Morphed pics, SMSes were building up tension

Technology, particularly the internet and smart phones, has come as a boon to humankind. But it can also be a bane, if left open to abuse and misuse. That is what seems to have happened in the lead-up to the violence at Azad Maidan.

According to information gathered from a multitude of sources, events were building up to the violence from weeks beforehand with a series of MMSes and SMSes in circulation about the violence in Burma.

These visuals were morphed from other events – earthquakes, tsunami deaths and even a Tibetan boy who set himself on fire in New Delhi before the Chinese premier's visit to India – but passed off as those of Muslims attacked by Buddhists in Burma.

Teesta Setalvad of the Citizens for Justice and Peace, who submitted a memo to police chief Arup Patnaik against these messages on Monday, says she had been receiving the photographs in her mail for some time. Then she came across a blog by Pakistani blogger Faraz Ahmed on the website of Pakistani newspaper Express Tribune, titled 'Social media is lying to you about Burma's Muslim 'cleansing',' ( Ahmed had put together original pictures and those morphed, which were also the ones circulated to young Muslims in Mumbai.

But, says Mohammad Faruque Azam, president of the National Institute of Jihad Against Atrocities and Terrorism, nothing was done to inform these boys that the pictures were not correct and that they were intended to provoke. Azam sees a Pakistani conspiracy against India. "Burma is not India's problem. The boys should have been educated that the Assam violence was not a Muslim versus non-Muslim issue. It is Bodos versus non-Bodos, of which even Hindus are victims.''

Azam says certain Muslim politicians from Muslim-leaning parties take advantage of the lack of knowledge of Urdu in the rest of society to provoke youth. "They issue one statement to the Urdu press and another to other newspapers that might catch them out and invite punitive action for provocation,'' he insists. The statements are jingoistic and are blown out of context.

But Sarfaraz Arzoo, editor of Urdu daily Hindustan, bristles at the suggestion that the Urdu press could be irresponsible, though he agrees that the conspiracy could be Pakistani, but aimed at diverting attention from the violence against minority Muslim sects in that country.

Joint commissioner of police Himanshu Roy said they were aware of the morphed pictures and messages. "But this time we want the provocateurs, not just some boys who were rounded up from the spot. We will be tough."

However, at a meeting with CM Prithviraj Chavan, Muslim leaders from various groups complained against heavy-handedness against innocent boys picked up on Saturday, but promised help in identifying the brains behind the provocation.

The CM told HT, "I am worried whether this is an external conspiracy to create disaffection in India between various communities."  The morphed picture of Buddhist monks standing over bodies of earthquake victims in China could be "an attempt to create problems between Dalits and Muslims," he says.


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