Left red-faced after a protest by migrant workers during lockdown, authorities in Maharashtra moved to take action in the matter as they arrested a man on Wednesday for offensive social media posts and registered an FIR against a TV journalist over a false news report.
A Navi Mumbai resident was arrested on early Wednesday for posting messages on his social media accounts which allegedly led to hundreds of migrant workers, stuck in Mumbai due to the lockdown, gathering near suburban Bandra railway station on Tuesday afternoon, police said.
The accused, Vinay Dubey, was produced in a court which remanded him in police custody April 21, a police official said.
Dubey had uploaded a video on social media in which he demanded that the Maharashtra government make travel arrangements for migrants, who are stranded due to the coronavirus-enforced lockdown and want to go back to their native places, he said.
He had also tweeted about the issue and called for a national-level protest if trains are not arranged till April 18 to ferry migrants workers to their native places, he said.
Dubey has been booked under IPC Sections 153 A (promoting disharmony, enmity or feelings of hatred between different groups), 117 (abetting commission of offence), 188 (disobedience of order by public servant), 269, 270 (negligent and malignant act likely to spread infection of disease danger to life) and provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act, he said.
In a related development, an FIR has been registered against a television journalist over his report that trains would restart, which may have prompted the gathering in Bandra, a second police official said.
The accused, Rahul Kulkarni, based in Osmanabad district of Maharashtra, has been detained and police are in the process of bringing him to Mumbai, he said.
In a recent news report, Kulkarni claimed Jan Sadharan (unreserved) special trains would resume for people stranded due to the lockdown, he said.
He has been booked under IPC Sections 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant and 269, 270 (negligent, malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), 117 (abetting commission of offence by public), the official said.
Openly defying the coronavirus-enforced lockdown, more than 1,000 migrant workers, most of them from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, had taken part in the Bandra protest.
They were demanding that the state government make transport arrangements so that they can go back to their native towns and villages.
Police had used mild force to disperse the crowd.
Meanwhile, the Nationalist Congress Party termed the protest as unfortunate, while the Congress demanded a thorough probe.
Both parties are constituents in the Shiv Sena-led government in the state.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar termed the gathering of migrant workers as unfortunate and stressed such incidents should not recur in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.
Pawar said people gathered outside the station after somebody circulated the rumour that trains services will resume, adding precautions need to be taken to ensure that such confusing messages are checked.
The former Union minister urged political parties to desist from scoring points over each other during the ongoing crisis and asked them to defeat COVID-19 collectively.
Congress leader and Maharashtra minister Ashok Chavan demanded a thorough probe into the gathering and said it was an attempt to disrupt communal harmony and negate the state's efforts to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
Addressing a press conference in New Delhi through a video link, Chavan cited a letter of the South Central Railways for starting special trains to transport migrant labourers that might have triggered the gathering at Bandra.
The former chief minister said a police probe into the matter has already been launched and the guilty will be brought to book.
Chavan said he smelt a political conspiracy behind the campaigns being run on social media to impose President's Rule in Maharashtra.
"Whatever happened on Tuesday, there needs to be a thorough investigation into it. There are some who want to disturb the communal harmony in Maharashtra and negate the state's efforts to fight coronavirus," he said.