Social media and instant messengers have enabled rumours to spread like wildfire. Spontaneous panic and apprehension spread through these rumours have led to a large number of deaths in India by fueling mob violence across the country.
Indian police officials Harsh Poddar and Rema Rajeshwari have led the path in drawing the blueprint on how to douse a breaking incident of mob violence and take precautionary measures against deadly rumours by spreading awareness.
In this episode, we speak to both of them, to understand mob mentality in India and the ways to deal with dangerous social media rumours.
Here is an excerpt from the episode:
Supreme Court’s verdict on Ayodhya, proposed fees hike in JNU and all the protests that have transpired - all these events have inspired a lot of fake news.
But right now, we’re going to focus on something else. Mob violence, inspired by deadly rumours spread through instant messengers and social media.
This will be a two part series - the first part will look into how law enforcement can effectively respond to a breaking incident of mob violence to protect the victims and spread awareness about misinformation in areas where people might fall prey to these dangerous rumours.
We also bring to you real life examples of two police officials who with their brave and innovative thinking tackled mobs, took down misinformation and saved lives.
So let’s rewind back a year, when a bunch of graphic videos on WhatsApp caused mayhem in the Indian society.
I’m your host Archis, and you’re listening to That Fact Check Show.
The month of July 2018 started off on a grim note for India. 5 people were lynched to death in the Dhule district of Maharashtra, on suspicions of being child lifters. Just before the fateful day, the entire district have been in a state of panic due to rumours of child kidnappers being shared on WhatsApp and social media.
These rumours were found to be baseless and unrelated to any real case of kidnapping in India. However, the effects of this misinformation campaign was real - it claimed 22 lives just in the months of June and July of 2018, all around the country.
But on July 1, the same day as the Dhule incident, something similar was erupting not too far away, in the city of Malegaon. A family of 5 was set upon by a mob of around than 2000 people on suspicion of being child lifters.
However it ended differently - they survived.
And what saved them, was the quick, effective and methodological response by Malegaon police.
IPS officer Harsh Poddar was posted in Malegaon at that time as the Additional Superintendent of Police. And on this fateful night, he was about to embark on a journey that would set an example for the rest of law enforcement in India on how to stop massive mob from killing people.