Kerala

Police track provenance of flash hartal campaign

Members of the Muslim Coordination Committee staging a march to the Secretariat in protest against the attack on Dalits and Muslims. C.Ratheesh kumar   | Photo Credit: C_RATHEESH KUMAR

A youth who had recently parted ways with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was partly responsible for the online mobilisation for a flash hartal that put communities on edge and disrupted life in some measure in Kerala on Monday last, according to the State police.

Investigators identified him as Amarnath, a resident of Urukunnu, near Thenmala, in Kollam. A Plus Two open university student, Amarnath deserted the RSS along with 30 others in his locality, including his father, last year.

Subsequently, he emerged as an influential and much-followed critic of the RSS in the social media. Others who had abandoned the RSS similarly formed the bulk of his followers on Facebook and WhatsApp.

Perinthalmanna DySP M.P. Mohanachandran, who probed the case, said matters reached a head when Amarnath seized on the highly emotive Kathua incident to denounce the RSS.

Encouraged by the swelling number of followers on the social media, he created two exclusive WhatsApp groups ‘Voice for Youth’ and ‘Justice for Sisters’ to hammer the Sangh for its purported role in defending the accused in the sensational rape-murder case.

Investigators said Amarnath exhorted that the groundswell of online revulsion caused by the gruesome incident be felt on the streets in Kerala.

His message resonated strongly among netizens, including hardline SDPI and PFI activists and also CPI(M) and Congress workers.

SDPI role

The police said the SDPI subsequently weaponised Amarnath’s posts about the Kathua incident and used its exclusive online messaging groups to invigorate its cadres and prompt them to unleash direct action in the physical realm. The SDPI, PFI, and the Welfare Party of India have since denied the allegation.

Investigators said that on Sunday last Amarnath and his compatriots realised that the campaign they had initiated had gone out of hand. Their groups became platforms for hate speech and calls to action, mainly in northern Kerala.

The police said Amarnath developed cold feet and tried to alert the media. However, the movement had created had metastasised into something more menacing than he had envisaged.

The Malappuram police arrested five persons, including Amarnath, in connection with the online campaign. The others are Sudheesh, Akhil, Gokul, and Cyril from Thiruvananthapuram. The police have booked them on the charge of inciting enmity between groups on the grounds of religion and remanded them in judicial custody. District Police Chief Debesh Kumar Behera and DySP Jaleel Thottathil supervised the probe.

In a separate development, the Kannur police have arrested three 19-year-olds on the charge of disseminating a communally divisive video online.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2020 12:20:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/police-track-provenance-of-flash-hartal-campaign/article23631766.ece

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