Written byGarima Bora
Following the lynching of five men in Maharashtra's Dhule district, Maharashtra Police are taking several preventive steps, including publication of WhatsApp numbers of police control rooms.
Police are roping in fact-checking websites to verify rumors on social media.
"We have issued WhatsApp numbers where people can send messages to seek help (or verify rumors)," said Special Inspector General of Police (Cyber Crime) Brijesh Singh.
WhatsApp messages can be sent to: Maharashtra State Police Control Room - 7506777100 and 7506888100, Navi Mumbai Police - 8424820665, Thane City - 9769724127 and 9969365100, Thane Rural - 7045100222, Palghar - 9730811119 and 9730711119, Raigad - 7057672227 and 7057362226, Mumbai Railway Police - 9833312222.
Police are also taking the help of fact-checking websites such as SM HoaxSlayer, Boom Facts, and Alt News to do a forensic analysis of viral rumors and debunk fake news, Singh said.
He said the government's publicity department, in association with the Cyber Cell of police, is devising short messages for radio, television, and social media platforms about how people should deal with rumors.
A massive awareness campaign has been launched and police officials have been holding press conferences at the district level about dealing with viral rumors and situations involving angry mobs.
Superintendent of Police, Cyber Cell, Balsing Rajput said anyone found spreading rumors on social media to create tension between two groups can be booked under the stringent provisions of the IPC and Information Technology Act.
"If there is a lynching incident, as in Dhule, the accused will be charged for murder," Rajput said.
He said that Cyber Cell personnel at the district level have been asked to go to villages, hold meetings with locals including prominent persons in the area and peace committee members, and tell them what they need to do in such situations.
Five members of a nomadic community were killed by a mob at the Rainpada village in Dhule on July 1. The attack was reportedly triggered by a rumor about a child-lifting gang being active in the area.
In the last one and a half months, 14 incidents of mob attacks fueled by rumors were reported in Maharashtra, in which ten people were killed.
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