Mischievous virals

Print edition : August 04, 2017

THE tensions in Baduria in Basirhat subdivision of North 24 Paraganas district heightened further when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and right-wing Hindutva forces began to fish in troubled waters and incite communal feelings with public statements and posts made on social media. On two occasions, BJP delegations led by senior party leaders from the State and the Centre tried to enter the riot-affected area in spite of the prohibitory orders that were in force.

Video clips and pictures unrelated to the Basirhat flare-up began to crop up in various social media sites, spreading hate and panic. A video of an incident in Comilla in Bangladesh was uploaded with the claim that it had taken place in Basirhat. One person posted a still from a Bhojpuri film depicting a woman being assaulted by a group of leering men and attributed it to the Baduria riot with a caption “Baduria! The honour of Hindu women is under attack. Those Hindu friends who are still with Trinamool Congress, are you Hindu?”

The person who put up the post was arrested, but his message had already gone viral. According to the fact-checking website Alt News, Vijeta Malik, a BJP leader from Haryana, had shared the post with the message in Hindi which said: “The situation in Bengal is a major cause for concern for Hindus.” Another Delhi-based BJP leader, Nupur Sharma, uploaded a photograph from the Gujarat riots of 2002, and passed it off as the Basirhat flare-up. On July 10, the Kolkata police registered a case under non-bailable sections against her. Another picture on social media showed a man and a woman with bleeding injuries, and the caption claimed that they were the parents of the teenager who had uploaded the objectionable post in Baduria and were assaulted for no fault of theirs. It was later found that the picture was from an incident that had taken place in West Bengal a year ago. There have been innumerable such posts made with the sole purpose of provoking and inciting anger.

The State police tweeted on July 7: “Some people are posting old videos of other countries/regions as incidents of West Bengal. This is highly condemnable. Please check Facts with us. We appeal to all not to pay heed to these malicious videos aimed at creating mistrust among communities.”

Coming down heavily on the BJP for stoking communal fire in the State, Mamata Banerjee said at a public rally on June 10 that “the BJP has turned Facebook into fake book to incite communal riots in the State for its own gain”. Referring to the various “fake posts”, she said “a BJP leader from Hyderabad suggested in his social media post why Bengal should not be turned into another Godhra”. She stated categorically that this was not a place where hatred and violence would take root.

Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay