India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party sacks official over Twitter post

Social media unit head in Haryana state faces calls for arrest over historic tweet

Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair, in white cap, was arrested last month over a Twitter post deemed to be hurtful to religious sentiments. AFP
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India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party has sacked the head of its social media cell in Haryana state amid growing calls for his arrest over five-year-old Twitter posts about Islam.

“The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Haryana state president Omprakash Dhankar has immediately removed Arun Yadav as the IT chief,” the BJP said on Thursday.

The party has a strong presence across social media platforms and has dedicated information and technology teams to propagate its ideology.

Mr Yadav’s sacking comes two months after the BJP dismissed its national spokeswoman Nupur Sharma and another party member, Naveen Jindal, for making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed during a live television debate and in social media posts.

Their comments drew worldwide condemnation, particularly from Gulf countries including the UAE, and triggered street violence in India that claimed at least three lives.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and his party distanced themselves from Ms Sharma's comments, describing her as a “fringe element”.

India’s Supreme Court last week said Ms Sharma should “apologise to the nation” for her comments that "set the country alight". She has cases filed against her for “hurting religious sentiments” in several states but is yet to be arrested.

There were widespread calls on Twitter for Mr Yadav to be arrested over a tweet in 2017 that juxtaposed images of the Kaaba and a glass of liquor.

The hashtag #ArrestArunYadav was trending on the microblogging site with more than 130,000 tweets.

Many users' tweets compared Mr Yadav's case with the case of Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of the fact-checking website Alt News.

Mr Zubair was arrested by Delhi police on June 28 over a tweet posted in 2018 that shows a still from a Bollywood film in which a sign saying "Honeymoon Hotel" has been changed to read "Hanuman Hotel", a reference to a Hindu deity.

Police said Mr Zubair was arrested on the basis of a complaint from a Twitter user who did not give their name. The charges against him include hurting religious sentiments and promoting enmity between groups.

"Hello @DGPHaryana @DelhiPolice If Zubair can be arrested for his 2018 tweet, then why not Arun Yadav?" Shaikh Sadeque, president of Tipu Sultan Party, a small regional political party in Maharashtra, wrote on Twitter.

A high-ranking member of India's main opposition Congress party called the BJP's dismissal of Mr Yadav “eyewash” and demanded his arrest.

“The BJP has sacked yet another 'fringe element'. But instead of this eyewash, will these 'hate minions' be arrested?" Srinivas BV, head of the Congress youth wing, tweeted.

Updated: July 08, 2022, 1:32 PM