Sparking a fresh row, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday alleged that an event organised on Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru on the campus of the Jawaharlal Nehru University had the backing of Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed. JuD is the philanthropy arm of terrorist outfit, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
While Opposition parties sought proof from Mr. Singh for his comments, the Minister’s statement also triggered a sharp response from social media users who taunted him for allegedly relying on a “fake tweet” from an unverified Twitter account. The account has posted funny messages in the past, with many on the social media considering it as a parody account. The account @HafeezSaeedJUD is no longer in use.
During the Pathankot operations, a message was posted from the account: “Yesterday, I had meeting with COAS and @DGISIpk in Lahore & submitted report which shows that JuD has nothing to do with #Pathankotattack.”
A Home Ministry spokesperson later clarified that the “statement of the Home Minister was based on inputs from different agencies.” Asked to clarify who they were, the spokesperson said they were different intelligence and security agencies.
“We have given all the necessary orders but at the same time let me make it clear that the incident has the support of Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed,” Mr. Singh said in Allahabad, where he had gone to attend the condolence meeting of West Bengal Governor K.N. Tripathi’s wife.
On February 12, the official Twitter handle of Delhi Police had posted an alert, quoting a tweet from the account @HafeezSaeedJUD, which asked users to post messages using the hash tag PakStandWithJNU. An alarmed Delhi Police tagged the police units of Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, and also a news agency, ANI, to spread the message, which said: “This is to alert and sensitise community in JNU and across the country. Do not get carried away by such seditious anti-national rhetoric. Abetment of any kind of anti-national activity is a punishable offence. PLEASE RETWEET IN NATIONAL INTEREST.”
What is the proof that it is a parody account, ask police
The Delhi Police had gone into a tizzy after a tweet from the account @HafeezSaeedJUD, which asked users to post messages using the hash tag PakStandWithJNU. It posted a tweet of its own sounding an alert against anti-national rhetoric.
Considering that the alert was coming from the Delhi Police, it was picked up by news channels and newspapers and was turned into a news story.
When contacted, a senior officer who handles the Delhi Police Twitter account said, “What proof is there that it was a parody account? Our domain is not to check parody accounts but to red-flag any incendiary content on social media. The law is very clear on this, Internet is just a medium of communication. Idea was to caution young people and students to not get carried away by such messages.”
Amid the ongoing unrest on the JNU campus, Home Minister Rajnath Singh reiterated that anyone engaging in activities that endanger the unity and integrity of the nation, would not be spared. Mr. Singh also appealed to all parties to cooperate and come together on the issue and refrain from politicising it.
The social media, however, had a ball over Mr. Singh’s remarks as users questioned the credibility of the JuD Twitter account. Many called the government reaction a “goof-up.”
“The Union Home Minister has made a very serious allegation about terrorists ‘backing’ JNU protests. We hope that he has concrete proof,” said CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury on Twitter, asking Mr. Singh to share the evidence with the country.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also asked Mr. Singh for proof. “The Home Minister must go public with the evidence collected that enabled him to level this charge against the JNU students,” he tweeted.