A viral on-line rumour about executed Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru’s body being flown to Srinagar had the valley politicians, bureaucrats and senior police officials on toes till late in the night on Sunday.
The rumour mill started when “news” from unknown source was posted on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter around 8 pm. It said “Guru’s body was flown to Srinagar in the evening and has been kept at the airport.”
The news was followed by hundreds of updates from netizens “confirming” the army and police’s movement in north Kashmir’s Baramulla and Sopore, where Guru’s native village is, in an apparent move to seal these areas.
There was strong reaction from Guru’s online supporters pledging “not to allow the body to be buried at Sopore but in Srinagar’s Martyrs’ Graveyard’
“By 11 pm, thousands of on-line users shared the news triggering uncontrollable rumour mill, which did have several top ranking police officers attending calls from politicians and bureaucrats,” said a senior police officer on the condition of anonymity.
Sources said officials of state home ministry, superintendent of police, Srinagar airport, and senior security establishment officers, of the ranks of DIGs, would exchange phone calls till 12 am in the night cross-checking and putting the viral news to rest.
The victim, however, of this on-line rumour were the family members of Guru. They attended dozens of calls from curious journalists and civilians in the dead of night.
“None among us has spoken to the media about the return of Afzal sahib’s body. Nor have we received any information whether his body would be returned or not,” clarified Guru’s relative Yasin Guru on Monday.
There are hundreds of news pages and news handles created on social networking sites in the Valley. The government has been mulling to register all on-line news outlets to curb such rumour mongering in the future. Several on-line news-pages have been stopped by the police, even on Monday.
The authorities had blacked out internet services on February 9 and restored just three days ago.
The return of Guru’s body is fast emerging as major separatist plank to galvanise mass support in the valley, with many mainstream political parties joining the chorus.
Hardline Hurriyat, led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, has threatened a long drawn campaign to bring the body back, which will start on Wednesday with a three-day protest calendar.