Despite the death of seven people in Jharkhand in 2017 in incidents of mob violence triggered by rumours, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report for 2017, which was released recently, states that the state saw zero incidents of circulation of “false/fake news and rumours”.
This is the first time data was collected under the head of “false/fake news and rumours” on the basis of FIRs registered under IPC section 505 (Statements conducing to public mischief/with intent to create fear, panic) or IPC 505 with respect to the IT Act.
In 2017, seven people died in mob violence in Jharkhand’s Seraikela-Kharsawan and East Singhbhum districts over rumours of child-lifting that spread through social media. Two people, including a journalist with a local news channel, were arrested for allegedly posting messages on social media cautioning people against child-lifters which, according to police, sparked panic and led to mob attacks in Seraikela-Kharsawan’s Baghbera and East Singhbhum’s Rajnagar on May 18, 2017.
Also, the zero figure assumes significance when seen against the backdrop of 21 deaths in the state in the past three years due to mob violence over suspicion of animal slaughter, theft, child-lifting rumours, among others. This apart, more than 90 people have died in mob violence on the suspicion of witchcraft in the state since January 2017.
After the 2017 incidents, separate FIRs were registered against people who spread the messages which police said created panic in several villages of Jadugora, Haldipokhar, Bagbera and Ghatshila areas.
The first case under IPC sections 505, 153 A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), and 34(common intention) was registered against two persons.
The second FIR was lodged under IPC 153 (Wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) against a local journalist who forwarded a post.
One of the accused was later granted bail by the East Singhbhum Sessions Court.
The first incident took place on the morning of May 18, 2017, when four people, Haleem, Nayeem, Sajjad and Siraj Khan, were lynched in Shobhapur and Padnamsai in Saraikela-Kharsawan district over rumours of child-lifting. The mob also attacked the policemen who went to rescue them. Two cases were registered — one for the killings and another for obstructing public servant from duty. A trial is on in the first case. In the second, a fast track court in 2018 convicted 12 people and sentenced them to four years of imprisonment for “obstructing and assaulting government officials on duty, attacking with deadly weapons, trespassing into other’s house, disturbing law and order, breaking public peace”.
The second incident occurred on May 18 evening. Brothers Vikas Verma and Gautam Verma, their grandmother Ram Chandra Devi and their friend Gangesh Gupta were attacked by a mob over child-lifting rumours. The brothers and their grandmother were killed in the attack.
A total of 26 people were arrested in connection with the lynchings and the cases are currently under trial. The NCRB report attributes the data to “data provided by states and UTs”.
While ADG (Ops) ML Meena did not respond to calls and messages, Vimal Kumar, then DSP Law and Order and currently in the Chief Minister’s security, said, “The case was registered under IPC 505 for spreading rumours and was one of the reasons which led to the lynchings. Why it was not put in the NCRB data needs to be checked.”