Teen spends 42 days in jail for joke on Ganga

Last Updated: Wed, Oct 11, 2017 13:56 hrs
Zakir Ali Tyagi

Lucknow: He made light of the Ganga being declared a "living entity", debated BJP's promise of building a Ram Mandir and wondered why the Centre was not withdrawing the Haj subsidy given to Air India.

For his social media commentary, which the Uttar Pradesh Police considered criminal, Zakir Ali Tyagi said he had to spend 42 days in Muzaffarnagar jail with hardened criminals where he had to pay cash even to use the washroom.

The 18-year-old, who was picked up on the night of April 2, was charged under the Indian Penal Code's Section 420 (cheating) and Section 66 of the Information Technology Act (computer related offences).

He was released on bail after 42 days, but the police has added Section 124A dealing with sedition in the charge sheet, lawyer Qazi Ahmed, who argued the bail case, told PTI. However, it could not be independently verified as a copy of the charge sheet was not available.

"I was picked up on the night of April 2 on the pretext of questioning when I returned home from a jalsa (soiree) in a local madrassa. I was told by the police officer that I would be released in a few hours," Tyagi told reporters yesterday.

The Muslim youth, who worked with a transporter in a steel factory in Muzaffarnagar, recounted his ordeal at the Press Club of India. He was brought to Delhi by the Bhim Army Defence Committee, a forum led by noted lawyers like Colin Gonsalves, which takes up cases of alleged injustice against Dalits, minorities and other marginalized groups.

"The night I was picked up, someone who was not in uniform walked into the lock-up and bashed me. He abused me and called me a terrorist. However, the medical report that was produced by the police, which is mandatory in cases of arrests, said I was perfectly fit," Tyagi said.

By the time he walked out on bail, he had lost his job, which earned him Rs 8,000 per month. His employer, who had been supportive, told him he was being forced to reduce his staff due to losses in the wake of implementation of GST. Tyagi is now pursuing a BA course through correspondence from Swami Vivekanand Subharti University, Meerut.

The FIR states that Tyagi used a photograph of police officer Akhtar Ali, who was killed in an encounter with criminals in Dadri in 2016, as his Facebook profile picture, which "deceived people".

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