“On June 2, Mohsin Shaikh, an IT professional, was beaten to death in Pune allegedly by members of a right wing organisation over some photographs denigrating Maratha warrior king Shivaji and Shiv Sena founder late Bal Thackeray.”
“On June 9, alleged objectionable images of Dalit leader B R Ambedkar that surfaced on a social networking website sparked stray incidents of arson in Pune, Aurangabad and Solapur.”
“On June 21, seven policemen were injured when a mob went on a stone-pelting spree in Deopur area of Dhule district, 600km from Mumbai, after rumours spread that objectionable content about a minority community had been posted on Facebook.”
The above cases are not mere aberrations, rather some of the very few instances that have been thrown at our faces, as per the latest data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2014. Maharashtra tops the list of states that ‘incited hate crimes against communities’ using the internet.
In fact, the distant second to Maharashtra’s 120 cases in the past year is Uttar Pradesh with 21 cases. Policemen, however, pointed out that this trend was largely due to the fact that they mounted up online patrolling following several incidents like the riot at Dhule over a Facebook post, which led to more FIRs being registered.
Incidentally, Maharashtra has been the state that registered most cyber crime cases for both 2013 and 2014 across India.
DGP (Maharashtra) Sanjeev Dayal said, “In light of some instances such as Dhule and Pune, we had scaled our efforts to ensure that morphed images were not shared.”
An officer who was heading the cyber crime wing in 2014 also said that while there were two or three major instances in one place like Dhule, they had had to register complaints at several places where people had shared the same image leading to multiple FIRs.
Another officer claimed the fact that the state elections took place in 2014 could also be a factor as months prior to the elections, anti-social elements use various networking platforms to polarise voters. “Given the nature of the internet, it takes no time to make them viral,” the officer added.
Mumbai police spokesperson DCP Dhananjay Kulkarni attributed the high numbers to the constant monitoring activities of the social media cell of the Mumbai police set up in 2013 to keep a track on content on social media in order to curb sharing of derogatory photographs that could be offensive to a particular community. “As a result of the constant monitoring we do end up registering several FIR’s. It would be wrong to conclude that Maharashtra has more such crimes, it just that more such cases are reported because of our efforts.”
Cyber expert Vijay Mukhi however opined that even in rural areas most people use social media. And that increases the possibility of misuse.