India World

Covid-19 India: Man who asked oxygen for his dying grandfather faces criminal charges

India’s police are prosecuting a man who used Twitter to try to find oxygen for his dying grandfather.

Officers in Uttar Pradesh state charged Shashank Yadav with spreading a rumour over oxygen shortages “with intent to cause… fear or alarm”.

Officers in the town of Amethi claimed Mr Yadav’s “false tweet” had prompted other people to make allegations against the government, and they pressed criminal charges against him on Tuesday night.

“Shashank Yadav has been booked for spreading misleading information,” said Arpit Kapoor, a senior police officer in Amethi told reporters.

Critics say the move reflects a general erosion of civil liberties and freedom of speech over the past few years.

On Monday Mr Yadav, who reports say is 26, put up a brief post on the social media platform appealing for an oxygen cylinder in which he tagged Bollywood actor Sonu Sood. He made no mention of coronavirus or what his grandfather was suffering from.

His tweet was also amplified by union cabinet minister Smiti Irani, who is the MP for Amethi, and also responded later that evening saying she had tried to contact Mr Yadav, and had alerted local officials.

Mr Yadav’s grandfather died on Monday night, apparently of a heart attack. Officials said he had not been suffering from Covid-19, but the circumstances around his death remain unclear.

Uttar Pradesh is among India’s worst-hit states. Its chief minister, Yogi Adityanath is accused of downplaying the severity of the coronavirus crisis.

Earlier this week, Mr Adityanath, who is from Prime Minister Narendra Modi right-wing party demanded that the property of anyone spreading rumours and propaganda be seized

Pressure over Covid is growing on Prime Minister Modi, who is facing increasing criticism over his handling of the crisis and manipulation of Covid-19 statistics.

Earlier this week there was anger after his government ordered Twitter to remove posts critical of its actions.