Rising communal clashes in UP: Social media is to be blamed, says police

As if criminals and habitual law-breakers were not trouble enough, the police in Uttar Pradesh have a new, potentially more dangerous one: social media mischief-makers. The latter have found the new media an easy way to stoke communal violence anywhere in the state through objectionable messages in their posts.

Ratan Mani Lal July 01, 2015 14:36:49 IST
Rising communal clashes in UP: Social media is to be blamed, says police

Lucknow: As if criminals and habitual law-breakers were not trouble enough, the police in Uttar Pradesh have a new, potentially more dangerous one: social media mischief-makers. The latter have found the new media an easy way to stoke communal violence anywhere in the state through objectionable messages in their posts.

The police say the posts aggravate the already tense communal situation in several areas and lead to clashes. The state government, according to sources in the Home Department, may resort to booking the mischief-mongers under the Goonda Act and also the National Security Act (NSA) if required.

Rising communal clashes in UP Social media is to be blamed says police

A file photo of aftermath of riots in Uttar Pradesh. AP

The provocation for the step is said to be an incident in Faizabad district last week in which an objectionable post on a social media site led to clashes the day after. Before that a video of a man being assaulted for allegedly stealing a calf had caused tension in Shamli.

Uttar Pradesh DGP AK Jain has, in a communication to all senior police officers, including zonal inspectors general of police, has asked them to identify such people and take action against them. The police have been asked to book such miscreants under the NSA and Goonda Act besides the relevant provisions of the Information Technology Act. The Uttar Pradesh government has also announced setting up of a Social Media Laboratory in Meerut to investigate such cases and trace the perpetrators of such incendiary messages.

In the Faizabad incident, a man had posted some objectionable pictures on a social networking site, following which members of the minority community staged protests. Several police vehicles were damaged as the situation turned violent. The police said the accused was arrested and he told the police that he had merely forwarded the content which he had received on another social media site. It is also learnt that the Special Task Force (STF) has been tasked with investigating the Faizabad incident.

In the incident in Shamli near Muzaffarnagar, some men assaulted another for reportedly catching a calf allegedly for slaughter. A video showing the man being chased and beaten despite the presence of inactive policemen was doing the rounds of social media groups. The police later arrested this man and six others for assaulting him.

In Barabanki, the police arrested four persons for posting objectionable content on the social media site through a chat group. Local reports said the four accused claimed they were minors and produced to support the claim. However, the claim was being investigated, police said.

Senior UP minister Mohammad Azam Khan has also joined the fray, saying the police needed to do better than announcing invoking of NSA to arrest those who tried to spread communal hatred through social media. He cited incidents that took place in Faizabad and Saharanpur and said lack of sufficient and timely action by the police in such incidents worsened the situation. “The senior police officers should not merely make statements but take action on the ground as well,” he said in an obvious reference to DGP’s letter.

“The misuse of social media being left unattended by senior cops not only emboldens the unlawful but also reveals the growing tendency among junior officers to not take action in such cases. Such tendencies are to be blamed for the evident dormancy and it is the responsibility of police officials to set right any laxity in restraining social media misuse. Such careless approach of the senior police officials only shows the government of the day in poor light,” the minister said. Incidentally, he too has been instrumental in recent past for action against a student who posted a comment on social media against the minister.

There have been communal clashes in different places in the state, triggered on the slightest pretext by hotheads on both sides and allowed to spread by the absence of timely police action.

There was an alleged molestation of a woman in Saharanpur, after which there were clashes and cross-firing between Hindus and Muslims on Saturday in Rampur-Maniharan locality in Saharanpur. One man died and several others including three policemen were injured in the incident. While the state government had ordered probe into the police firing, a large number of people blocked the Saharanpur-Delhi road demanding suspension of the police officers who had given firing orders.

Incidentally, this is the month of Ramzan fasting and during the same period last year there were serious communal clashes in Saharanpur leading to several deaths, curfew and Army’s intervention to bring the situation back to normal.

The police are also acknowledging that the panchayat elections due in next few months may also be a factor behind communal and other violent clashes. Already some clashes have been reported in this connection.

In Lucknow too, there was a sudden communal conflagration last week when two groups indulged in street fighting, brickbatting and firing in the aftermath of a minor dispute. The police, according to eye-witnesses, could not intervene in time that led the situation to deteriorate.

Even the Union Home ministry has expressed concern over recent incidents of communal tension in Uttar Pradesh and asked the administration to ensure peace in the state. In a communication, the ministry has reportedly asked the state government to take all possible action to ensure peace in districts that faced incidents of communal tension recently.

The state spokesman of the Bharatiya Janata Party Vijay Bahadur Pathak has said that the recent statement by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav urging his own partymen not to indulge in mischief was an indication how the state government had lost its grip over the law and order situation. “The state BJP workers are staging dharna all over the state in protest against the poor law and order in Uttar Pradesh,” he said.

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