With the arrest of Mehdi Masroor Biswas, the alleged Twitter handler of ISIS’ operations and an ‘abettor’ of English-speaking terror recruits, a pandora’s box has been opened. This can of worms is the one that links social media and its long, sprawling appendages with dreaded terror outfits, operating particularly in West Asia. While individual ideological allegiance towards an organisation without participating in its activities on ground is not exactly a punishable offence, it is equally correct to say that social media websites, such as Twitter and Facebook, have been and will be used and abused by agencies ranging from government espionage bodies to those charged with carrying out heinous terror attacks, kidnapping and beheadings of innocent civilians. The arrest of Biswas, a Bengali-speaking executive from Kolkata, from his Bengaluru residence points towards a number of things. Chiefly, supporters of global jihad go online to vent their frustration and disenchantment with the Indian state, but just ranting on social media, which is now punishable under the draconian Section 66A, should not be a platform enough to merit arrest.
In Biswas’ case, however, if the police sources are to be believed, there is evidence that his tweets provoked a number of English-speaking terror operators to liaise through his Twitter handle, @ShamiWitness, which became a hub of information for many. However, if simply harbouring radical ideology were incriminating enough, even the Hindu right-wingers from RSS, VHP and their offshoots, can be penalised. When India is faced with the menace of mass religious conversions making an ugly comeback, we need to tread carefully in Biswas’ case, so that his religion doesn’t become the premise of a gross overreaction from the State.