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Toolkit row: Congress condemns raid on Twitter office, calls it an attempt to ‘murder freedom of speech’


New Delhi: Hours after two police teams raided Twitter’s offices in Delhi and Gurgaon, the Congress party has called it an attempt to ‘murder’ freedom of speech. The main opposition party alleged that the “cowardly raid” on the microblogging site’s offices by the Delhi Police “exposes lame-duck attempts” to hide a “fraudulent toolkit” by BJP leaders.

The Delhi Police’s Special Cell had on Monday sent a notice to Twitter India in connection with the probe into a complaint about an alleged ‘COVID toolkit’, asking it to share information based on which it had classified a related tweet by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra as “manipulated media”, officials said.

Two police teams also descended on the microblogging site’s offices in Lado Sarai in Delhi and in Gurgaon this evening, with Delhi Police PRO Chinmoy Biswal saying the teams went to the Twitter office to serve a notice to Twitter “as a part of a routine process.”

Reacting to the development, Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said on Twitter, “Cowardly raid on @Twitter unleashed by Delhi Police exposes lame-duck attempts to hide the fraudulent toolkit by BJP leaders.” Such attempts to “murder” freedom of speech lay bare the BJP’s guilt, he said and tagged his video statement on the issue.

In the video statement, Surjewala alleged that the “subjugation of free speech, the attempts to stifle every voice that is a dissenting voice against this government and the state-sponsored fraudulent means to propagate and to instill fear continue unabated in Narendra Modi government”.

He alleged that the BJP forged documents to produce a “fake toolkit”. The Congress leader claimed that after the toolkit was “exposed”, the BJP and the Modi government, being scared of it, was “raiding” Twitter offices both in Delhi and in Gurgaon.

“Why the guilty people are sitting in BJP headquarters and in-seat of power, but, you are raiding Twitter’s office in Delhi and Gurgaon, what is the reason thereof?” he said.

Surjewala alleged that the BJP is “running scared of its lies” and getting caught and being branded as manipulated and fraudulent by social media platforms.

The BJP had accused the Congress of creating a ‘toolkit’ that seeks to tarnish the image of the country and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the handling of the COVID pandemic.

However, Congress denied the allegation and claimed that the BJP is propagating a fake ‘toolkit’ to defame it. Last week, Twitter labelled as “manipulated media” a tweet by Patra on the alleged ‘toolkit’.

Twitter says it “may label Tweets that include media (videos, audio, and images) that have been deceptively altered or fabricated”.

In his statement, Surjewala said the intermediary rules, which give the power to the government to direct people to take off various posts, have not even come into play. “They come into play only on 25th May 2021 then why the action today? Under what provision of law notices are being issued?” he said.

Surjewala asked that when BJP leaders are being accused of fraud then why is the government standing in shelter thereof.

“None less than the IT Minister himself and half a dozen other ministers have also tweeted this manipulated and fraudulent media. Now they are scared that their lies are going to get exposed and the oath of the constitution that they took will stand annihilated and violated and that’s why social media platforms are being targeted,” he alleged.

“Please remember Prime Minister that free speech and rights to express an opinion is our fundamental right in this country,” Surejwala said.

“You can’t subjugate the constitution, you can’t stifle free speech and you will not be able to suppress the voice of the young or voice of people of this country,” he said.

The government had earlier asked Twitter to remove the ‘manipulated media’ tag as the matter is pending before a law enforcement agency and made it clear that the social media platform cannot pass judgment when the issue is under investigation.

BJP leaders, including Patra, have posted numerous tweets to attack Congress over the purported ‘toolkit’. On May 19, the Congress lodged a police complaint seeking registration of cases against BJP chief JP Nadda, Union minister Smriti Irani, BJP general secretary B L Santosh and Patra over the alleged forgery of documents.

The Chhattisgarh unit of the Congress’ students wing NSUI also lodged a complaint against Patra and former chief minister Raman Singh for allegedly “forging” the letterhead of the AICC Research Department and printing “false and fabricated” content on it.

On the basis of the complaint, a case has been filed against Patra and Singh at the Civil Lines police station in Raipur.

(With Agency Inputs)

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