Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh are worried about fake news. Will they tell the BJP IT cell?

As has been documented, the BJP has nurtured a fake news ecosystem that creates material and spreads it through ministers and leaders.

Fake news was not a problem for the Bharatiya Janata Party – until it started coming from the other side. At a function on Monday, Home Minister Rajnath Singh exhorted jawans not to trust unverified information that is going around on WhatsApp because it may come from anti-social elements hoping to “foment trouble”. This comes after Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah on Sunday urged the youth of Gujarat not to believe propaganda that was being shared on social media about his party.

The decision of BJP president and India’s home minister to add their voices to a fight against fake news is heartening. The spread of mobile technology and especially applications like Facebook and WhatsApp have made it easier than ever before for material aimed at whipping up sentiments to be circulated, even if there is no truth to it. A carefully crafted piece of fake news is usually aimed at reinforcing already existing beliefs.

Fake news is a global problem and India has plenty of it, from old stories being passed of as new outrages on WhatsApp to TV channels airing doctored videos. This new element of virality, where a bit of fake news can spread through a community like wildfire, has the potential to be deadly – especially at a time when the state has been unable or unwilling to crack down on incidents like mob lynchings.

Rumour control

It is in the interests of a well-meaning administration to crack down on fake news. Governments abroad have actively taken a role or encouraged the media to increase their fact-checking and hoax-debunking efforts. Earlier this month, for instance, in an effort to prevent the spread of fake news, the United States of America’s Federal Emergency Management Agency even put together a rumour control page as several massive storms were about to hit the country.

In light of this, both Singh and Shah’s remarks might seem encouraging. While Shah seemed more concerned about the damage to his party from an opponent, Singh struck the right note, calling on Indians to be sceptical about the kinds of messages they may receive on WhatsApp.

But while public calls to be more careful about fake news are useful, both Singh and Shah could do much more to combat the problem by starting closer to home: within the BJP. The saffron party was an early pioneer when it came to using the internet for organising and building political awareness. But it has also been at the forefront of the fake news phenomenon, with top party leaders and ministers occasionally revealing the kinds of dishonest messages that are much more rampant among the base.

BJP propaganda

The problem begins at the top, within the BJP’s Information Technology department. The party’s IT Cell head Amit Malviya has frequently been caught spreading fake news. So much so that Sandip Roy in the Huffington Post asked if Malviya is now the BJP’s “biggest liability”. But it pervades the rest of the government as well.

When Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad brazenly says that the government believed in a “right to privacy” despite arguing against it before the Supreme Court, when spokesperson Sambit Patra can dishonestly defame an outgoing vice president of India, when BJP Member of Parliament Paresh Rawal can spread rumours about writer and activist Arundhati Roy, they are all contributing to the fake news economy.

If their only response when being caught it is, at most, deleting, they are doing nothing to stop this scourge. As Altnews has systematically documented, an entire ecosystem has been built up to generate fake news that is then fed into the BJP network and often emerges from the social media accounts of BJP ministers and leaders. Far from being dismantled, this ecosystem – which has also been criticised for helping direct abuse that is often sexist and violent – has been defended by the BJP.

Even as Amit Shah is concerned about Congress propaganda, he may not have much incentive in stopping his party’s own efforts to nurture the fake news industry the BJP has nurtured. Singh, on the other hand, as home minister, has a duty to prevent violence and maintain law and order, which fake news threatens to unsettle. If Singh is genuine about his concerns, he should start by shutting down and making an example of those in his own party who have been shown to share false information.

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Advice from an ex-robber on how to keep your home safe

Tips on a more hands-on approach of keeping your house secure.

Home, a space that is entirely ours, holds together our entire world. Where our children grow-up, parents grow old and we collect a lifetime of memories, home is a feeling as much as it’s a place. So, what do you do when your home is eyed by miscreants who prowl the neighbourhood night and day, plotting to break in? Here are a few pre-emptive measures you can take to make your home safe from burglars:

1. Get inside the mind of a burglar

Before I break the lock of a home, first I bolt the doors of the neighbouring homes. So that, even if someone hears some noise, they can’t come to help.

— Som Pashar, committed nearly 100 robberies.

Burglars study the neighbourhood to keep a check on the ins and outs of residents and target homes that can be easily accessed. Understanding how the mind of a burglar works might give insights that can be used to ward off such danger. For instance, burglars judge a house by its front doors. A house with a sturdy door, secured by an alarm system or an intimidating lock, doesn’t end up on the burglar’s target list. Upgrade the locks on your doors to the latest technology to leave a strong impression.

Here are the videos of 3 reformed robbers talking about their modus operandi and what discouraged them from robbing a house, to give you some ideas on reinforcing your home.


2. Survey your house from inside out to scout out weaknesses

Whether it’s a dodgy back door, a misaligned window in your parent’s room or the easily accessible balcony of your kid’s room, identify signs of weakness in your home and fix them. Any sign of neglect can give burglars the idea that the house can be easily robbed because of lax internal security.

3. Think like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone

You don’t need to plant intricate booby traps like the ones in the Home Alone movies, but try to stay one step ahead of thieves. Keep your car keys on your bed-stand in the night so that you can activate the car alarm in case of unwanted visitors. When out on a vacation, convince the burglars that the house is not empty by using smart light bulbs that can be remotely controlled and switched on at night. Make sure that your newspapers don’t pile up in front of the main-door (a clear indication that the house is empty).

4. Protect your home from the outside

Collaborate with your neighbours to increase the lighting around your house and on the street – a well-lit neighbourhood makes it difficult for burglars to get-away, deterring them from targeting the area. Make sure that the police verification of your hired help is done and that he/she is trustworthy.

While many of us take home security for granted, it’s important to be proactive to eliminate even the slight chance of a robbery. As the above videos show, robbers come up with ingenious ways to break in to homes. So, take their advice and invest in a good set of locks to protect your doors. Godrej Locks offer a range of innovative locks that are un-pickable and un-duplicable. To secure your house, see here.

The article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Godrej Locks and not by the Scroll editorial team.