Video circulated on WhatsApp reportedly to blame for Muzaffarnagar riots, say officials

The violence that lasted for four days in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, could well have been sparked off by a video that went viral via WhatsApp...

WhatsApp may very well have more power to influence the masses than previously thought. A new report from a leading Indian daily has revealed that the violent outbursts earlier seen in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, could have been sparked by the popular messaging service. The riots in the district lasted for four days.

Investigation revealed that one of the causes of the riots could have been a video of two men allegedly being lynched, which was passed from phone to phone across the district through the messaging service. WhatsApp is currently one of the most popular cross-platform messaging services worldwide, boasting a user base of more than 300 million customers.

According to the report, a young man was knifed in the Kawaal village last month after an argument. Soon after, resident of the village allegedly lynched the two men responsible for the knifing. A video of the alleged lynching was seen doing the rounds of the district a few days later via the Internet and mobile phones. Police investigations soon determined that the video was actually at least two years old and originated from either Afghanistan or Pakistan. While the viral spread of the video was stopped on the Internet, it continued to spread through WhatsApp.

 Video circulated on WhatsApp reportedly to blame for Muzaffarnagar riots, say officials

WhatsApp could have sparked a riot in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh


Inspector General of Polic R K Vishwakarma, while talking to the source, said, "The video surfaced on August 29 and a day later we had blocked it on the Internet. However, it was passed on from phone to phone through WhatsApp and within a few days, thousands of people had viewed it. This only served to inflame sentiments."

Senior officials have now reportedly admitted that the use of the messaging service was not expected. While talking about this, an unnamed official said, "We did not imagine so many people would have access to the net on their mobile phones and WhatsApp. Moreover, it is impossible to intercept messages and videos transmitted through this application."

Authorities have now arrested several rioters across the district. In subsequent interrogations, culprits admitted to having seen the video. An officer said, "On questioning those arrested, we found that many of them had a clip of the video on their phones. They admitted that they received the file on WhatsApp and through Bluetooth. They all believed that this was indeed the incident at Kawaal." Violence was first reported on September 7 at a mahapanchayat being held. At the event, several senior community leaders and politicians were reported making inflammatory speeches that further incited violence.

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