How a WhatsApp Fake News Led to the Brutal Mob Lynching in Assam?

How a WhatsApp Fake News Led to the Brutal Mob Lynching in Assam?

Share now!
fake news on WhatsApp

One moment, a harmless musician and businessman duo in Assam are going about their normal daily lives. The next moment, a mob pulled them out of their car and lynched them to their deaths. This is India’s new incumbent landscape of Fake News about child kidnappers.

Fake child kidnapping news has buried its poisonous fangs all across India. From Uttar Pradesh to Assam, from Jharkhand to Madhya Pradesh. All over the nation, many innocents have been lynched over fake child kidnapping news.

One rarely ever questions the source of such child kidnapping news before forwarding them to the next of their kin. The June 8 mob lynching in Assam is another shameful demonstration of the fatal epidemic that had gripped mankind – fake news.

What Happened in Assam on June 8?

On June 8, 2018, two youths from Assam were heading to the Kanthilangsho waterfall in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district. Little did an audio engineer, Nilotpal Das, and digital artist, Abhijeet Nath, know that they were on their way to their graves instead of a joyful vacation!

This is how the ghastly event unfolded.

Being Mistaken as Child Kidnappers or ‘khupadhora

On their way to the Karbi Anglong, the youths stopped to ask for directions. The stopover was at Panjuri Kacharigaon, a tribal hamlet around 200 km off Guwahati. That is when a mob comprising about 25 natives of the village suspected them to be child kidnappers or khupadhora.

The duo was then mercilessly dragged out of their car, tied and thrashed by the mob.

Amidst desperate pleas of being another “Assamese”, the mob showed no mercy as they rained blows on the youths. While one of them breathed his last on the spot, his friend succumbed to his injuries in the hospital the next day.

The Circulation of a WhatsApp Fake News about Child Kidnapping Led to the Lynching

Preliminary investigations have revealed that a fake news about child kidnappers from Bihar lurking in Assam spurred the mob lynching. Some miscreants used WhatsApp and Facebook to circulate this fake child kidnapping news. The child kidnapping news sparked off alarm and panic amidst concerned parents and natives.

Karbi Anglong happens to be one of India’s most backward areas. No wonder, its gullible inhabitants accepted this fake child kidnapping news as a gospel.

The WhatsApp forwards about the child kidnappers had no substance. But, two innocent youths paid for them with their lives. All because of the fear that the WhatsApp fake news created amongst people in Assam.

So far, the Assam Police has arrested 64 people. Out of these, most are directly involved in the lynching. One of them is under custody for inciting communal violence by posting offensive social media posts.

The Aftermath of the Mob Lynching in Assam

The brutal killing of innocent individuals is not where mob lynching ends. It can further lead to communal tension, a war of words on Social Media and an uncontrolled commotion. Such is the devastation which fake news can wreak upon our society.

Soon after this infamous mob lynching in Assam, hate comments urging vengeance and counter-retaliation went viral on social media.

Some suggested imposing an economic blockade on the district. In fact, few other rebellious ones insisted on a counter-revenge by hacking random Karbi inhabitants to death!

The anger for Karbis spread like wildfire.

Soon, locals seeking vengeance started harassing Karbi students residing in the city. Some landlords served an immediate vacation notice to Karbis staying in paying guests.

Eventually, a red alert was issued in certain areas of Guwahati.

Fueling of Awareness Campaigns in Assam to Check Spread of Fake News on Social Networking Platforms

Post the June 8 mob lynching, media houses, eminent personalities and other local bodies in Assam have come out in solidarity with the kith and kin of the deceased.

Awareness campaigns, protest marches, and seminars are being organized on a large scale. These seek to create awareness about the spread of fake news on various social networking platforms.

Launching of ‘FakeMat’ Campaign

An Assam-based media house has launched a campaign named “FakeMat”. It aims to educate the masses about the dangers of spreading rumors on digital platforms. The campaign mainly targets the younger generations who comprise the majority of internet users.

The ‘FakeMat’ campaign is leveraging various platforms such as social and digital media along with outdoor activities to spread awareness about Facebook and WhatsApp fake news.

The campaign has received an overwhelming support from the public including Health and Finance Minister (Assam), Himanta Biswa Sarma. He requested the public to not spread any fake news that has the potential of leading to tragic situations, as seen in Assam.

Initiatives by Gauhati University Postgraduate Students’ Union

The Gauhati University Postgraduate Students’ Union has also launched an online campaign to create awareness about spreading of unverified information. The members of the Union have also taken a pledge to not engage in propagation of fake news themselves.

Their campaigns are mainly focusing on the backward sections of the society that tend to be more vulnerable to such false rumors.

The online crusade seeks to encourage people to maintain peace and harmony at all times. Additionally, it also discourages citizens from taking law into their own hands.

Assam Police Intends to Use Social Media to Create Awareness

Many measures have come into place post the mob lynching in Assam over a fake child kidnapping news.

The Assam Police has demonstrated a steady response to curbing the spread of fake news. The Assam Police has decided to use the very medium that is often used to spread such fake news to spread awareness instead.

It has enhanced its social media presence by initiating a special unit for cyber patrolling called ‘Nagarik Mitra’.

The Nagarik Mitra platform intends to prevent the spread of fake news and rumors on social media. It also strives to serve as an informational source for social media users.

Additional Director General of Police (ADGP), Harmeet Singh, spearheading the Social Media Center of Assam Police is very positive about the use of this platform. He believes that it will help in sensitizing the public against those who leverage Social Media and WhatsApp for spreading hate crime and fake news.

You Can Be the Change

It is up to the creators of technology to draw the line when it comes to its use. The ultimate judgment of how we must use social networking platforms lies entirely in our hands. No matter what steps the Government takes, or how many awareness campaigns one is a part of.

The number of social media users is expected to touch 2.77 billion by 2019.

This makes it practically impossible to keep a tab on every message that circulated online!

Gradually, more and more individuals are becoming aware of the responsible use of WhatsApp, Facebook, and other social networking platforms. However, a considerable number continue to remain ignorant of the same.

In the aftermath of a public outrage such as mob lynching due to the spread of fake news, it is vital to identify the source and conduct a thorough investigation of the event.

Incognito Forensic Foundation – In the League of Ensuring the Responsible Utilization of Social Networking Platforms

Incognito Forensic Foundation (IFF Lab), headquartered in Chennai, specializes in offering services for digital and cyber forensic investigations. It houses a state-of-the-art digital forensic laboratory equipped with the latest cyber forensic tools and technologies.

IFF Lab consists of digital forensic experts from premier forensic institutes and renowned industry veterans. It has assisted Law Enforcement Agencies with the investigation of several complex and high-profile cyber crimes.

Reach Out for Consultation and Investigation of Fake News.