communal riots

BJP leaders fail to delete fake news posts about Bengal riots, despite images being discredited

As many as seven communal flare ups have been triggered in the state in the past month by social media posts.

At a press conference on Saturday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee decided to address the menace of fake news in fuelling last week’s riots in the state. “Video clips of an incident in Comilla, Bangladesh, and a Bhojpuri film were being shown as if these incidents had taken place in [West] Bengal,” Banerjee noted. “There is Fakebook happening in the name of Facebook. I respect Facebook but not Fakebook.”

For the past week, an unlikely threat has buffeted West Bengal: social media. A week ago, on July 2, Muslim mobs rioted through Baduria town in North 24 Parganas district. The trigger was a derogatory cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad posted by a teenage boy on his Facebook wall.

Instead of prompting more cautious use of social media, the riot has unleashed a flood of fake news. The scale of violence was exaggerated, incidents were misrepresented and claims were made about attacks against Hindus that had simply not occurred.

Fake news mills

On June 5, ABP News debunked one such social media rumour that held that a Hindu woman had been lynched by a Muslim mob in West Bengal. It turned out that the woman was Muslim and the incident had no religious colour to it: the mob had accused the victim of baby snatching.

Fact-checking website Altnews.in went on to quash a few more highly-circulated fake news posts.

Posted on Twitter, this photo below purports to be of the parents of the Baduria boy who had posted the controversial cartoon. It is actually a picture of an incident in Bangladesh, as detailed by TheLallantop.com. In fact, the boy’s neighbours had told Scroll.in that his mother had died when he was still a child.

This photo below isn’t from the Baduria riot either – it’s from 2014.

Accompanying the image below, the text in Bengali reads “Hindu women are getting assaulted in Baduria”.

In reality, the picture is a still from a Bhojpuri movie. This image was circulated by a senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader, Vijeta Malik. Sexual assault as a trope in communal violence has the capacity to stir great emotion – which would maybe explain why this particular bit of fake news spread quickly. To capitalise on this sentiment, unverified claims of “Hindu sisters and daughters being raped” in Baduria were made even by BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya after violence broke out in the town.

The fake news from the BJP didn’t stop here. In particuarly ironic moment, a BJP spokesperson, Nupur Sharma, and one of its national joint secretaries, Shivprakash, tried to pass off a photo from the 2002 Gujarat pogrom – which occurred when Narendra Modi was chief minister of the state – as being from West Bengal.

Joining the fake news bandwagon was the BJP’s national head of Information Technology Amit Malviya: he shared an old photo of violence in West Bengal trying to pass it off as a current event.

In spite of multiple sources – including news reports – pointing out that the photos shared were fake, these BJP leaders did not delete their tweets.

West Bengal’s response

West Bengal Chief Minister Banerjee as well as top police officials have put out messages warning residents to be wary of fake news on social media. This has also been accompanied by hard power: a person spreading the still from the Bhojpuri film as an incident from Baduria has been arrested by the Kolkata Police.

In medium term, the West Bengal government said that it plans to set up more than 60,000 peace committees across the state. The continuous nature of fake news means that these multi-faith committees, the West Bengal government hopes, would be its first response team to any inkling of tension in the area.

Given the fragile nature of communal relations in the state, West Bengal’s emphasis on combatting fake news is not misplaced. The past month has seen as many as seven communal flare-ups in the state, all triggered by social media posts.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Virat Kohli and Ola come together to improve Delhi's air quality

The onus of curbing air-pollution is on citizens as well

A recent study by The Lancet Journal revealed that outdoor pollution was responsible for 6% of the total disease burden in India in 2016. As a thick smog hangs low over Delhi, leaving its residents gasping for air, the pressure is on the government to implement SOS measures to curb the issue as well as introduce long-term measures to improve the air quality of the state. Other major cities like Mumbai, Pune and Kolkata should also acknowledge the gravitas of the situation.

The urgency of the air-pollution crisis in the country’s capital is being reflected on social media as well. A recent tweet by Virat Kohli, Captain of the Indian Cricket Team, urged his fans to do their bit in helping the city fight pollution. Along with the tweet, Kohli shared a video in which he emphasized that curbing pollution is everyone’s responsibility. Apart from advocating collective effort, Virat Kohli’s tweet also urged people to use buses, metros and Ola share to help reduce the number of vehicles on the road.

In the spirit of sharing the responsibility, ride sharing app Ola responded with the following tweet.

To demonstrate its commitment to fight the problem of vehicular pollution and congestion, Ola is launching #ShareWednesdays : For every ​new user who switches to #OlaShare in Delhi, their ride will be free. The offer by Ola that encourages people to share resources serves as an example of mobility solutions that can reduce the damage done by vehicular pollution. This is the fourth leg of Ola’s year-long campaign, #FarakPadtaHai, to raise awareness for congestion and pollution issues and encourage the uptake of shared mobility.

In 2016, WHO disclosed 10 Indian cities that made it on the list of worlds’ most polluted. The situation necessitates us to draw from experiences and best practices around the world to keep a check on air-pollution. For instance, a system of congestion fees which drivers have to pay when entering central urban areas was introduced in Singapore, Oslo and London and has been effective in reducing vehicular-pollution. The concept of “high occupancy vehicle” or car-pool lane, implemented extensively across the US, functions on the principle of moving more people in fewer cars, thereby reducing congestion. The use of public transport to reduce air-pollution is another widely accepted solution resulting in fewer vehicles on the road. Many communities across the world are embracing a culture of sustainable transportation by investing in bike lanes and maintenance of public transport. Even large corporations are doing their bit to reduce vehicular pollution. For instance, as a participant of the Voluntary Traffic Demand Management project in Beijing, Lenovo encourages its employees to adopt green commuting like biking, carpooling or even working from home. 18 companies in Sao Paulo executed a pilot program aimed at reducing congestion by helping people explore options such as staggering their hours, telecommuting or carpooling. After the pilot, drive-alone rates dropped from 45-51% to 27-35%.

It’s the government’s responsibility to ensure that the growth of a country doesn’t compromise the natural environment that sustains it, however, a substantial amount of responsibility also lies on each citizen to lead an environment-friendly lifestyle. Simple lifestyle changes such as being cautious about usage of electricity, using public transport, or choosing locally sourced food can help reduce your carbon footprint, the collective impact of which is great for the environment.

Ola is committed to reducing the impact of vehicular pollution on the environment by enabling and encouraging shared rides and greener mobility. They have also created flat fare zones across Delhi-NCR on Ola Share to make more environment friendly shared rides also more pocket-friendly. To ensure a larger impact, the company also took up initiatives with City Traffic Police departments, colleges, corporate parks and metro rail stations.

Join the fight against air-pollution by using the hashtag #FarakPadtaHai and download Ola to share your next ride.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Ola and not by the Scroll editorial team.