Cyber experts will keep an eye on social media and WhatsApp messages to prevent rumours from triggering panic ahead of the Rath Yatra, which is likely to coincide with Eid on Saturday.
To ensure there is no disruption of law and order, the cyber cell of Gujarat Police has been asked to deploy experts at each police control room. In sensitive cities like Ahmedabad and Vadodara, cyber cell experts will not only monitor CCTV footage, but also keep a tab on information flowing on social media.
Sector I Joint CP Rajiv Bhagat said, “The cyber cell will be keeping a close watch on social media and on any suspicion of rumour-mongering, we will immediately stop the link from circulating and take action. I will ensure that social media is not used to spread any rumours, wrong message or message that can create panic or fear.”
Over the past few weeks, there have been several rumours about dacoit gangs and terrorists on the lose, which have kept Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar police on their toes. Several incidents of violence and assault also took place between July 1 and July 7, after which police held counselling sessions in villages. But again on Wednesday, an NRI was severely assaulted in Kheda district by locals who mistook him for a member of a Dafer gang, who are associated with dacoity and loot.
Police claim that many of these rumours were circulated on social media either as pranks or to trigger panic and turned ugly in some villages that witnessed, among other things, group clashes, lynching of a mentally unstable man and thrashing of a tribal labourer.
Ahmedabad police arrested seven persons for propagating dangerous rumours on WhatsApp. The first four arrests were made on July 5.
The four arrested persons were identified as Jayesh Koria (41) and Rahul Parmar (20) of Ahmedabad and Firoz Khalifa (30) and Kishan Bharwad (21) from Kheda district. The accused told the police that they were unaware of original senders of the message and “only wanted to to ‘alert’ people about possible attacks, said Inspector GT Chauhan of Aslali.
“They had received some mischievous messages and forwarded them to others. They didn’t know that forwarding messages that can lead to tension was a crime”.
The second arrest was made on July 9, when Aslali police zeroed in on some WhatsApp group administrators, who had forwarded such messages to other groups. The accused were Harji Modi, Bhikha Modi and Kiran Modi, all residents of Dhanera in Banaskantha, a district on the Indo-Pakistan border. They had made two groups of WhatsApp — ‘Hindustan’ and ‘Goga Sarkar’ — which were reported to have circulated the maximum number of misleading messages.
Inspector Chauhan said, “Kiran and Bhikha were administrators of the group and it was their responsibility to ensure messages that lead to tension shouldn’t be spread. We found all those who received messages through these groups.”
Police said the mobile numbers of the accused and those in their group had been given to forensic experts to detect the message senders. Ahmedabad district police have asked the Directorate of Forensic Science labs to give details of admins and senders of these groups.
SP Ahmedabad Nirlipt Rai said, “The rumours led to lynching of a man in Kanbha, which triggered clashes in the area. However, we decided to launch a crackdown by arresting the receivers to reach the senders.”