Close on the heels of the Supreme Court suggesting an out-of-court settlement to the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi issue, a fake UP government website has initiated a sort of referendum on the disputed structure in Ayodhya, attributing the initiative to the state’s new chief minister Yogi Adityanath.
The website – www.ayodhya-issue.gov-up.in – with its URL misleadingly similar to the UP government’s official website www.up.gov.in also carries a photograph of chief minister Adityanath. A WhatApp message seeking public opinion on the purported government initiative along with the link of the website went viral on Thursday.
The WhatsApp message reads: “Do you want Ram Mandir or Babri Masjid on the Ayodhya disputed land? I have participated in Online Poll on Ayodhya Issue. Request you to vote on http://ayodhya-issue.gov-up.in/. It is important to share our views with Govt.”
A similar message along with Adityanath’s photograph features on the home page of the website, which also has a link to the UP government’s official website at the bottom of the page.
The website and WhatsApp message seem to have sprung up soon after the top court’s March 21 observation for a negotiated settlement to the dispute, with the Chief Justice of India even offering to mediate between the two sides staking claim to the historic site in Ayodhya.
HT tracked the owner of the dubious website through its URL and found that it was registered in the name of Tarun Chaudhary, a south Delhi resident. But the phone number provided in the website’s details belonged to Akhtar Ali of Karnataka. Ali, who runs an IT firm in Bengaluru, said it was a mischief by someone who was misusing his mobile number.
“We have just been informed about the website. I will inform the police about it,” Ali told HT on phone.
Apart from a deceptive URL and CM’s name, the website also carries the standard disclaimer at the bottom: “The contents of these sites are not to be construed as a responsibility of or endorsement by Dept. of Information and Public Relations and NIC” – a norm with all government websites.
Among the three options the opinion poll provides, the one for ‘constructing Ram Mandir’ at the disputed site had received more than 80 % votes till Friday evening. Also, one can vote any number of times in the poll.
Interestingly, the UP government, which on Thursday arrested a youth from Noida for allegedly posting “objectionable” images of Adityanath on social media, was caught unaware when confronted about the dubious website.
“It has just come to our knowledge. It is a fake website. Government has nothing to do with it. We will ask cyber cell to probe it,” said SK Ojha, director information, UP government.