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A witty comeback: Assam Police revamps social media platform to fight crime

A campaign in English and Assamese, which is a witty take on serious issues such as stalking, fake news and lynching has generated positive feedback, increased interaction with the public and also got endorsements from Bollywood celebrities.

india Updated: Jul 25, 2018 20:53 IST
Utpal Parashar, Hindustan Times
Assam Police,social media,crime
Thanks to ‘The Think Campaign’ launched on social media, Assam Police’s Facebook page has over 30,000 followers now and the Twitter handle is followed by over 4,100 users.

Till a month back, Assam Police’s Facebook page had just 3,300 followers and the organisation’s Twitter handle was followed by around 1,000 people. But a digital campaign blitz has changed all that.

Thanks to ‘The Think Campaign’ launched on social media, Assam Police’s Facebook page has over 30,000 followers now and the Twitter handle is followed by over 4,100 users.

The campaign in English and Assamese, which is a witty take on serious issues such as stalking, fake news and lynching has generated positive feedback, increased interaction with the public and also got endorsements from Bollywood celebrities.

The lynching of two young men from Guwahati by a mob in Karbi Anglong district last month on suspicion of them being child lifters and the subsequent outpouring of hate and misinformation on social media was the trigger for the campaign.

“The lynching incident forced us to look at social media in order to reach out to people in a new way. We wanted to counter hate posts and engage with the community more positively,” said Director General of Assam Police Kuladhar Saikia.

The lynching of two young men from Guwahati by a mob in Karbi Anglong district last month on suspicion of them being child lifters and the subsequent outpouring of hate and misinformation on social media was the trigger for the campaign.

The Assam Police’s sleepy Facebook page and Twitter handle were immediately revamped and new social media unit headed by Additional DGP Harmeet Singh formed.

Within 48 hours of the lynching, 40 people who were spreading rumours and hate messages on social media were arrested. This and other activities of the police soon started getting highlighted on the organisation’s social media platforms earning praise for the men in khaki.

“This was followed by The Think Campaign earlier this month. We try to make our slogans witty without hurting local sentiments. The idea is to counter crime, interact with public and disseminate genuine information,” Saikia said.

The first post of this campaign posted on July 13 asks, “What does your weekend look like? Because we have to plan ours, if it’s with us.” An image carried along with it adds, “Sharing rumours/hate messages online can enable you for a date with us in the nearest police station this weekend.”

This was followed by one on mob lynching which said: “Mobs may have many heads, but sadly no brains. There is no offence that can justify the actions of a mob. Choose your battles wisely. Fight for society - not against it”.

The image carried along with adds, “Mobs may not follow the law, but the law will follow them. Think before you hit. If you hit, the law won’t miss”.

The tweets and posts have been shared by thousands including by actors Ajay Devgun and his wife Kajol. In just a month, the police Facebook page has reached close to a million users and the Twitter handle has seen over 7 lakh re-tweets.

This was followed by one on stalking, which said: “Understand the difference between a compliment and harassment. Unwanted attention is stalking.” It adds, “For every unwanted compliment you give a lady, we have a complimentary legal action ready for you.”

These tweets and posts have been shared by thousands including by actors Ajay Devgun and his wife Kajol. In just a month, the police Facebook page has reached close to a million users and the Twitter handle has seen over 7 lakh re-tweets.

On Monday, prompt action by the organisation’s social media unit was able to save the life of a minor girl who had announced on Facebook about her plan to commit suicide. The police were able to reach the girl in 30 minutes and counsel her against taking the step.

Monitored closely by Singh, along with Superintendent of Police Prateek Thube and three advertising professionals based in Delhi, Mumbai and Guwahati, the campaign will focus on issues like drugs, domestic violence and witch hunting in coming days.

“Social media has both positive and negative aspects. What makes us feel good is that not only we have been able to connect with people but we are also receiving suggestions from the public. The campaign has been able to initiate a dialogue on various social issues,” said Singh.

The police hope the positive impact created by the social media outreach would come handy during the coming Independence Day celebrations and also help maintain peace after the final draft of the National Register of Citizens is made public later this month.

“Not all feedback has been positive. There are responses from social media users who point us our lacunas and areas where we need to improve. We take these suggestions positively and try and better policing for all,” said Thube.

First Published: Jul 25, 2018 19:27 IST