Photo: Screengrab of a video posted by Zee News with Richa Bharti (left) and Pixabay (right)
From attention-seeking trolls to hazardous shitposters to just those who want to put their opinions out there, all kinds of people exist on social media. But sometimes, the statements they make can cross certain lines, even getting them arrested for their ‘objectionable’ posts. Recently, Richa Bharti, a 19-year-old student from Ranchi, Jharkhand was arrested over an offensive Facebook post she had shared on July 12 that some felt went against the Muslim community and hurt religious sentiments. The complaint was filed by Mansur Khalifa of the Sadar Anjuman Committee at the Pithoriya police station near Ranchi, claiming that it could possibly affect the harmony of co-existing communities. While legal website Bar and Bench reports that the post she made was related to the recent lynching of Tabrez Ansari in Jharkhand, other media houses said that she hadn’t propagated the post, but only shared something that had been posted by another user.
Now this isn’t the first time someone has got arrested over sentiments shared on social media. But in an order that is "unheard of", the Ranchi court granted Bharti bail, but Judicial Magistrate Manish Singh ordered that this could be done on the condition that she buy and distribute five copies of the Quran—the Islamic holy text—in the presence of police authorities. She was asked to hand over one of these copies to Khalifa, the main complainant, and distribute the others in schools and colleges. The court has even asked her to submit receipts of these books within 15 days, as well as pay sureties of Rs 7,000.In response to this incident, support for the accused poured in from Hindu groups across the country, with many feeling like this judgment was unfair and unnecessary. Now, Bharti has decided to move the High Court and is refusing to do as directed. While many are hailing her as the ‘Rosa Parks’ of India for her stubborn refusal and pitching in as part of a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for legal aid for her, in a recent interview with Zee News, Bharti went on to say, “I am not ready to distribute Qurans. There are lots of Muslims who post a lot of wrong things. There's no action against them. Like Faisu had posted a video on TikTok saying if Muslims become terrorists, then one shouldn't blame them.”Bharti also refused to do as directed because according to her, Muslims are never asked to distribute Hindu texts like the Ramayana or Mahabharata or recite the Hanuman Chalisa. She also said she was worried that if the court could ask her to distribute Qurans, there might be nothing stopping them from asking her to convert to Islam as well. She then made xenophobic comments like, “Why do only Muslims want to become terrorists? Why don't Kashmiri Pandits feel the need for revenge? Why don't they feel like becoming terrorists?"Meanwhile, there is even a Twitter campaign against the magistrate who directed this order, with many asking for him to be sacked. Various senior leaders of the ruling party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have also raised voices of support for the 19-year-old.Follow Shamani Joshi on Instagram.