A 24-year-old journalist working for a Kannada daily was arrested on September 7 by the Dakshina Kannada police for allegedly falsifying a newspaper report about police excess and desecration of the Quran during a raid.
Imtiyaz Shah Thumbay covers news for in Dakshina Kannada's Bantwal taluk for Kannada daily Vartha Bharathi. He reported on September 3 about a police raid conducted in the house of SDPI activist Kalandar Shafi. Shafi was accused in the murder of RSS cadre Sharath Madivala.
Sharathâ€™s murder had led to communal clashes in the district. Imtiyaz had mentioned in his report that Kalandar Shafiâ€™s family had alleged that during the raid, the police had desecrated the Quran.
The newspaper had carried photographs of the alleged desecrated holy text, which the family had shared as evidence with the reporter.
On September 7, the Dakshina Kannada police registered a suo motu case against Imtiyaz Thumbay and booked him for provocation with intent to cause riots and promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes.
On Friday, the Judicial First Class Magistrate in Bantwal taluk rejected Imtiyazâ€™s bail application and remanded him to 15-day judicial custody.
The charge sheet also mentions the chief of Vartha Bharati as a co-accused. However, the police have not arrested anyone apart from Imtiyaz Thumbay.
Imtiyazâ€™s bail application will be heard on Monday evening by the Mangaluru Magistrate Court, Dakshina Kannada SP Sudheer Kumar Reddy told TNM.
What was in Imtiyaz Thumbayâ€™s news report?
Imtiyaz Thumbayâ€™s news report published on September 3 was about a midnight raid conducted by the Dakshina Kannada Police in the home of Kalandar Shafi.
Kalandar Shafi is a cadre with the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI). He is also one of the accused in the murder of RSS functionary Sharath Madivala, who was brutally stabbed on July 4 and succumbed to his injuries on July 9.
In his report, Imtiyaz wrote that the police conducted a raid on Kalandarâ€™s house on September 2.
According to the report, Imtiyaz spoke to Kalandarâ€™s wife and father-in-law, who accused the police of being disrespectful to the Quran during the raid.
Kalandarâ€™s family members also handed over two photographs to Imtiyaz as evidence of the alleged desecrated Quran.
On September 3, Dakshina Kannada SP Sudheer Kumar Reddy issued a statement and claimed that the newspaper report had been falsified.
â€śA search team was sent to Kalandar Shafiâ€™s house in Bantwal. The police had a warrant for the search and it was given to a family member before the operation began. During the raid, when one of the officers found a copy of the Quran, he handed it over to one of the family members. Later, when the police left, the Quran was placed among a few of the familyâ€™s belongings and photographed in order to create communal tension and hatred between the two communities. This picture went viral and Vartha Bharathi published it,â€ť SP Sudheer Reddy said.
Sudheer Kumar said that the police have collected evidence to prove Imtiyazâ€™s involvement in a conspiracy to create trouble.
â€śHe (Imtiyaz Thumbay) has been accused of writing a false report and also circulating the photograph of the alleged desecration, which was staged. There was no police excess,â€ť the SP claimed.
However, speaking to the media, Shafiâ€™s wife, Sauda said that the police was lying.
â€śThe police entered our house and ransacked the place. We could not recognise the inside of our house once they were done. One of the officers threw the Quran on the floor. The raid started at 7am and went on till 11am. We are Muslims. We will never disrespect our holy text. We are not criminals but we were treated that way,â€ť Sauda told the media.
Editor-in-Chief of Vartha Bharathi, Abdussalam Puthige, refutes the policeâ€™s claim that the report was meant to create communal tension.
â€śImtiyaz Thumbay joined Vartha Bharathi in 2012 and was on the desk. He was sent to report in Bantwal in 2016 and has written several stories about police excess and their inability to maintain law and order. The police is just trying to smother the voice of those writing about their incompetence,â€ť Puthige said.
The Editor-in-Chief demanded an independent probe into the case alleging that a police investigation would be biased.