He sat in Kotwali Police station at Kasganj, camera lenses trained at him. Asked a question, he reiterated what should have been obvious but was no longer the case. “I assure you, I am alive.”
Rahul Upadhyay (24) was declared dead by some “rumour mongers” on social media, according to police. The “news” picked up and was carried in a number of newspapers. The 24-year-old media graduate from Noida, who now runs a small news outlet received a phone call on Saturday, asking him if was dead. “At first, I was surprised and thought someone was joking. Then I received another call and then another. That is when I realised something was wrong.”
From a family of farmers, Upadhyay was at home in Nagla Khanji village in Aligarh. After learning of his “death”, he received snapshots of social media images announcing his death. “I realised there were people who were using me to try and instigate further violence. The narrative was a, out Hindus being killed and I reached out to police and district administration. Eventually I got through.”
IG, Aligarh, Sanjeev Gupta on Monday requested Upadhyay to meet as many mediapersons as possible. “Contrary to rumours spread on social media, Rahul Upadhyay is alive,” he told reporters. Afterwards, while speaking to The Indian Express, he said, “Even we were very surprised. There was no person of this name who lived in the area, let alone being injured in the violence. But there were some who were trying to spread these rumours. We have made four arrests.”
Rahul, the rumours claimed, died along with Abhishek Gupta in communal clashes in Kasganj on Friday. The violence was triggered by a march to mark the Republic Day. Sparring groups of Hindus and Muslims, who started with hurling stones at each other, later fired shots, which left Gupta (22) dead. The next day saw a second spate of violence during which several Muslim-owned shops were gutted in retaliation to Gupta’s death, said police.
Police has so far detained 82 people and arrested 31 persons in connection with the violence. No arrests have been made under the charges of murder yet, police said.
Meanwhile, a reporter with a media channel was allegedly shoved by relatives of the deceased Gupta Monday, said police. Speaking about the incident, IG Gupta said, “The family members were not happy with the news coverage done by this channel. It was good that police reached in time and we were able to prevent an untoward incident.”
As 24-year-old Rahul moved around the police station, many congratulated him “for being alive”, others for “becoming famous”. One local community leader went to him and said, “You’re now famous. You can do good for the community by spreading a message of peace.”
He replied, “I didn’t want to become famous like this.”