UP: Muslim youth arrested over Facebook post calling for Palestine solidarity

Yasir Akhtar

The Uttar Pradesh police on Thursday, arrested Yasir Akhtar, a Muslim youth from Saraimeer town close to Azamgarh, for his post on Facebook on appealing to show solidarity to Palestine.

A Facebook page called ‘Saraimeer Express’ posts updates of what’s happening around the world, currently posting on the Israel’s illegal occupation and attacks on Palestine and Gaza. Yasir had posted the photo of Palestine flag on the group, calling on people to show their support with the state. But there’s a catch.

His original post said, “After the Friday prayer, people appeal to post Palestinian flags on their houses and cars to show support.”

Akhtar apologised for the post and told the police that he meant to write the following on his post, “After the Friday prayer in Gaza, people appeal to post Palestinian flags on their houses and cars to show support.”

That’s what he says his mistake was, he missed adding ‘Gaza’ in his post.

The Saraimeer police station is more or less just 20 metres away from Yasir’s place.

He has a wife, three little children — two girls and a boy — and an elder brother, Shahzaad Akhtar.

Shahzad recalled to Maktoob, “My brother just had his breakfast and freshened up in the morning. Around 10 am, the police called him to meet them. My brother even apologized for the post because he stated that was an error.”

Yasir, had in fact corrected the post and had uploaded a new post on Facebook.

Yasir’s close friend and social activist Asif tells Maktoob, “If anyone reads the original post, they will think he was talking about India. But he even corrected it. The question is, even if he had not, was it a crime? a crime big enough that police arrested him?”

‘Surveillance Cell helped track the post’

In a press release circulated by the local police, they also stated that a lot of people had also commented on his Facebook post.

An FIR has been filed under IPC section 505(2) which states, “statements conducing to public mischief. Statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes. Offence under sub-section (2) committed in place of worship, etc.”

The family, however, is yet to receive a copy of the FIR.

Furthermore, SP of Azamgarh, Sudhir Kumar Singh also posted about the arrest on the same platform.

It’s noteworthy that in both, the press release as well as the SP’s statement, the police credit the Surveillance Cell that helped in tracking the post on Palestine.

Yasir’s brother claimed that the police had even questioned Yasir saying, “When India has not shown their support to either Israel or Palestine, why are you doing it then?”

India, a few days ago, showed their support for the Palestinian cause at the United Nations, and called for de-escalation of tensions in the concerned regions.

It’s important to note, that in the wake of the Israeli aggressions in Palestine, thousands of people have taken to social media to document and share what is happening on the ground, in attempts to shift the narrative to the people’s stories.

Many Indians have shown their outright support to Israel on these platforms, trending #IndiaStandsWithIsrael on Twitter, calling on people to post. #IndiaStandsWithPalestine was also trending at the same time.

Globally too, protests with people carrying Palestine flags have erupted in London, Paris, Germany among others.

Yasir’s friend continued, “When nobody stood for the right of Palestinians, former chairman of Palestine Liberation Organisation, Yasser Arafat stood with them. It becomes our moral responsibility to stand for their cause.”

The arrest has deeply distressed Yasir’s family, particularly his children, raising questions over their safety and freedom. Shahzad and Asif state that Yasir is a simple and innocent person who has a close-knit group of friends.

Yasir added that on the Internet, people celebrate the killing of Muslims in Palestine, instead of channelizing that anger at the bodies that lay bare in Ganga and dogs mauling on those bodies.

Recently in Kashmir, at least 20 people, including an artist and a religious leader, were arrested for protests in solidarity with Palestine.