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West Bengal Post - Poll Violence, Fake News Escalates Quickly Even As COVID Cases Rise

Reports alleging TMC workers thrashing the opposition party workers started doing the rounds on social media. Heartwrenching visuals of women being attacked and raped were circulated. Images and videos of houses being set on fire and shops being looted took the internet by storm.

The Centre on Thursday, May 6, sent a four-member team to West Bengal to examine the ongoing violence in the state and submit a report on the veracity of the brutal clashes that were reported from several parts of the state after the poll results were declared.

The team, constituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs, will also be visiting some of the places that witnessed violence and converse with the affected families, according to The Hindu.

On Wednesday, May 5, the ministry wrote another letter to the state government stating that no concrete action had been taken to tackle the post-poll clashes.

Highlighting the need to take adequate measures, it asked the state government to immediately send a report on the situation, adding that if it failed to deliver, the ministry would view that matter seriously.

Reports state that the ministry on May 3, wrote a similar letter to the state government asking to act immediately and put a check on the rising instances of violence. After taking stock of the situation, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee transferred 30 top-level officers which included 29 IPS and one IAS.

The New Indian Express reported that Banerjee met with the officials and stated that there had been administrative inefficiencies when the Election Commission held control during the poll process. She further added that violence was reported from regions where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had won in the elections.

Post-Poll Violence

On Sunday, May 2, the results for the Assembly elections were declared with the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) emerging victorious. However, the headlines of celebrations were soon marred with reports of violence emerging from different parts of the state. As per The Wire, till May 5, at least 14 people had died in the clashes.

The BJP claimed that as many as nine members of its party were hacked to death. On the other hand, the TMC claimed that four of its party members had died and one fatality was reported from the Indian Secular Front which partnered with Congress and the Left.

Reports alleging TMC workers thrashing the opposition party workers started doing the rounds on social media. Heartwrenching visuals of women being attacked and raped were circulated. Images and videos of houses being set on fire and shops being looted also took the internet by storm.

Amid the chaos, senior BJP leaders tried to give a communal colour to the violence and indulged in name-calling.

BJP national president JP Nadda reportedly flew down to Kolkata to analyse the situation and even called for a dharna to protest against the 'TMC-sponsored violence'.

Meanwhile, Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma claimed that around 300-400 BJP party workers had fled from their homes in West Bengal and entered Assam to protect themselves.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to the state's governor Jagdeep Dhankar and expressed anguish over the developments and deteriorating law and order situation in the state.

Fake News At Work

Soon after, the West Bengal Police sprung into action to verify the videos that were being blatantly forwarded in the wake of the political violence. The officials, after conducting a thorough examination, refuted the claims made by the BJP workers that two women were raped while others were molested by TMC goons.

"The posts repeatedly shared on Twitter and Facebook by a specific political party since Monday, alleging that two women were raped in Nanoor and many more were molested, were examined by us. These are fake news. We carried our investigations and talked to BJP leaders at these locations. Even they are not aware of such incidents," Birbhum Superintendent of Police Nagendra Nath Tripathi told Hindustan Times.

Several fact-checking organisations also examined the images accusing the TMC workers of the destruction, however, many were reported to be old or fake images.

In one such instance, the BJP released a video to show how after winning the election, TMC workers were on a rampage and had beaten and killed the workers and supporters of the opposition.

The video had the image of a man, identified as Manik Moitro, who was claimed to have died during the attack. However, it was found out that the man was one of the journalists working with India Today who was falsely portrayed as a victim.

Although the number of reported deaths during the violence cannot be overlooked, it can certainly be said that there was a deliberate attempt to create unrest and trigger a sense of panic.

Reports have also pointed out that there been a coordinated effort by the BJP leaders and party supporters to portray the state's law and order in such a situation that the president's rule must be invoked in West Bengal.

Also Read: Old And Unrelated Videos & Images Shared As Post Poll Violence In West Bengal

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Writer : Palak Agrawal
Editor : Madhusree Goswami
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