Defamatory post morphing photos of Chhatrapati Shivaji, Bal Thackeray and others on Facebook sparks violence across the city; special forces deployed to maintain peace; many injured in stone pelting, property damaged in several areas.
Acontroversial Facebook post that contained defamatory pictures with allegedly derogatory references to warrior king Shivaji Maharaj, late Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray and others, provoked violent protests on Sunday by workers of the Shiv Sena, BJP, and right-wing organisation Hindu Rashtra Sena. In the unrest, 24 out of 33 police stations were affected on Saturday night and Sunday.
During the night, miscreants pelted stones at vehicles and damaged 130 PMPML buses and 21 private vehicles, as also set fire to one bus, tempo and the motorbike of a police beat marshall. Shops were also torched. Protests were also given a communal colour by damaging religious places of a minority community in Ganeshnagar near Bopkhel, Landewadi in Bhosari, Lohegaon, Sayyednagar in Hadapsar and Phursungi.
Groups were seen waving saffron flags in motorbike rallies and raising slogans in several areas. Members of these parties forced traders to down their shutters, after cops got the US-based social network to remove the controversial post on Saturday night.
The posts were found again on another social network on Sunday, but re-deleted. Joint Commissioner of Police (Law & Order), Pune police Sanjay Kumar told Mirror, "The situation was brought under control within the first few hours. We are investigating the source of the controversial post and the Facebook account.
Till Sunday evening, 117 persons were arrested, while 101 were put under preventive detention. We also identified some troublemakers enagaged in stone pelting and violence, and are keeping watch on them." He added, "There were 52 such incidents, and we registered 34 cases. In terms of property damage, Bhosari was worst affected.
In its Noor Mohalla locality, 24 vehicles were damaged and attempts were made to set fire to four bikes." Cops registered two cases against unidentified persons with Kothrud and Hinjewadi police stations for offences under Section 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the IPC and relevant sections of the IT Act.
A Facebook profile in the name of 'Dharamveer Shree Sambhaji Maharaj' was noticed on Saturday night, carrying morphed pictures containing allegedly derogatory references to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Thackeray, Lord Ganesha and Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj. There was an instant reaction and by the time the police machinery reacted, 12 buses were damaged at Chaphekar Chowk in Chinchwad by 9.30 pm. "The post spread like wildfire through WhatsApp. Rumourmongers took advantage of the situation and started spreading false alarms. Stone pelting went on till well past 2 am," a senior police officer told Mirror.
Heavy police deployment was made across affected areas and riot control vehicles were pressed into service, besides additional forces from headquarters. With thousands on the road, cops also summoned companies of the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF), which started arriving around midnight on Saturday. City police contacted the Centre's Delhi-based Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), who got the post deleted by Facebook.
There was some delay, as Facebook servers are located in the US. Though a court order is required to delete a post from the social networking website, in this case, CERT went out of its way to get the controversial posts deleted without it.
The photo of young Nikhil Tikone did the rounds on WhatsApp on Saturday night under the name of 'Nihal Khan', who reportedly posted the pictures. It was only on Sunday afternoon that it was cleared that he was Tikone, a resident of Kasba Peth where he was beaten up.
Affected areas where stone pelting took place were mainly located to the city's north, like Hinjewadi, Pimpri, Chinchwad, Bhosari, Khadki, Yerwada, Pune-Ahmednagar Road, Kharadi, Wanowrie, Hadapsar. Various parts of Pune district — Loni Kalbhor, Wagholi, Wadgaon Maval and Lonavla — were also affected, with highways including the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and Pune-Ahmednagar Highway being blocked. "We arrested 53 and registered 27 cases.
We deployed bandobasts in several areas and called in two SRPF companies," said Manojkumar Lohiya, Superintendent of Police, Pune rural. City police deployed three companies of SRPF, Quick Response Team (QRT), and striking forces in the north of the city. One extra DCP rank officer was allotted to Zone III and Zone IV, under the North region.
Commissioner of Police Satish Mathur, who is on leave, appealed to citizens to maintain peace. "Do not forward any material/ photo/ post that might insult public feelings. In case of emergency, contact the police control room by dialling 100," stated Mathur.
12 INJURED IN STONE PELTING
As many as 12 were admitted to the casualty ward of the Sassoon General Hospital on Sunday, after being injured in stone pelting that took place over the photoshopped images. Four were admitted there after 2 am; on Sunday evening, eight were brought in.
Of these, one resident of Kasba Peth suffered injuries leading to cerebral edema, and was unconscious till the time of going to print. Dr R Mhaske, chief medical officer at Sassoon hospital, said, "He was hit on his head badly and is currently under observation."
(INPUTS BY NOZIA SAYYED)