One of four recent FIRs in India against Twitter and its employees pertains to an incorrect map of India on its platform. Though Twitter removed the offending map after it was pointed out on Monday, an FIR was registered against the parent company, Twitter India managing director Manish Maheshwari and one more employee, Amrita Tripathi.
Sharing an incorrect map of India, particularly with reference to the Jammu and Kashmir region, is more common than one might think. In most cases, though, FIRs are not filed – especially if the person or organisation who made the mistake takes the wrong map down. Even when the offending map is not removed, cases are rarely filed if the persons involved have connections with those in power. The case against Twitter, then, is perhaps because of the ongoing stand-off between the platform and the government, rather than the offence itself.
In 2016, the Narendra Modi government was mulling a new law that would entail seven years’ imprisonment and a Rs 100 crore fine for anyone sharing a map that incorrectly marked India’s borders. However, the draft Geospatial Information Regulation Bill ended up in cold storage because of its many controversial provisions.
Here are multiple instances where an incorrect map of India has been used either online or offline – and was not followed up by the police despite the government being aware of the matter.
1. BJP leader Shobha Karandlaje, January 2020
BJP MP from Karnataka, Shobha Karandlaje. spoke at a rally in support of the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act in Chikmaglur in January 2020. Behind her on the stage was a large banner carrying a map of India – with the north-western edge of Jammu and Kashmir missing. After the MP tweeted photographs with the map, this error was pointed out by users on Twitter, but no action was taken against Karandlaje or the group who organised the event, the Rashtra Jagarana Samiti.
Karandlaje’s tweet with the incorrect map is still up on Twitter but the UP Police has not seen fit to file a case relating to this.
2. Gujarat government, September 2014
When the Gujarat government distributed copies of a map of Guangdong province in China which incorrectly depicted Arunachal Pradesh as a part of China, the Congress party asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to apologise. “This is unacceptable for the sovereignty, ethos and foreign policy of the country. We demand that the Prime Minister must make a proper statement on the issue and unequivocally and firmly write to the Chinese President a strong worded letter, which should be made public,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi had said at the time.
3. Shashi Tharoor, December 2019
About a month before Karandlaje, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor too had been under fire for a similar mistake. He shared an image on Twitter from an anti-CAA rally he had attended, and that image too showed an incorrect map of India. Tharoor subsequently deleted that tweet. Several BJP leaders, including Amit Malviya and Sambit Patra, had lashed out at him for the mistake, but no police case was filed.
4. Makers of Namaste London, August 2018
The poster for the Parineeti Chopra and Arjun Kapoor-starrer Namaste London had to be recalled because it excluded the Aksai Chin region from the map of India. While the error was widely reported and the poster was changed, no action was taken against the filmmakers.
5. RSS mouthpiece Organiser, March 2015
In March 2015, RSS mouthpiece Organiser apologised after publishing a map of India that showed parts of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as being in Pakistan. The magazine web edition took the map down, but nothing could be done about the print edition that had already circulated. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad raised the matter in parliament, but the police was not involved.
6. Australia, November 2014
Days ahead of a scheduled G20 meeting in Brisbane, all G20 leaders were shown an inaccurate map of India. India’s foreign secretary at the time raised the issue with the Australian government, which issued an unconditional apology.
7. BBC, January 2021
During a show in January this year, the BBC displayed an incomplete map of India. A day later, the channel apologised and said the mistake would be rectified in future broadcasts.
8. Al Jazeera, April 2015
While the BBC did not face any sort of action from the authorities, Al Jazeera was taken off the air for five days in April 2015 for repeatedly showing an incorrect map of India on air. While the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting took this step and penalised the channel, no police case was filed.
9. WHO, February 2021
The Indian government issued a statement in February this year after the World Health Organisation website showed Jammu and Kashmir as not part of Indian territory on a map. WHO later added a disclaimer to the map about how it was not expressing any opinions on the territory’s legal status.
10. Mark Zuckerberg, May 2015
Facebook founder Mar Zuckerberg posted a world map on his Facebook page in May 2015 that inaccurately depicted India’s borders. After several users pointed out the issue, he deleted his post.
11. Wikipedia, December 2020
The Indian government in December last year asked Wikipedia to remove a map that showed Aksai Chin as part of China. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology secretary reportedly wrote to the company, saying that the map must be taken down. Again, there was no police involvement in the case.