On November 3, the official Twitter handle of DCP (New Delhi) had posted a tweet about a man who was arrested for carrying a bag of firecrackers. After facing social media trolling, the Delhi police have now deleted the contentious tweet.
The cops had informed that HC Rampal of Connaught Place police station had apprehended a man named Rajesh Chawla for carrying one polythene of firecrackers. A First Information Report (FIR) no. 201/2021 was also lodged against him under Indian Penal Code Section 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant).
The arrest came at the backdrop of a complete ban on all forms of firecrackers by the Kejriwal-led government till January 1, 2022. This prompted the Delhi Police to initiate a crackdown on the sale and distribution of firecrackers during the festive season. Social media was rife with angry comments by netizens, who were aghast with the Delhi police for acting all-powerful and brave against the common man trying to celebrate a festival, after displaying their helplessness against farmer protestors and rioters.
People called into question the ineffectiveness of the police in preventing the infamous Republic Day riots and the mayhem created by the farmer protestors. Following the barrage of mockery, the official handle of DCP (New Delhi) had deleted the tweet. Besides deleting the contentious tweet, the Delhi police also chose to silence dissenters and critics by blocking social media handles that criticised them.
When a Twitter user (@BesuraTaansane) mocked the action of the cops, they sought to block him. “It’s a fact that it is a great achievement. (It) calls for a President’s police medal.” Miffed by the non-abusive tweet of a common man, the Delhi police resorted to blocking him out.
Another user had also recounted how the DCP (New Delhi) handle had blocked him from accessing their tweets.
It must be mentioned that public accounts, run by government entities, blocking private citizens is unusual.
In August 2012, the then Government of India had blocked a bunch of Twitter handles – many were ‘Right-Wing among those blocked. It remains one of the earliest attempts to censor private citizens by the government. The UPA government simply bypassed Twitter and asked the ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to block access to those Twitter accounts. It created a massive furore, but it also had tacit support from some quarters of liberals.
Many of them justified this blocking, saying the accounts were indulged in ‘hate speech’ on communal lines. Founder and Editor of one such liberal outlet ‘Hardnews’ that supported the decision of the Manmohan Singh government to block Twitter accounts of ordinary citizens, is now an office-bearer of Editor’s Guild of India. While not all among liberals openly supported the government’s decision to block these Twitter handles, many of them, especially the talking heads in the media, started a concerted narrative about ‘trolls’ on Twitter and how that was a real problem that needed solving.