The wife of the Karnataka man who is believed to be in police custody in Saudi Arabia for allegedly posting blasphemous messages on Facebook has said that the messages were posted from a fake account created in his name.
Harish Bangera from Kundapur in Udupi district was working for a Dammam-based Saudi company and was employed as an airconditioner mechanic. A Facebook profile in his name posted messages suggesting that another Ram Mandir be built at Mecca, which is the revered holy site by a majority of Muslims across the world. In another message, the profile had also abused members of the Saudi royal family. The Facebook account has been deleted since Monday morning.
His wife Sumana Bangera has now claimed that a fake account was created in her husband's name on December 20 and the allegedly blasphemous posts were made from that account. "At 1 am on December 20, someone created a fake account of my husband and posted the message about the temple to be built in Mecca. Screenshots of this was taken and shared in WhatsApp groups. When I received it, I called my husband and asked him about it but he was shocked and unaware of the post. He told me it's a fake account," Sumana told TNM.
"But the messages kept spreading. The screenshots came with a message that it should keep getting shared till it reached the Saudi police," Sumana said.
Sumana says that on December 19, after Harish shared the video of CAA protest in Mangaluru on Facebook, he allegedly began receiving threatening messages on Facebook. Sumana says that she advised him to put out an apology to avoid trouble. "I told him to post the apology video to ensure that the situation does not go out of hand. After he issued the apology, things seemed to simmer down. But some people are targeting him and after he posted the apology, they started circulating screenshots of the post about Mecca on WhatsApp. They did it only to escalate the situation," she said.
Sumana added that Harish's company decided to hand him over to police custody on December 21. On the same evening, Sumana filed a complaint with the Cyber Crime police in Udupi about the issue. "They said that they would find out who created the account and report it to the Indian Embassy in Saudi Arabia. I hope my husband comes back safely," Sumana said.
Many had earlier pointed out that the Facebook account which posted allegedly blasphemous messages was in use only from December 20. Harish had another Facebook profile which he had been using for years and regularly posted about friends, family and football. However, there is a video doing the rounds where Harish can be heard apologising to Muslims. He is heard saying, “I have done a mistake. Please forgive me. I will never upload such post again. I ask my Muslim brothers to please forgive me on this occasion. I am facing problem from my company.”
Another post that has gone viral on Facebook since then states that Harish has been fired by his employers for this alleged post.
The Karnataka Government on Monday confirmed that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) were aware of the arrest. Sources told TNM Asim Anwar, the Second Secretary (Political & Information) at the Indian Embassy in Riyadh has been apprised of the situation. He is taking up the matter with Desh Bandhu Bhati, Counsellor (Community Welfare) who in turn will inform Ausaf Sayeed, the Ambassador leading the Indian Embassy in the Arab nation.
Indian embassy officials told TNM that they had not received confirmation of Harish's arrest. However, Sumana says that she tried to contact Harish's phone and reached a police official at the other end.