CTN, a Facebook group, receives RSS affiliate’s badge of honour: punishing ‘anti-nationals’

Written by Sabrangindia | Published on: July 3, 2019
Clean the Nation (CTN), a Facebook group created a day after the dreadful Pulwama attack in February, 2019 has been honoured with the Social Media Patrakarita Narad Samman, instituted by RSS-affiliate Indraprastha Vishwa Samvad Kendra (IVSK).

RSS

As reported in the Indian Express, CTN started as a Facebook group, formed by nine men on February 15 and drew 4500 members within two days of its formation. The aim of the group  was to “clean and weed out anti-nationals.” The group went after such people on social media and got them arrested, suspended and in one case, fired from a job. The group has now received RSS affiliate’s badge of honour for social media journalism.

The ‘anti-nationals’ were targeted by CTN for their social media posts and comments relating to the Pulwama terror attack and the following Balakot air strike. The group was constantly vigilant and had devised a strategy to crackdown on the ‘anti-nationals.’ In the first video that mobilised the group across platforms in February, CTN core member Madhur Singh had said, “This is not a time to change your DPs and take out candle marches.” Sporting a shirt with Indian Army written across it, he says: “Find out who is laughing at our soldiers today… Contact their employers. Contact the universities they are studying in … Screw them up this way. Get them terminated from their jobs. Get them suspended from their universities.”

Known as “Placard Guy” in the network, Singh told the Indian Express that his team focused on collecting information through Facebook because it has the most personal location details. CTN core members claimed that the group’s online mobilisation efforts led to “roughly 45 actions” against “anti-Indians.” 
FIRs, complaints to universities and companies, tagging local police handles were few of the methods adopted by the group to make the authorities aware of such ‘wrongdoings’ on social media. 

Following is a  list of ‘achievements’ of CTN, which got them the award:
An MBA student was suspended from IIMT College of Engineering in Greater Noida for a Facebook post, after which the student alleged that his account was hacked. The college advised him to lodge an FIR regarding the ‘hacked’ account and later the police, after conducting preliminary investigations sent a letter to the college saying that the student was “not involved in any kind of supervised criminal activity.” Though his suspension was revoked, he hasn’t returned to college since then.

A police complaint was lodged against an assistant professor from the ICON Commerce college, Guwahati, after an anonymous Twitter handle connected to CTN tagged Assam Police’s Twitter handle with a screenshot of the professor’s comment. She fled her home for almost a month and when she returned, the management told her to wait for a final decision on her suspension, but she was yet to hear from them on the status of her position.

In Jaipur, a 32-year-old man was arrested on February 28 for a Facebook post regarding Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the IAF pilot who was captured by Pakistan security forces. The man, who was arrested and charged under sections of the IPC and IT Act, is currently out on bail, police said. “I spent three days in police custody and seven days in judicial custody. Right now I am out on bail and have appeared in court a few times. The police are yet to conclude their investigation,” he told The Indian Express.

Four Kashmiri students, all girls, studying at NIMS university in Jaipur, were suspended on February 16 for a WhatsApp status update following the Pulwama terror attack. The post was interpreted as celebratory and after protests from fellow students and local residents, they were suspended from college and hostel with the university observing that they had posted an “anti-national message,” and termed their actions “grave” and “serious in nature.”

All four were booked under sections 124A (sedition) and 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) of the IPC as well as sections of the IT Act. SHO Vikrant Sharma said the FIR was lodged on a complaint by NIMS Deputy Registrar Sushila Chahar, but none of the four was arrested at any point. “We investigated the case and concluded that no offence is made out against them. We then submitted our report in the court,” Sharma said. Their suspension order was later revoked and they appeared for the annual examinations.

In Katihar in Bihar, an undergraduate student was arrested from his village on February 17 for a Facebook post.

CTN’s first Facebook page, having 4,500 followers, was reportedly banned by Facebook. The new page, created on March 1, 2019, has 1,140 followers. Further, its Twitter handle has 7,821 followers.

The Narad Samman ceremony for journalism awards was held at the India International Centre in New Delhi where the winners were felicitated in the presence of RSS joint general secretary Manmohan Vaidya and Union Minister Smriti Irani. Krishna Pal Gurjar, Minister of State for Social Justice & Empowerment, appreciated the award given to CTN by tweeting, “Congratulations Team! You deserve this.”

Vagish Issar, secretary of IVSK, said, “We gave the award to them because we saw how much this group loves the nation. Many people love the nation, but some people love it actively.”

In the current times, where anything which portrays the government in a bad light is termed as ‘anti-national’ and ‘seditious’, such felicitation, that too in the presence of Union Ministers, will just encourage such groups more and more with an ever increasing suppression of freedom of speech and expression.

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