While he is now out on bail, Ashraf alleges that he was imprisoned and subjected to police brutality, which was a violation of his rights.

For questioning those linking Kerala floods to Sabarimala Mangaluru man arrestedFacebook
news Controversy Saturday, September 08, 2018 - 19:07

In the past few weeks, since the time of Kerala floods, there have been a number of people on social media who have both bizarrely and callously linked the deluge to issues like contemplation on women’s entry into Sabarimala and beef consumption in the state. When one Mangaluru man questioned these people on Facebook, he was allegedly arrested and faced police brutality.

On August 19, Ashraf Salethur, a 35-year-old Mangaluru resident wrote a Facebook post where he questioned “bhakts” for relating the floods in Kerala to the Supreme Court hearing a batch of petitions seeking entry of women into Sabarimala temple. Referring to the floods in Dakshina Kannada, he added, “Ashraf M Salethur asks, then what is the reason for floods in Tulu Nadu created by Parashurama?”

Two days later, Ashraf got a call from the Central Crime Branch in Mangaluru asking him to come to the office to meet an official. “I go there and they take my phone and start looking through my Facebook and ask questions about why I am posting this,” he told TNM. “I pleaded innocence but they took me to Mangaluru North (Bunder) Police station and harassed me till midnight, checked my Facebook account, asking me to open it with password. They put me in lockup that night.”

Ashraf was produced before a magistrate and then put in jail where he stayed from August 22 to August 28.  He was booked under IPC sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 505 (statements conducing to public mischief), and 507 (criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication). He also alleged that he beaten at an interval of 24 hours on his bare back.

When TNM contacted the Mangaluru Commisioner Suresh Kumar, he confirmed that police had registered a suo moto case after the media monitoring cell flagged the Ashraf's social media posts. "We have received a representation from Ashraf regarding allegations against police. We are conducting an enquiry into the same," he said.

Even after he was released on bail on August 28, his belongings worth Rs 3000 which were taken from him were not returned, he alleged in a Facebook post.

After he was released, Ashraf put up a Facebook post on August 31, questioning what was wrong with his August 19 post. "I haven't written anything discriminatory about any religion, caste or the law. I have not made any derogatory statements.” He also went on to hit out the Narendra Modi-led BJP government stating, “There are so many people who have created fake Facebook accounts and are posting inflammatory and derogatory posts about religions. The situation has turned so bad that anyone who speaks against Modi and the BJP are targeted and sent to prison."

On September 1, he started posting on Facebook about the treatment meted out to him by the police. He wrote, “Since you have gone against the law and wrongly imprisoned me, I have every right to take legal action against you. I have at least a little knowledge about the law because I have a masters degree in law.”

In another post, he said, “I was wrongly imprisoned, physically assaulted by the police and my rights were taken away from me, I thank all my friends who stood up for me at a time like this.”

“There was not even a complaint against me, the police have taken suo motu action,” Ashraf told TNM.

He made another post directly naming the BJP. The post read, “The BJP and the Sangh Parivar think that anything said against them is against Hinduism. Do they think they have bought Hinduism at a price and now own it?”

He also alleged that the police have continued to threaten and intimidate him. “Two days ago, the police called me up again and asked me to visit station. this time they questioned why I posted about the police on Facebook and even made me sign a letter stating I won’t write about the police on Facebook (sic),” he said.

However, Ashraf has been receiving support from various quarters who have been posting on Facebook, demanding ‘justice for Ashraf’. He has also gotten the backing of CPI(M) affiliated Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), of which he is also a member. Muneer Katipalla, the organisation’s state president, told TNM, “There have been several posts that were made by both Hindus and Muslims on the issue. But they have acted without a complaint against Ashraf. And when he took to social media to highlight what the police has done, he has been issued warnings. This is why the DYFI is taking up this matter seriously.”

Ashraf has also filed a complaint with the police commissioner on Friday alleging that the police have filed a false case against him.

(Inputs Theja Ram)

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