While the Uttar Pradesh government deployed additional forces to tackle communal violence in western parts of the state, social media and mobile messaging continued to spread misinformation and panic throughout a bloody Sunday.
“All kinds of rumours are being spread through Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp. These are baseless,” UP home secretary Kamal Saxena said, adding that a fake video that was the reason behind the fresh clashes was two years old and was shot in some other country.
Even as the Muzaffarnagar administration clamped curfew in several areas to keep the situation from getting out of hand, they seemed to have no control over the online rumours that spread like wildfire.
The video being circulated claimed to capture the killing of two men who were trying to protect a woman from being harassed. The district administration said the video was shared by more than 250 people on Facebook and was eventually blocked. While a man was booked for uploading the video, an FIR was also filed against BJP MLA from Sardhana, Sangeet Som.
Inspector general Ashish Gupta, who blamed the fake video for fanning the violence that has claimed 26 lives so far, said it was very difficult for the police to round up people spreading rumours on websites and through cellphones.
Rajesh Kumar Mishra, a faculty member at the department of sociology in Lucknow University, said the state government needed to prepare a strategy for handling such flare-ups on social networking sites in the future