Arrests on charges of ‘incitement’ on social media and Manipur Govt policy

    04-Jun-2022
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John Phaltual
Social media, since its inception in 1996 has managed to permeate half of the 7.7 billion people in the world. Social media allows us to connect across borders more easily than at any other time in human history, and even to expose human rights abuses in faraway places. And in this new digital era, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Whatsapp, and other social media platforms are not just places for information sharing and social networking, they are also places where vilification, targeting, and incitement take place.  
The propagation of hate speech has taken many forms throughout history as media platforms have evolved. The Nazis used virulently anti-semitic newspapers like Der Stürmer to help incite the German people into active persecution of Jews. During the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the RTLM radio station played a key role in promoting hate speech regarding the Tutsi, inciting the genocide. In 2017 the Myanmar military systematically utilized Facebook as a tool to disseminate propaganda in their persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority.
And today, as the war in Ukraine enters its third month, Russia used the State-controlled Channels, both Channel One and Russia-1 to feed its war propaganda of “denazification” and “demilitarization” in Ukraine, while hundreds of news outlets and social networks have vanished from the Russian web amid efforts to crack down on domestic dissent over the conflict.
In this age of rapid technological development, the internet has dramatically revolutionized the means of communication in our everyday lives. Meantime, the Government and the public couldn’t turn a blind eye to the systematic incitement against others on the social media platforms. For example, there are roughly thousands of social media users, each of whom has shared at least one post inciting against another community or ethnic group every moment. If systematic data of inciting posts are collected they will be beyond count.
The arrest and legal pursuit of activists on social media platforms have become a deliberate tactic of some groups or organizations that developed new policies and approaches to carry out arrests aimed at oppressing and infringing on the right to freedom of expression of other communities. These practices will leave the feeling of each community overwhelmed, confined, and under surveillance at all times and thus creating an uncomfortable social disharmony. Any attempt to deliberately criminalize all speech and criticism aimed against it and its policies is an attempt at hyperbole to link an opposing argument or criticism to acts of hatred and animosity.
An example of that is the case of Dr Mark Thangmang Haokip, 37, from Molnom neighborhood in Churachandpur. On May 24th, 2022, Dr Mark was arrested and charged with incitement. He had published some posts on his personal Facebook and Instagram accounts and was charged with offenses.
A human rights activist Dr. Mark Thangmang Haokip, the president of the Manipur Chapter of the International Human Rights Association (IHRA) was arrested from his residence at Kishangarh in New Delhi on 24 May. He was brought to Imphal by a team of Manipur police for further investigation on Friday 26 May, in transit remand, and was sent to judicial custody for 15 days.
He was summoned for recording a statement on May 22 in connection with the FIR at Churachandpur police station under section 153-A/505(2) Indian Penal Code, related to promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.  
One of the cases with Mark was centered on a post about “Rani Gaidinlui.” He had published on his Facebook and his Twitter accounts against freedom fighter Padma Bhushan awardee Rani Gaidinliu on 23 November 2021,  that the freedom fighter was a criminal, which concerned people claimed that he incited hatred and that it is a derogatory and defamatory statement by distorting history.
Meanwhile, Kabui Mothers' Association (KAMA) General Secretary Ranjita Golmei has said that Mark T Haokip should be given capital punishment as per his guilt in describing freedom fighter Rani Gaidinliu as a criminal and not a freedom fighter.
Addressing media persons at the KAMA office, Ranjita Golmei said that Mark is a refugee, and his post on social media describing freedom fighter Rani Gaidinliu as a criminal without knowing history indeed was dishonoring the people of the land.
The police told the Court that the post by Haokip on his Facebook on 27 July 2021, had stated that the merger agreement signed by the Maharaja covered only 700 sq. miles and did not cover the territory occupied by tribal chiefs and their subjects. On July 9 the post read, “The Inner Manipur, which is geographically about 700 sq. miles, was annexed into the Union of India by Maharaja of Manipur Bodha Chandra Singh through the very hands of VP Menon, the then adviser to the Govt. of India, Ministry of State on behalf of the Dominion of India on September 21, 1947, in Shillong. In as much, the inclusion of Outer Manipur (Hill Area), about 7,921 sq. miles into Manipur State in 1972, when Manipur became Part-C State, is politically illogical since the Kuki Chiefs were unconsulted and, no evidence of agreement with Govt. of India is available.”
As per the police, leaders belonging to 10 civil society organizations including IPSA, ACOAM Lup, PANDM, IPAK, Kanglamei, Kabui Mother's Association, KIL, CLK, Zeliangrong Union (Assam, Manipur & Nagaland) and KSA had lodged a complaint at Imphal police station on November 28 the same year to arrest Mark Haokip for blemishing image of a freedom fighter. Denouncing such Facebook posts, The Federation of Haomee (FoH), Kangleipak Kanba Lup (KKL) also lodged an FIR against Dr. Mark on the charge of creating enmity amongst the people on social media and demanding to take legal action. (To be contd)