Karnataka cops deal with cases of fake news with an iron hand — two incidents in Kalaburagi

While BJP leader and rowdy-sheeter Manikanta Rathod has been arrested, Congress MLA BR Patil filed a complaint against impersonation.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Aug 27, 2023 | 12:00 PMUpdatedAug 27, 2023 | 1:16 PM

Manikanta Rathod and BR Patil. (Twitter)

The Karnataka State Police seem to be dealing with incidents of fake news and its consequences with an iron hand of late. This is evident in two cases from the Kalaburagi district.

One involves the arrest of Manikanta Rathod, a rowdy sheeter and a BJP candidate, who unsuccessfully contested in the recent Assembly elections.

Another involves BR Patil, the MLA of the Aland constituency, whose office letterhead was forged and a letter was written by unknown miscreants to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, accusing his Cabinet colleagues of corruption.

Suicide abetment yet no arrest

On Friday, 25 August, the Kalaburagi district police arrested Rathod for spreading fake news on social media, accusing the police of being puppets of the ruling Congress government, especially of Priyank Kharge, MLA of Chittapur constituency.

Rathod was produced before a magistrate and was remanded to judicial custody for 14 days.

It all started on 22 August, when Rathod, through his Instagram handle, called for a protest against the district police for not arresting an accused in a suicide abetment case registered with the Madbool Police Station in Kalgi Circle in Shahabad subdivision.

According to police sources from Madbool, 21-year-old Devanand Ramachandra Koraba died by suicide after he consumed poison on 19 July due to personal reasons.

Sources explained that Koraba had helped a girl from his own community to elope with her lover who belonged to another community, for which he was questioned by community members from his village.

Unable to bear the pressure and harassment from his own community members to bring the girl back, Koraba consumed pesticide. Though he was admitted to a hospital on 19 July, he succumbed the next day.

The Madbool police had registered a case of abetment of suicide against a community member who was allegedly responsible for Koraba taking the extreme step.

While the police were investigating the case, Rathod started spreading information on social media accusing the Kalaburagi police of protecting the accused and not arresting him.

Rathod wrote on social media that the police were puppets of the ruling Congress, especially of Chittapur MLA Priyank Kharge, whom he lost to by nearly 15,000 votes in the Assembly elections.

Also Read: Karnataka fact-checking unit to go after fake news peddlers

Notice served and ignored

The Madbool police summoned Rathod on 23 August and served him a notice, warning him not to spread fake information or to incite members of general public to protest against anyone or defame anyone on social media.

He was then let go, however, on 24 August, Rathod again resorted to spreading misinformation on social media, based on which a villager lodged another complaint with the police.

This time, the University Police in Kalaburagi registered a case against Rathod and arrested him on Friday.

District Superintendent of Police Isha Pant told South First that Rathod was arrested for circulating fake messages on social media and inciting members of the general public and defaming people.

“This is not the first time he is doing this, being a local leader. A month ago, he had shared a provocative message on social media about the suicide of a 21-year-old man from Kalagurti in Chittapur taluk. A case has been registered against him under Sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups) and 505/1B (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC),” Pant said.

Related: Rise in trend of communalising issues in Karnataka with fake news

Fake news via stolen letterhead

In another incident involving fake news, the Aland police in Kalaburagi have registered an FIR based on a complaint from local MLA BR Patil, a Congress leader, alleging that some unknown people had obtained one of his old letterheads and had written a letter to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah recently, accusing the Cabinet ministers in Congress of seeking money for sanctioning funds for public work.

This letter was used as ammunition by the BJP leaders in the state to launch an attack on the ruling Congress to the extent where Siddaramaiah had to call for a Congress Legislative Party (CLP) meeting during the last week of July.

The letter was widely circulated on social media by the BJP leaders, accusing the Congress ministers of corruption.

However, Patil told South First that he had discussed the matter at length with the chief minister and told him that the letter was fake.

“It was a nine-year-old letterhead from when I was an MLA of Aland constituency in 2013. The letterhead also had my old home address,” Patil told South First, adding that he had lodged a complaint with the Aland police to further investigate the matter.

The investigation led to Santhosh Patil, who was an ex-deputy mayor of Kalaburagi. When the police questioned Santhosh, he pointed to Siddaji Patil, who is the BJP district president of Kalaburagi Urban.

The cops are in the process of conducting inquiries with Siddaji to ascertain from where he had sourced the letterhead of the Aland MLA. Further investigation is underway, a senior police officer told South First.

Also Read: Karnataka govt to take all measures, including AI, to curb fake news