Against the backdrop of at least 27 deaths across the country, allegedly over rumours spread online and on messaging apps, the Ghaziabad district police has sent out public messages warning of legal action against those who spread false information and hateful messages on such platforms.
One such message shared by the district police on Twitter said: “Often messages and news are read on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp which seem unbelievable. Most of them relate to your religious faith and beliefs. Keep in mind that not every news or information which goes viral on social media is true. If you suspect the validity of any such post, please verify it from at least two places.”
In yet another post, senior Ghaziabad police officers warned against sharing of such information, stating that those indulging in such acts will be booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code.
“All of you need to be informed that if any person puts or forwards objectionable material (such as article, photo, video, etc) on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, then a case against them under IPC sections 505 (statements conducing to public mischief), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence) /295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 298 (uttering, words, etc, with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person) will be registered. Action might be taken under NSA against them. Misleading information can be from another district, state or country.
“Hence, be careful and do not get inflamed after being misled. The group administration has the responsibility to remove the person who shares such material and immediately inform police on the following phone numbers,” the second such message read.
Even though the development follows a spate of lynchings across the country, Ghaziabad police maintained it was a routine exercise. “Even in the past, action has been taken against those responsible for spreading hateful messages to incite communal violence. We are now trying to raise awareness among people against such behaviour. In the past, NSA has been invoked against people, including members of the Bhim Army, in Saharanpur due to such action on social media,” said Akash Tomar, Superintendent of Police (City), Ghaziabad.
Unlike other parts of the country which have witnessed lynchings following child abduction rumours, no such case has been reported from Uttar Pradesh. However, spread of hate speech through social media platforms has been witnessed.
In 2015, a few days after the Dadri lynching case in neighbouring Gautam Buddha Nagar district, an FIR had been lodged after communally sensitive material was circulated on social media. In 2013, after violence gripped Muzaffarnagar, police believe a video of two young men allegedly being lynched — later found to have been shot in Waziristan in 2011 — was passed from phone to phone across the district through messaging platforms.