After lynchings, Jharkhand to expel people sharing rumours on social media

Last month, an altercation between two groups over some louts harassing a woman in Ranchi was given a communal colour on social media.

india Updated: Jul 10, 2017 18:28 IST
Saurav Roy
Saurav Roy
Hindustan Times, Ranchi
Jharkhand lynchings,Social media,Communal clashes
A woman holds a placard during a protest against a spate of violent attacks across the country.(AP File Photo)

Rumourmongers in Jharkhand could be externed for inciting communal tension in the state battling a string of mob attacks since May, mostly over the suspicion of cow slaughter and beef trade.

Police are going to identify such people or groups that post or share inflammatory messages on social media, primarily WhatsApp, and charge them with legal sanctions in the Jharkhand crime control act of 2002.

A punishment stated in the law is to banish offenders from their districts.

“We have instructed all the 24 districts to prepare a list of rumourmongers. The individuals or groups will be externed from their districts,” additional director general of police (operations) RK Mallick said.

The step was conceived to preempt minor clashes turning into communal flare-ups because of reactionary falsehood circulating on social media.

Last month, an altercation between two groups over some louts harassing a woman in Ranchi was given a communal colour on social media. Earlier, a Muslim rickshaw driver gave a religious tint to a road rage and two communities almost came to blows in the state capital.

Besides, four Muslim cattle traders were lynched in May on the suspicion of ferrying cows for slaughter, leading to a flare-up.

Similar back-to-back attacks happened in June when cattle vigilantes beat a Muslim trader to death in Ramgarh, and a dairy farmer was thrashed and his house torched in Giridih after a cow carcass was found near his home.

The slaughter of cows, an animal considered sacred by most Hindus, is banned in Jharkhand but seldom strictly implemented before. Self-styled cow protection groups are trying to enforce the ban and this is leading to vigilante injustice undermining the government’s authority.

East Singbhum, one of the worst-affected districts that recorded nine deaths over rumours on WhatsApp, arrested at least 15 rumourmongers in the past month.

Many people have been identified and charged with provisions in the crime control law, district police superintendent Anoop T Mathew said.

Police in Hazaribag, about 90km from Ranchi, were the first to seek expulsion of 20 people accused of spreading communal tension through fake social media posts and doing illegal beef trade.

The list was sent to the deputy commissioner on Saturday. “It is necessary to identify the culprits. They were a threat to law and order,” police superintendent Anup Birthare said.

Hazaribagh police sent two young Muslim men to jail for allegedly sharing sensitive messages in a WhatsApp group this June.

All district administrations have issued warnings that people found sharing or posting provocative content on social media will be arrested and face criminal charges.

First Published: Jul 10, 2017 18:28 IST