'Kafir' screenshot: Vadakara police find no evidence against MSF leader, name Facebook as accused

  • Police tell High Court that they are not able to find the creator of the communal screenshot or admins of Facebook pages which shared it
  • Pro-CPM pages such as 'Porali Shaji' have shared the screenshot; police have not yet removed it
  • One pro-CPM Facebook page was deleted on the day police submitted a report to the high court
MSF Kozhikode district secretary Muhammed Khasim P K Photo: Special arrangement.

Kozhikode: Vadakara Police, investigating the origin of a communal message that hit the Lok Sabha constituency on the eve of the election, has found no evidence against the Muslim Students' Federation (MSF) leader in whose name it was spread by pro-CPM Facebook pages. In the progress report on the investigation submitted before the High Court of Kerala on June 10, Vadakara Police Station House Officer, Inspector Sumesh T P, said he has made Facebook the second accused in the case because the social media platform did not remove the communal screenshot from its pages despite repeated requests.

Facebook's nodal officer has been booked for abetment, he told the High Court. He also told the court that Facebook had not yet shared the admin details of pro-CPM pages such as 'Porali Shaji', which shared the communal post so the police could not act on them.
The post was still live on 'Porali Shaji', the inspector told the court. The investigating officer, however, admitted that he was not able to find the source or creator of the communal screenshot that called the CPM candidate in Vadakara K K Shailaja a 'kafir' (infidel) and sought votes for Congress candidate Shafi Parambil in the name of his religion.

MSF Kozhikode district secretary Muhammed Khasim P K, whose name in the "fabricated" message was spread by CPM-supporting Facebook pages, had approached the high court seeking a progress report on the investigation, accusing the police of sitting on his complaint. On May 31, Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas directed the State Police Chief to submit a report of the investigation done to date by June 14.

When the case came up for hearing on Friday, June 14, Khasim's advocate Mohammed Shah, who is also the State Secretary of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), picked holes in the report and sought permission to highlight the lapses in the investigation. "The police wanted the petition closed but the judge agreed to our request and set the next hearing on June 28," said Shah. "We will name the admins of these pro-CPM pages in our reply," he said.

The communal message and protests
CPM's K K Shailaja and Congress's Shafi Parambil were in a keenly watched contest in Vadakara (Shafi won by 1,14,506 votes, netting 10 percentage points more vote share than Shailaja). On May 25, several CPM-supporting Facebook pages shared a screenshot of a WhatsApp message purportedly written by MSF Kozhikode district secretary Muhammed Khasim P K saying: 'Shafi is a pious young man who offers namaz five times a day and the other is a non-Muslim kafir (infidel) female candidate. Who should we vote for... let us think.” The message was purportedly posted in a WhatsApp group named Youth League Nedumbramanna. The message wounded Vadakara with the Congress-led United Democratic Front accusing the CPM of fabricating the screenshot to polarise the constituency.

K K Shailaja. File photo: Manorama

CPM leaders took up the message to drive home the point that the UDF was running a communal campaign. Both sides held protests. The UDF has resolved to go to the bottom of the screenshot. Khasim, a native of Thiruvallur in Vadakara, first saw the message being circulated in his name on the Facebook page called 'Ambadimukk Sakhakkal Kannur,’ a pro-CPM page with over 1 lakh followers. The screenshot was also shared by Porali Shaji, a popular pro-CPM page with over 8 lakh followers, according to the police report. CPM state committee member and former MLA of Kuttiadi K K Lathika also shared the screenshot on her page with the message: "How communal. Shouldn't our state exist even after the election? Don't spread such extreme communal messages.” Even after 50 days, the police have not removed the communal posts from their pages. Khasim approached Vadakara police on May 25, complaining of identity theft, fabrication and spreading enmity on religious lines.

The police did not register an FIR on his complaint. The first FIR (crime no. 410/2024) was registered against Khasim on a complaint filed by LDF's Vadakara parliament mandalam committee treasurer and CPM leader C Bhaskaran. Khasim was booked under section 153 A of the IPC for promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion. Later, Vadakara police registered another FIR (crime no. 411/2024) on a complaint filed by Muslim Youth League Nidumbramanna Shakha Committee general secretary Ismail M T, who said the group in which the message was purportedly posted did not exist, and the screenshot was fabricated to defame Khasim and create animosity in society.

In the second complaint, Vadakara police did not name anybody though Ismail had named 'Ambadimukk Sakhakkal Kannur'. The police invoked milder charges such as Section 153 of IPC (wantonly giving provocation, with intent to cause riot) and Section 120 (o) of Kerala Police Act (causing nuisance through any means of communication) in the second FIR.

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Shafi Parambil. File Photo: Manorama.

'Not a clean chit'
Vadakara SHO Sumesh told the High Court that he examined the mobile phone of Khasim with the help of Cyber Cell, Kozhikode Rural, and could not find any evidence that "such a post was created or posted or circulated using his phone.” The report, however, said Khasim owned nine mobile numbers and police would have to check if any of those numbers were part of the group in which the communal message was posted. Police have written to WhatsApp to find out how many groups these nine numbers were part of, and if a WhatsApp group named 'Youth League Nedumbramanna' existed. Khasim said three of the nine phone numbers mentioned in the police report were not linked to him. He said he owned two mobile numbers, another one belonged to his mother, and three numbers belonged to his mobile phone accessories shop at Thiruvallur.

His advocate Shah said he was ready to submit all the devices used by Khasim for investigation. The police report said that based on the investigation done till now, "the accused behind the circulation of the controversial post could not be ascertained.” "But based on available evidence, prima facie, the role of the petitioner (Khasim) cannot be revealed," the report said. However, the police did not rule out his role either.

MSF flag. File Photo.

Facebook not cooperative
The police told the court that they were not making headway into the investigation because Facebook had not shared the profile details of the people behind 'Ambadimukku Sakhakkal' and 'Porali Shaji'.Police wrote to Facebook on May 3 and May 11 seeking details of the two pages. Police told the court that Facebook had not responded and "the details from Facebook are highly essential for the investigation of the case".

The police said Facebook authorities were not removing the controversial post despite repeated requests made since May 6. "Hence, under Section 109 of IPC (abetment of crime) is added, and the Nodal Officer of Facebook is made an accused A2," Inspector Sumesh told the High Court.

MSF Kozhikode district secretary Muhammed Khasim P K. Photo: Special arrangement.

Pro-CPM page deleted
Khasim's counsel Mohammed Shah said the pro-CPM page Ambadimukku Sakhakkal Kannur which first posted the communal screen shot was deleted from Facebook on June 10, the same day the police submitted their report to the High Court. "The timing is suspicious," he said. To be sure, Ambadimukku Sakhakkal Kannur deleted the communal screenshot one hour after it was posted on May 25, but other pro-CPM Facebook pages went to town with it. The police made no efforts to contact the admins of 'Ambadimukku Sakhakkal' or 'Porali Shaji', and told the court that they are waiting for Facebook to respond, said Shah. "The post is still there on Lathika's page. It is still there on Porali Shaaji's page.

They (police) do not have the guts to ask them to remove the post," he said. He said the police contacted Facebook with the request to remove the communal post based on the crime no. 411/ 2024, which has milder charges. "It is a flawed investigation," he said. Shah said in his reply to the High Court, that he would not only name the admins of the pro-CPM pages that shared the post but also ask the court to invoke Section 153 A of the IPC and Section 465 of the IPC (forgery) against them.

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