May 23rd, 2017
“In the past two years, there have been several instances of mob lynching. Most of the lynchings have happened in Jharkhand, a state considered to be far away from all the development and education. Few are reported and many don’t come to light. The recent incident took place just four hours away from my home.
The last incidence of violence I got to know about was through a WhatsApp video forwarded by my uncle on the family WhatsApp group. The man was being beaten by a mob of at least 50 people and when I inquired my uncle told me that the guy is a “Bachcha Chor” (child thief). The video was forwarded to him by a friend.
Before that, a 17-yr-old Muslim boy was lynched (later, he died) just 4-5 km away from my home. He allegedly forwarded a morphed image of Goddess Saraswati. Many people gathered outside the police station where the victim was kept and burnt the vehicles outside the station demanding that the police not protect him and allow the public to do justice. In the last 20 years of my stay there I had never heard of these kinds of incidents in my area.
The recent incident of mob violence where seven people were lynched was also fueled by WhatsApp rumour-mongering. Photos showing dead children and videos of Bachcha Chors were being circulated for past few months as authentic news with dates and details of ‘child lifting’ incidents stating that those who do this deserve death and nothing else.
Most of the social media users in states like Jharkhand are totally new to these technologies and smartphones. They consider all the information on social media to be true and cannot differentiate between rumours and actual news. And it is easy to influence people by fear and hatred.
In places like Jharkhand, people are impressionable. It is easy to emotionally influence them. When videos of violence and fear are forwarded and watched by these people, they take it as the truth. These rumours get escalated when the police ignore these forwards and people decide to take the matter into their own hands.
The WhatsApp groups that I am a part of, many of the forwards are religious in nature and that too inciting hatred, saying how their religion is getting diluted and how their rights are being taken away. At the same time, they ask people to take action to ‘save’ their religion while justifying violence.”
Story By – Bharat Nayak
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