Maharashtra Police says at least five videos that fuelled child-lifting rumours were 'misrepresented to create panic'
Some of the clippings which fuelled rumours in Maharashtra were from places like Bengaluru, Syria and Karachi in Pakistan, a police official said.
Mumbai: At least five videos that allegedly fuelled rumours of child-lifting and led to lynching incidents in Maharashtra have been found to be "manipulated", a senior police official said on Thursday.
He claimed that most of these videos were "misrepresented to create panic" and were not of incidents in Maharashtra, but shot elsewhere.
Some of these clippings were from places like Bengaluru, Syria and Karachi in Pakistan, he said.
"These videos should not have been circulated. Whether these were morphed, edited or bogus, the clips created serious problems," Maharashtra's Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Bipin Bihari said. "Our cyber crime team is investigating the source of these videos," he said.
Mob violence and lynching triggered by rumours have claimed 10 lives in 14 incidents in Maharashtra during the last one-and-a-half months.
On 1 July, five people were lynched by a mob in Dhule district on the suspicion of being child-lifters, sending shock waves through the state.
The videos were widely circulated on social media across the state following which seven offences were registered by the Malegaon Police in Nashik district.
"During our investigation, we found these videos were manipulated and the clippings were also not of the places that were claimed," Malegon's Additional Superintendent of Police Harsh Poddar said. "We have registered seven offences against people who circulated these videos on WhatsApp in Malegaon. The videos misrepresent incidents of kidnapping in order to create panic," he said.
In one of the videos circulated in Nandurbar district, burqa-clad women were seen walking on a road. "The clip was actually of an area in Bengaluru," he said.
Another video, in which two men on motorcycles were seen picking up a boy, was from Karachi. It was part of an NGO's awareness campaign in Karachi about missing children, he said based on the analysis of police.
Another video in which a boy was seen in a police vehicle and telling reporters that he was kidnapped in Sindkhedraja area of Buldhana district, was actually of some financial dispute case and not kidnapping, he said.
He further said that a video which showed killing of children was from Syria, and was circulated fuelling suspicion of organ trade of children in Maharashtra.
Another video shared on social media in Maharashtra was of some incident in Gujarat, the ASP added.
When Dhule Superintendent of Police M Ramkumar was asked if the lynching incident in his district was triggered by these videos, he said, "We are yet to come to a conclusion."
"We are verifying the videos and also making inquiries with the accused...whether they got instigated by these clippings," he said.
Till now, 27 people have been arrested in connection with the lynching of five people in Dhule, Ramkumar said, adding that a probe is on.
Bihari said they have started a campaign to sensitise people against sharing or circulating videos, images and posts. The police are distributing posters in villages and holding meetings with people at the local level. People are being told that their momentary adventure could lead to serious crimes, so they must be careful while sharing videos, Bihari said.
He also appealed to people not to believe in rumours or spread them further.
"If people find something suspicious, they should alert the police, we will take action," he said.
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