Hyderabad: As many as 26 Whatsapp groups against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Population Register (NPR), and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) have been listed in an FIR filed by the Hyderabad cybercrime police against WhatsApp, Twitter, and TikTok over charges of “anti-national” activities.

The FIR is registered based on a complaint by Silveri Srishailam, a senior journalist based in Telangana. The complainant has listed 26 anti-CAA, -NRC, and -NPR Whatsapp groups along with the phone numbers of the group admins for posting anti-CAA and “highly objectionable” content.

Thufair (name changed), who was the admin of one of the Whatsapp groups mentioned in the list, told NewsMeter, “We don’t know what the state is up to. The group was started for flash-protest alerts in the Hyderabad city. I am the person who began the group. However, later I exited the group because I couldn’t make it to most of the protests due to my job. My mobile number was on the FIR. Now I don’t know what they are going to do with this list. It’s terrifying, actually. Soon after the news came out, they deleted the group. It had around 250 members. We hope this is what the authorities wanted and they won’t be after us.”

NewsMeter tried getting in touch with the 26 groups mentioned on the list. While most numbers were switched off, a few other numbers have been cancelled. The complainant has also mentioned six more phone numbers that are allegedly part of all the 26 Whatsapp groups. People are voluntarily exiting anti-CAA groups out of fear of being monitored.

Mr Srishailam said, “After the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was passed by the Parliament on 12 December 2019, some anti-social elements, under the guise of freedom of expression, started a social media campaign across the country against the merging of the CAA with the proposed NRC.”

He said these “anti-social elements” are misusing social media platforms such as Twitter, WhatsApp, and TikTok. He also alleged that these companies were collaborating with the “anti-social elements” without verifying the videos and messages that are being circulated. The complainant further said, “To promote their ideas and hidden agendas, the accused persons are using various social media applications, like Whatsapp, Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook, to circulate messages and videos in many languages, including English, Urdu, Arabic, Tamil, Telugu, and Hindi. They are creating groups and web pages for the same.”

The complainant said the Whatsapp group admins, without verifying the content, are encouraging users to post sensitive and damaging content on the groups. “TikTok users are cracking jokes about Indian national leaders and playing pranks to insult the sovereignty of India,” he said.

The Telangana State Joint Action Committee (JAC) convenor Mushtaq Malik said, “This is anti-constitutional. We have a undeclared emergency in this country. The government cannot take criticism. This attitude is not good for our country.”

Commenting on Hyderabad police’s latest FIR on social media sites the convenor said, “Hyderabad police is trying to crush this movement by curbing our democratic right of expression. This looks like they are working under political motives. We will see the new FIR issue legally and fight constitutionally. We don’t want to compromise on anything.”

Dheeshma Puzhakkal

Dheeshma Puzhakkal is currently a Reporter with Newsmeter. An alumnus of Hyderabad Central University, she has interned with Greater Kashmir newspaper and NDTV. Dheeshma has also made short films and documentaries. Her documentary ‘Still I Rise’, which is based on sex-trafficking in Hyderabad’s Old City, has earned accolades in several film festivals, such as International Documentary and Short Film Festival, Kerala (IDSFFK). An avid foodie, she loves to travel and listen to stories that others tell. Photography is one of her all-time interests. She has extensively written on satellite-based journalism, health, consumer, and data stories besides covering anti-crime investigative agencies.

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