India flag burn
Burning of the Indian flag has been deemed 'unpatriotic' following the act being committed by groups known to dislike India. TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty

A 25-year-old Indian man has come under strong criticism for posting a picture of himself on Facebook, in which he appears to be burning India's national flag. Dilipan Mahendran, a resident of the south Indian city of Chennai, has been the centre of a social media storm since the photo went viral on 30 January.

While the post has now been deleted from Mahendran's timeline, a number of people had already taken screenshots of the photo. Mahendran allegedly burnt the flag in protest over the suicide of Dalit student Rohit Vemula at Hyderabad University in January.

According to the New Indian Express, the Chennai Police have registered an FIR against Mahendran over his actions. It is believed that the Chennai resident is being charged under Section 153(b) of the Indian Penal Code, which covers "imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration", Section 2 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, and Section 66 of the Information Technology Act, which covers punishments for sending "offensive" messages through a computer, mobile phone or tablet.

Local media reported that two people had filed a complaint with the city police after seeing the post on Facebook. On 1 February, local police told Indian newspaper the Deccan Chronicle that attempts were being made to track down Mahendran.

The police said: "Right now we know his background. We know his phone number, details of his vehicle and family background. It looks like the youth is on the run. His mobile phone is switched off. We checked his native place address. He was not there."

Despite police officials indicating that Mahendran was on the run, the youth appeared to still be active on Facebook on Monday (1 February). One of his posts appeared to be thanking his friends for their support, while another posted a picture of a newspaper article about him with the status "feeling silly".

Many have also been posting on Chennai Police's Facebook page, urging them to take quicker action against Mahendran. Sambath Kumar from Karaikal urged the police to "initiate criminal procedure" against the accused, while a fellow Chennai resident, Prathasarathy Sukumar said: "Please act faster on this issue and arrest this unpatriotic person. These people must be punished by law."