Wikipedia page declares Geelani dead
Besides the snow fury and avalanches, top police and administrative officials were on tenterhooks till late night in Kashmir valley following a tsunami of rumour surrounding the ailing hard-line Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani (84), fuelled by edited Wikipedia page where he was declared dead.india Updated: Mar 13, 2014 10:36 IST
"Like any other rumour, this rumour too kept on tenterhooks," admits inspector general of police Abdul Ghani Mir. "We appeal to the people not to pay any heed to these rumours," he said.
The rumour reached its crescendo when some youth were planning to announce the news on the public address system of mosques in old parts of Srinagar. The timely intervention stopped them from calling people out on roads. They were using public address system because all phone lines and internet services were not functioning, apparently due to technical snag induced by heavy snowfall in the past 12 hours.
In Kashmir, the authorities resorted to withdrawing internet and phones services usually on January 26 and August 15 for security reasons. Last year, a similar drive was carried out when Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru was hanged.
What further fuelled the rumour was the Wikipedia page, open to all netizens for editing, declaring Geelani dead on March 11.
"We will look into it," said IG Mir.
The station house officer, who is in-charge of Srinagar's Hyderpora area where Geelani resides, had to physically check on him in the dead of night.
Several top bureaucrats, ministers and police officials were up till 1.30 in the night.
No government officials, however, came out in public to put the rumour to rest.
"It would perhaps be helpful if everyone on Facebook or Twitter stopped behaving as ace reporters. The thin but in-erasable line between rumour and news is known to have saved lives in the past," wrote novelist Mirza Waheed, after several netizens too started declaring Geelani dead following the Wikipedia page.
Separatist Geelani has significant support base, particularly among youngsters in the valley.
Geelani's family members, who were receiving frantic calls from supporters, even from abroad, approached reporters to help them in stopping the rumour.
"Geelani is stable. There is no need to panic," Geelani's son Dr Nayeem Geelani said. "He would be flown to New Delhi as soon as possible for a few medical tests and check-up."
Geelani has not been keeping well for the past one week due to acute chest infection. In a Hurriyat health bulletin released yesterday, the spokesman had said Geelani's health had deteriorated following the heavy snowfall and cold weather. He is suffering for chronic bronchitis. The Hurriyat released latest pictures of Geelani on Wednesday on several social networking sites to assure the supporters.
In the morning, chief minister Omar Abdullah too tweeted: "I know we love a good conspiracy theory but the failure of the phones has nothing to do with rumours floating around. The telephone lines in the valley are down because of the snow having snapped a line"