Mahesh Vikram Hegde, the editor of online news portal Post Card News on Wednesday was taken in for questioning by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) over the circulation of a fake and inciting letter that was attributed to Karnataka home minister M.B.Patil.
Senior police officials clarified that Hegde, who was picked up from Virajpet in Kodagu, was only taken in for inquiry and was not arrested.
M.B.Patil, Karnataka’s home minister had filed a complaint against former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Vijay Sankeshwar-owned Kannada daily Vijayavani, for carrying a copy of an allegedly fake and inciting letter with the former’s signature on 16 April.
Hegde’s portal, that has a huge following by right wing supporters for his posts against the Gandhi family, had carried the letter just before the elections a year ago. Though Patil did not follow through with a complaint last year, the Congress leader had taken it up after it appeared in the Kannada news papers earlier this month, in which he named the role of Post Card News as well.
The portal has since taken down the article stating that it will not post it until it confirm the authenticity of the letter.
The letter that has since been ruled as fake, was addressed to senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, which stated that the Congress had hatched a plan to unite the minority communities under faith and divide the Hindus based on caste and sect to help the party win the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. The letter referred to capitalising on the “prevailing differences between the Veerashaiva-Lingayat" community to break up Hindu voters.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had alluded to the contents of the letter in an election rally in Bagalkot earlier this month, stating how the Congress had tried to divide the Lingayat community.
“This is done with the intention to polarise the votes," Patil had said at the time of filing a complaint with the police and Election Commission earlier this month.
The action by the police sparking off bitter reactions by state leaders of the BJP who accused the H.D.Kumaraswamy-led Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress coalition government of misusing the police to carry out vendetta politics.
“Karnataka govt again arrested @mvmeet today! The only crime of Mahesh Vikram Hegde is that, he has been exposing the lies of Gandhi family. Height of Vendetta politics, Coalition govt is imposing real emergency. Shame!!," Shobha Karandlaje, the member of Parliament from Udupi-Chikmagalur, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.
The hashtag #IStandWithMaheshHegde was used with twitter posts to stand in solidarity with the arrested editor. Hegde, who prides in the fact that the PM follows him on Twitter, was arrested last year after he posted a story about a Jain monk being beaten up by Muslims in Karnataka with a post saying that “no one is safe in Siddaramaiah’s Karnataka". The story turned out to be false, prompting the arrest.