the occasion’s supporter,” stated Ankababu. “In addition to, after my arrest, CID officers searched my home to seek out any hyperlink to TDP, however they have been unable to ascertain that declare,” he added.
Based on Ankababu, he had forwarded the message in query after receiving it on one other WhatsApp group. The complainant on this case, Tirupati Ramesh who works as supervisor on the CMO, wasn’t even a part of the group that he had forwarded the message to, he stated. “It’s not tough for the CID to research and discover out the supply of the message. The identical information had been broadcast on TV channels. It even appeared in some newspapers on the identical day. However solely I used to be focused,” he stated. He was launched from arrest on September 23. However the case towards him, in the meantime, is but to succeed in its logical conclusion.
Case 2: Darapaneni Narendra, TDP Media Coordinator
The identical message that had landed Ankababu in hassle had obtained 50-year-old Darapaneni Narendra into hassle too. Narendra, who works because the Media Coordinator at TDP’s head workplace in Mangalagiri, additionally has the behavior of sharing information alerts on WhatsApp teams. This time, he had forwarded the message to a WhatsApp group known as ‘Amaravati Group’, which consists of journalists, docs and other people from varied different professions as members. Narendra, has been a devoted employee of the TDP for practically three many years now, and needed to endure way more humiliation and abuse when in comparison with Ankababu.
Seven CID officers landed at Narendra’s residence in Guntur round 7.15 pm on October 12. They seized his cellphone earlier than questioning him in regards to the WhatsApp message he had forwarded. “I’m a part of practically 50 WhatsApp teams. The settings on my app are such that every one messages from all of those teams are routinely erased by the top of the day. Therefore, the officers have been unable to seek out the stated message on my cellphone. However they have been claiming that I had deleted the messages to destroy the proof. No discover was served to me beneath 41-A CrPC. I used to be taken to the CID workplace the place I used to be interrogated in a room which had three cameras,” Narendra advised TNM, sitting in his residence at Arundalpet in Guntur.
In between the interrogation, round 12.15 am, Narendra alleges he was taken to the ADSP’s room the place there have been no cameras. “I used to be made to take off my garments. They then forcibly unfold my legs till it harm me. In addition they made me do sit-ups,” he recalled. They, nevertheless, didn’t use any unparliamentary language towards him, he stated, including that the officers additionally periodically checked his vitals to ensure he was in good well being whereas of their custody.
A case has been booked towards Narendra beneath IPC sections 153-A (Selling enmity between two teams), 505(2) (Making statements resulting in public mischief), and 201 r/w 120-B (Felony Conspiracy) IPC, primarily based on a grievance filed, as soon as once more, by Tirupati Ramesh. The complainant had alleged that the accused circulated the publish on WhatsApp teams to incite hatred between two teams in society, harm the popularity of the CMO and disrupt legislation and order. Narendra was launched on bail at 2 am on Friday, October 14, after the choose refused the CID officers’ request to ship him to remand. That is the primary case for which Narendra has been booked in his life.
Although they’ve cited the forwarded message as the rationale for arrest, their agenda is clearly one thing else, alleged Narendra. “Within the final three years, I’ve filed practically 2,000 RTI (Proper to Info) functions. Whereas talking on the Meeting, Chandrababu Naidu has referred to among the RTI responses I acquired. [The government] is doing this now to demoralise the cadre and instil concern amongst them. They assume that reserving me will assist silence others who converse up towards the federal government,” he stated.
“I cannot blame the CID. They’re solely following directions. What is de facto there on this case for the CID to take it up anyway? It was, in any case, nearly a WhatsApp ahead. The identical information was broadcast on information channels and reported in some newspapers as nicely,” he added.
Case 3: Sambasiva Rao, Freelance Video Editor with TDP
Mokarla Sambasiva Rao (29), a contract video editor with the TDP, discovered himself in hassle with the CID on July 1, when the officers all of the sudden arrived at his home in Amaravati. They’d accused him of circulating a pretend letter claimed to have been written by YS Vijayamma, the Chief Minister’s mom.
Recounting to TNM what had transpired on that day, Siva stated, “My spouse was feeding our child when the CID officers barged into our home, claiming I had circulated a pretend letter. They seized my new cellphone and laptop computer after which took me to the CID workplace in Guntur, the place I used to be proven a screenshot of the letter they alleged I had circulated. That was the primary time I ever noticed the letter.”
On the CID workplace, Siva stated, his garments have been eliminated and he was made to kneel down. “I used to be crushed under my knees. They stretched each my legs and pulled it till it harm actual unhealthy. Two officers stood on every of my legs. In addition they hit me on my chest and made me act like I used to be sitting on a chair with out providing me one. After the bodily torture was over, in addition they threatened me to not inform anybody about it,” Siva stated. Just like the others, he too wasn’t issued a discover beneath 41-A CrPC earlier than he was taken away by the CID.
“In addition they requested me why I used to be working with the Kammas regardless of being from the Kapu group. They stated I needs to be ashamed about it,” he added.
Based on Siva, YouTuber Garlapati Venkateswara Rao was additionally interrogated by the CID only a day earlier than they picked Siva up. Venkateswara Rao and Siva have been roommates earlier. After the CID left, Venkateswara rang up Siva to inform him about what had occurred. “After seeing my identify within the name checklist, the CID should have assumed that I used to be concerned,” he stated.
Through the interrogation, he was even warned that he was coping with “massive folks”, and that he needs to be cautious about what was in retailer for him, Siva stated. “After I requested the CID for any proof to show my involvement, they’d no reply. Lastly, earlier than I used to be allowed to go away, I used to be pressured to signal a doc saying I used to be concerned within the pretend letter case,” he stated.
Three months for the reason that alleged torture and detention by the CID, no additional interrogation has taken place. “Mockingly, I’m nonetheless paying the EMI for my new cellphone, which the CID had taken away,” a smiling Siva advised TNM.
Case 4: Poonthata Ranganayaki, a 67-year-old from Guntur
When Poonthata Ranganayaki put up a standing on Fb following the LG Polymer fuel leak incident in Visakhapatnam, which occurred on Could 7, 2020, little did she anticipate that the CID would come after her for that. Ranganayaki was 67 years outdated when she was booked by the CID for her publish.
In her Fb publish, Ranganayaki had raised round 20 points relating to the Visakhapatnam fuel leak tragedy, in addition to blaming the police for permitting the plant officers to go scot-free. She had additionally questioned the delay in handing over the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Following the publish, a discover was served to Ranganayaki beneath Part 41-A of the CrPC, and a case was registered beneath IPC sections 505(2) (Making statements resulting in public mischief), 153(A) (Selling enmity between two teams), 188 (Disobedience to order promulgated by a public servant) and 120-B (Felony Conspiracy), along with Part 67 of the IT Act. Ranganayaki who was arrested on Could 18, 2020, was quickly launched on bail.
The fuel leak on the LG Polymers Non-public Ltd had taken 12 lives, in addition to affecting a whole lot of individuals dwelling within the space across the plant. Genotoxic styrene of an estimated 800 tonnes was uncovered to the folks. A Excessive Energy Committee (HPC) setup by the Andhra Pradesh authorities following the accident discovered that there was negligence on the a part of the corporate, in addition to the dearth of a preventive mechanism in place.
Practically two and a half years after she was booked, TNM met Ranganayaki at her residence in Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur. She was unaware of the present standing of her case, as a result of she hasn’t heard again from the CID. Chatting with TNM, she stated that she was an bizarre lady with no political affiliations. “My publish was meant to query the federal government and the scenario, holding in thoughts the well-being of the folks and the youngsters who have been affected within the fuel leak,” she stated, including that she didn’t remorse what she had posted.
Although the CID is but to file a chargesheet within the case, Ranganayiki’s life has modified so much for the reason that incident. She has been pushed into monetary struggles, after native politicians allegedly made use of her susceptible scenario to remove a 45-year-old lodge her household had been operating. “It appears that evidently even sharing one’s ideas has turn out to be a sin. It was an pointless overreaction to a easy publish,” she stated.
What the CID says
Along with these 4 case research, there are numerous extra individuals who have been arrested by the CID over social media posts previously three years. Curiously, many amongst these booked and arrested are affiliated with the TDP in a technique or one other, and belong to the Kamma group.
Chatting with TNM in regards to the current spurt within the variety of social media-related circumstances within the state, PV Sunil Kumar, Extra Director Normal (ADG), Andhra Pradesh CID stated that the variety of circumstances booked was not an indicator of the bottom scenario. “That is, the truth is, simply the tip of the iceberg. At this time, cheaper telephones and reasonably priced knowledge has made positive that much more folks have entry to the web, in flip creating an ecosystem susceptible to misinformation.”
Refuting the allegation that the division was getting used as a software by the federal government to curb dissent by submitting petty social media circumstances, the CID chief stated the division is the nodal company within the state for all social media operations, in addition to the Interpol-related circumstances and round 50 different points. “Social media circumstances are technical in nature. Most of the pretend profiles on social media use instruments such because the VPM to cowl their tracks. The CID has the technical experience to research such circumstances. The police usually attain out to us for assist in such circumstances. So, it makes it simpler for the CID to take them up,” he stated.
Based on Sunil Kumar, individuals who unfold misinformation on social media might be broadly categorised into three sections. “Firstly, there are ignorant folks. They haven’t any agenda and are merely ignorant in regards to the penalties of their actions on social media. The second kind are hardcore occasion staff, whereas the third are paid campaigners. These within the third class are unfastened cannons and can go to any extent to earn cash,” he stated. Although most of those circumstances come beneath the social media umbrella, every case is totally different and the investigation is dependent upon the part of legislation relevant, he added.
The ADG additional acknowledged that the CID was making arrests in circumstances involving repeat offenders, and those that are partaking in a conspiracy to tarnish the popularity of the federal government. “Individuals who attempt to destroy proof, falsify info, and bask in hearsay mongering are handled an iron fist. It is just when a person commits an offence beneath sections of the IPC or the IT Act that we step in,” he stated.
Nonetheless, it’s to be famous that most of the social media circumstances booked by the CID previously three years have neither been taken to a logical conclusion, nor ended up in conviction. When requested in regards to the delay in submitting the chargesheet in Ranganayiki’s case, the ADG stated that the cost sheet was prepared and could be filed quickly. “The judicial course of on this nation takes time. However relaxation assured, all these circumstances will probably be taken to a logical conclusion,” he stated. The question in regards to the variety of circumstances out of the 146 arrests that have been chargesheeted, nevertheless, went unanswered.
In the meantime, TDP chief and former Chief Minister Chandrababu Nadu wrote a letter to the Andhra Pradesh Director Normal of Police on October 12, stating that the police basically, and the CID police particularly, appeared to be extra busy harassing dissenting voices and concentrating on the leaders and cadre of opposition TDP. “The way wherein CID is functioning as an prolonged arm of the ruling YSRCP is appalling, as it isn’t solely destroying the sanctity of decade outdated traditions, however can also be giving rise to revenge politics. It’s unhappy to notice that the CID is stooping to such requirements to serve the ruling occasion’s pursuits,” Chandrababu stated within the letter.
Based on TDP spokesperson Pattabhi Ram, the CID’s motive is to instil concern among the many folks and curb dissent. “To do that, false circumstances are foisted towards TDP activists and customary folks. Not a single case has been taken to a logical conclusion by the CID. The truth is, in lots of circumstances, they needed to face robust drubbings from the Excessive Court docket. The CID makes an arrest each time the federal government is cornered, since an arrest will divert consideration from the continuing problem,” he stated.
Pattabhi additional alleged that the 24-hour window earlier than the arrested accused is to be introduced in entrance of the Justice of the Peace has turn out to be a weapon for the CID to torture folks in custody. “The CID doesn’t even serve notices as mandated beneath 41-A CrPc. All arrests are made within the night or within the late hours of the night time. It’s not even stunning that it’s the Kammas who’re repeatedly focused by them. This has to cease,” he added.
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