India detains social media users over offensive posts after religious site ruling


Police in India are taking no chances and have detained dozens of people making inflammatory social media post after the Supreme Court awarded to Hindus the bitterly contested religious site in Ayodha on Saturday.

The site is also being claimed by Muslims and its ownership has sparked some of the country’s bloodiest riots since independence.

In 1992, a Hindu mob destroyed the 16th-century Babri Mosque on the site, triggering riots in which about 2,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed. No major violence was reported after the ruling over the weekend.

Authorities said they were showing a “zero tolerance approach” towards potentially inflammatory content on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp.

About 37 people were arrested as of late Saturday in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state and the site of the contested land, state police said on Sunday.

Police have acted upon 3,712 social media posts across the state by either reporting them to the platform or asking users to delete them, said PV Rama Sastry, additional director general of police for law and order in Uttar Pradesh’s capital Lucknow.

“Any illegal conduct on the internet will be noticed and acted upon,” he told Reuters.

The police also said they had sealed a local office of right-wing Hindu nationalist group Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha and detained its national Vice President Ashok Sharma. They did not provide further details.

In another part of the state, at least seven men were arrested for setting off firecrackers or creating disturbances while distributing sweets in celebration.

The Home Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for information on arrests.

The government has deployed thousands of members of paramilitary forces and police in Ayodhya and other sensitive places.

The court’s decision paves the way for the construction of a Hindu temple on the site, a proposal long supported by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu-nationalist party.

Hindus believe the site is the birthplace of Lord Ram, a physical incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, and say the site was holy for Hindus long before the Muslim Mughals, India’s most prominent Islamic rulers, built the Babri mosque there in 1528.

The Supreme Court called the 1992 demolition of the mosque illegal but handed the 2.77 acre (1.1 hectare) plot – about the size of a soccer field – to a Hindu group.

It directed that another plot in Ayodhya be provided to a Muslim group that had contested the case.

Some scholars and activists saw the judgement as unfair, particularly given that the 1992 razing of the mosque was deemed illegal.

Muslim leaders have called for peace between majority Hindus and Muslims, who constitute 14percent of its 1.3 billion people. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)