In a curious development, the Mumbai Police on Friday arrested a Delhi resident, identified as one Vibhor Anand, for allegedly spreading misinformation and levelling false claims around the deaths of actor Sushant Singh Rajput and the latter's former manager Disha Salian.
Anand, who claims to be a lawyer (also a former pilot and self-styled aviation expert) by profession, has apparently had a chequered past on the internet. From making sensational allegations on certain Bollywood actors and political bigwigs to dropping provocational statements regarding the 2012 Delhi gang rape and murder (Nirbhaya case), Vibhor Anand has enjoyed his (in)fame amid the Twitter chin-wagging crowd.
A post on Reddit's r/BollyBlinds community by u/BornJinx elaborates a take on the backstory behind the internet notoriety of this 'lawyer'.
"Mr Anand has an interesting past : in 2012 he was calling Modi a murderer, but now calls himself deluded. Then he claimed that he fought for the Nirbhaya rapists for legal reasons and then lately claims that the girl's boyfriend who was also beaten up was the"biggest villain" and part of the rape. But "Delhi Police" was "helpless" and so they let him off," explains the Reddit thread.
Vibhor Anand's Twitter account, however, remains suspended now and is the reason why some of his more ill-famed posts remain inaccessible behind the social media's formal censure.
On to the case at hand, Vibhor Anand had even said in a tweet that Sushant Singh Rajput's ex-manager Disha Salian was gangraped before her death.
In 2018, he launched a group called 'India Against Biased Media' (IABM), ostensibly to "counter the rampant menace of Fake and Biased Media reporting in India." In its crowdfunding campaign ad, Anand stated, "Since its inception, IABM has filed over 100 criminal cases across India against actress Swara Bhaskar, Dhruv Rathee, Sagarika Ghose, Shekhar Gupta, Aroon Purie, Barkha Dutt, Shehla Rashid, Rana Ayub etc. collectively for spreading Fake and Biased News. And all these cases would soon reach courts for logical conclusion."
These attempts to bully 'media' (apparently, Anand makes no distinction between say, an actress airing her personal opinions, or a YouTuber independently fact-checking government claims) into submission have not gone unnoticed by the judiciary and watchdogs of the press. High Court lawyer Abhinav Chandrachud, as quoted by a report, went on record two years ago to agree that IABM was trying to "silence dissent with the threat of harassment."
The IABM outlet had, in fact, also invited many right-of-centre Twitter personalities as speakers for its annual event that year - the IABM Conclave 2018.
Several Twitter users have also claimed that IABM blocked them for asking questions, in turn, on a host of topics, ranging from Vibhor Anand's foray into the Sabarimala issue to pointed queries on IABM's "arbitrary use of funds". He has also been accused of "looting" people in the name of free legal help.
A brief exploit of Vibhor Anand's notoriety had also been surmised in this thread by @zoo_bear on Twitter.
In an India divided by ill-tempered debates over free speech, now more than ever, the latest exploits of a popular internet rabble-rouser ought to make some of us contemplate deeply upon the state of the nation's public discourse.