Eight Indians have been arrested for making “offensive” social media posts about the death of the country’s military chief in a helicopter crash, according to officials speaking to AFP on Monday and local reports.
General Bipin Rawat, who was killed along with his wife and 11 others in last week’s accident, was a hugely popular figure seen as close to Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
But he also courted controversy, in one instance presenting an award to an officer who tied a civilian in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) to the front of his military vehicle in a show of force.
One man was arrested within hours of the chopper crash for posting to Instagram that Rawat had “burnt alive even before entering Jahannum”, the Muslim word for hell.
He was arrested along with two others in Rajasthan state for “hurting public sentiment”, police confirmed to AFP. Five other arrests across India were reported by local media outlets on the weekend.
A bank staffer in IIOJK’s Jammu district was suspended from work after accusations she had reacted to a Facebook news post of Rawat’s death with an emoji of a laughing face.
Two people were being investigated in the southern state of Karnataka, where chief minister Basavaraj Bommai ordered the arrest of “perverted minds” who had disrespected the military commander.
Police have arrested hundreds of Indian internet users in recent years, with rights groups sounding the alarm over growing curbs on freedom of speech in the world’s largest democracy.
More than a dozen people were arrested in October for celebrating Pakistan’s defeat of India in a cricket match, with several still in custody after being charged under sedition and anti-terror laws.