Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has said it was “very sad” that five people lost their lives in Dhule district only because of rumours and sought stronger measures by social media platforms to check their spread.
Modern means of communication, he said are for sharing information and knowledge and should be used judiciously.
In the wake of the lynching of five tribals in Dhule district, the state government initiated a campaign to sensitise people to check the spread of rumours on social media and to act responsibly, he said.
On July 1, five nomadic tribals were lynched by a mob in Rainpada village, about 100 km from the Dhule district headquarters, after rumours on social media that a gang of child-lifters was active in the area.
“The Dhule incident was very unfortunate. It is very sad that five people lost their lives only because of rumours. We also need more stronger measures to be taken by various platforms of social media (to check the spread of rumours),” Fadnavis said.
He appreciated the Central government’s direction to social media platform WhatsApp to take steps to prevent the spread of “irresponsible and explosive messages”.
“My appeal to all citizens using social media is that these modern ways of communication are for sharing information and knowledge. All of us need to use these means more sensibly and in a way that benefits society,” Fadnavis said.
All the accused in the Dhule lynching incident would be arrested and the case would be fast-tracked, he said.
“The families (of victims) will be paid Rs 10 lakh compensation and will be rehabilitated,” he added.
So far, 24 people have been arrested in connection with the incident.
The police’s cyber cell has sent messages to over one crore people across the state asking them not to believe in rumours, Special Inspector General of Police (Cyber Crime) Brijesh Singh said.
Superintendents of police and district collectors have issued advertisements in local newspapers asking people not to believe in rumours and instead inform the police about any such thing, he said.
“We conducted awareness programmes on news and radio channels,” Singh said, adding that the cyber police also created a video and circulated it on WhatsApp groups.
Superintendent of Police (Cyber Cell) Balsing Rajput said anyone found spreading rumours or fake messages on social media with an aim to create tension among people, communities or religions could face stringent action under sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Information Technology Act.
“If the lynching incident, like the one in Dhule, involves killing, then the accused will be charged with murder under IPC section 302,” he said.
If people find any suspicious movement of some persons, they should hand them over to the police, he said.
“The cyber cell police in various districts have been asked to go to villages and hold meetings with locals, prominent people and peace committee members and inform them what they need to do in such situations,” Rajput said.