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Rumour mills stoke anger

india Updated: Aug 21, 2008 00:14 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times
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The rumour mills in Jammu & Kashmir are working overtime. What starts as a hushed whisper quickly turns into a shout on the street. And in these troubled times, rumours are playing a major role in the violence-hit state. Tuesday’s incident in Jammu proves this.

A mob gathered around Abhinav Theatre in Jammu, where top government functionaries were attending I-Day celebrations, organised by the Department of Information and Public Relations. Tongues started wagging and words spread that former CM Farooq Abdullah was present.

The mob demanded the function be stopped. Police had to cordon off the place, which triggered clashes with protestors. More than 35 people were wounded. But fact was that Abdullah was nowhere near the spot.

Similarly, there were rumours in Srinagar on Sunday that several Kashmiris had been killed in Delhi as retaliation to the agitation in the Valley. This correspondent received several calls from the Valley, from people anxiously enquiring whether the “news” was true.

There were rumours on the other side that protestors in Srinagar attacked people from Jammu and the temples in the Valley. As a step to check the rumours, authorities have banned SMS services. The Supreme Court also upheld the restrictions.

But this is not a new phenomenon. Sir Walter R Lawrence, a British settlement commissioner in J&K, wrote in his book The Valley of Kashmri in 1895 that the people of the state were prone to rumours.

He said Zaina Kadal, the fourth bridge of the Srinagar city, used to be the rumour hub. “Though the wise knew that khabar-I-Zaina Kadal (news from Zaina Kadal) was false, the majority is not wise,” he wrote.

On the psyche behind believing in rumours, Prof. Aruna Broota of the Department of Psychology, DU, said as the entire region is going through a sensitive phase, people were liable and susceptible to rumours.