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Photo: AP

A man in Agra has been arrested for "communal and inflammatory" posts on social networking site Facebook targeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, union Communications Minister Kapil Sibal and Uttar Pradesh's ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, police said Tuesday.

Sanjay Chowdhary, a resident of the Dayalbagh suburb of Agra, was arrested late Monday and his laptop, sim card and data card impounded.

Police in Agra, about 360 km from here, said the arrest, which some see as an attempt to muzzle freedom of speech and expression on social networking sites, that the arrest was made on "specific information" about certain "communal and inflammatory" posts by Chowdhary. However, officials here admitted that the "case became hypersensitive after some remarks were made on the SP chief".

Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Agra, Subhash Chandra Dubey said police had acted "purely on law and order basis" in the matter.

"We are not involved in the political angle of the whole issue, our concern were the inflammatory comments and posts on the Facebook wall of this man and we acted to prevent any communal flare up," Dubey told IANS.

Some officials, however, said the case was "fast tracked" once cartoons lampooning the three leaders were posted on his Facebook wall.

Soon after his arrest, the inflammatory posts were deleted from his Facebook profile and later his account was deactivated.

Chowdhury, a civil engineer and chairman of a public school, was booked under sections 153 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and 66 A of the Information Technology (IT) Act.

"We have arrested him and he is being sent to jail under the due process of law," a police official said.

Two people were arrested on similar grounds in Hyderabad Jan 11 at Bhainsa town of Adilabad district for allegedly posting a hateful statement against a community on networking site Facebook.

Last year, the arrest of two girls of a Mumbai suburb for commenting on late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray had created a stir with Maharashtra Police being criticised in many quarters for its hasty decision.

A sessions court in Palghar, Maharashtra, had later dropped the cases against the girls after the police filed a closure report.

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