Indian social media under close scrutiny following Modi takeover
Indian social media under close scrutiny following Modi takeover Reuters file photo

Online social media platforms are under increasing scrutiny in India after Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Narendra Modi took over as prime minister.

Comments and posts on social networking sites critical of the prime minister, as well as certain historical figures, are now attracting swift and stringent action from the authorities.

The critics of the prime minister, one of the most tech-savvy Indian leaders, have said these incidents are tantamount to internet crackdown and a curb on the freedom of expression.

About a dozen such incidents have been reported across the country since Modi became prime minister on 26 May. Modi's campaign was marked for its polarising effect, with the opposition trying to depict him as a hate figure.

The most shocking reprisal on social media activity took place in the city of Pune, a stronghold of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of BJP.

A 28-year old software engineer, who was suspected to be behind mocking posts on leaders revered by the rank and file of BJP, was beaten to death by fringe groups.

The gruesome incident happened after alleged offensive posts against historical figures from the state of Maharashtra were circulated on social media.

The police also decided to press charges against those who even 'liked' controversial posts on King Shivaji and Babasaheb Ambedkar.

"Three different pages about these objectionable posts were created on Facebook. We have blocked all of them. Police are also taking help from the computer emergency response team (CERT). Besides, a letter has been sent to Facebook to furnish details about the persons who created the pages," said Inspector General of Police for Law and Order, Deven Bharti.

In another such incident, four students in the southern state of Kerala were arrested for putting Modi's picture alongside Hitler, Sri Lankan Tamil leader V Prabhakaran and other controversial individuals under the title 'Negative Faces' in a college magazine.

In yet another incident, the principal and 11 students of a college in Kerala state were booked by the police for using "objectionable and unsavoury" language against the prime minister in the college magazine.

In Karnataka state, a student was arrested by the police after they received a complaint that he allegedly posted on WhatsApp a morphed picture that showed the final rites of Modi.

In Goa, a case was registered against a man who made a Facebook post saying Modi would start a holocaust in the country.