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OPINION | How fanatics are using 21st century digital means to take India to 14th century

In Bareilly, UP, a video surfaced in which a man named Nasir was quarrelling with somebody and saying, he would behead Nupur Sharma, and kill those who are supporting her. Police immediately arrested Nasir within a few hours.

Rajat Sharma Written By: Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive New Delhi Updated on: July 08, 2022 16:08 IST
OPINION | How fanatics are using 21st century digital means
Image Source : INDIA TV OPINION | How fanatics are using 21st century digital means to take India to 14th century

The brutal beheading of tailor Kanhaiyalal in Udaipur and the beheading threat videos circulated by two ‘khadims’ of Ajmer Sharif shrine has resulted in a bandwagon effect. Threats of beheading are now being given to commoners in Rajasthan, mostly through social media.

In Bharatpur, two unknown persons on July 6 stopped an ambulance driver Mukesh Kumar, threw a handwritten note at him and showed him a dagger while threatening him with consequences if he reported to the police.

On the note was written: “If you carry on supporting Kanhaiyalal and Nupur Sharma, you will be beheaded within 10 days.” On the note was written ‘Sar Tan Se Juda’ (beheading) addressed to two persons, Satish Chand, a grocer, and Pramod, a government school teacher, said Shiv Lahri, SHO of Kaithwada police station, Bharatpur. Police said, security has been provided to both the persons. Satish Chand’s son Mohit Khandelwal said, his father was not on social media, nor had he shared any post.

Similar death threats have been received by several persons in Udaipur, Jodhpur and some other places of Rajasthan. After the brutal beheading in Udaipur, Rajasthan police has started taking serious note of these threats.

On Thursday, police in Udaipur arrested four persons, Abdul Bari, Gufran Husain, Shahid Nawaz Khan and Shoaib Jilani, on charge of threatening a youth in Sundarwas locality, who had posted his comments on social media supporting Nupur Sharma. On receiving his complaint, police arrested the four persons.

These are mischievous and anti-social elements trying to strike terror in the hearts of common people by giving death threats. There is no need for law abiding citizens to fear. They should immediately report to the police when they get such threats. And police should be told to respond quickly.

In Kanhaiylal’s case, he had complained to police about the threats, but police did not act in time and he lost his life. Police shouldput it's act together before people start losing confidence in the state police. The ‘merchants of hate and death’ are active and police must keep a close watch on such activity.

The situation has come to an extent where old videos are being brought out  and made viral to spread the poison of hate. Some videos show people giving call to cut off the tongue or head, and offering rewards. Some people try to settle personal scores.

I have several such hate videos with me, most of which are either old or fake or based on hearsay or rumour, and a small spark can cause fire.  Everyone has to be very careful because some of these videos might land in your cellphones.

For example on Thursday, a video from Mewat, Haryana, became viral, and the state government immediately took notice. The video shows several Muslims staging protest, shouting inflammatory slogans, and a man named Irshad offering to give Rs 2 crore to anybody who will cut off Nupur Sharma’s tongue. On checking, it was found that the video was made on June 12 at a rally in Mewat, Haryana. Local police said the rally was taken out without permission, and police is now investigating the origin of this video.

In Bareilly, UP, a video surfaced in which a man named Nasir was quarrelling with somebody and saying, he would behead Nupur Sharma, and kill those who are supporting her. Police immediately arrested Nasir within a few hours.

In Moradabad, UP, police have arrested three persons for threatening a supporter of Nupur Sharma by saying that they would do the same act that was done against Kanhaiyalal in Udaipur. After he complained to police, three persons, Shahnawaz Alam, Danish and a juvenile, were arrested. Police have found an audio clip in which these persons were giving threats.

In Mumbai’s Girgaum locality, a 16-year-old girl received death threats when she posted her video on Facebook on July 1, three days after the brutal beheading of Kanhaiyalal. In the video she described the beheading as a big challenge for future.

In the video, she neither supported Nupur Sharma, nor did she make any comment against any religion. She only said, “if Kanhaiyalal’s murder does not wake you up, then your turn could be the next.” Soon afterwards, an unidentified person called her up on WhatsApp number and threatened to kill her. The girl filed a complaint at V P Road police station, and the police is now on the lookout of that person.

It is a good question that why should a teenage girl talk about religion and politics.  But the brutal manner in which Kanhaiyalal was beheaded, has become a talking point even among teenagers. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal society, particularly so, because in Kanhaiylal’s case, the killers gave him threat, carried out the brutal act, and then recorded everything on camera in order to circulate it on social media, so that it can reach the largest number of viewers.

What happened subsequently was inevitable. The video of threats and brutal beheading reached the cellphones of maximum number of people, and each one of them reacted in one’s own manner. The 16-year-old Mumbai girl posted her video on Facebook on July 1, and the next day, on July 2, she got three phone calls on her WhatsApp number, in which the person threatened to kill her. Mumbai Police has deployed an assistant police inspector and two constables to protect the girl and her family members.

There are people who try to settle personal scores too. In Ghaziabad, UP, a man named Parvez, in order to trap his neighbour, Sadar Khan, in Loni area, sent a letter of threat to a businessman, saying he would meet the fate of Kanhaiyalal for supporting Nupur Sharma. When police investigated, it was found that the letter was not written by Sadar Khan, but his neighbour, Parvez. Police promptly arrested him.

One can well imagine the tense situation that has been created after the beheading and subsequent threats. On Thursday, in Karauli, Rajasthan, there was a quarrel between two youths in Bhudara Bazar locality, and soon, rumours spread about a riot. Most of the shopkeepers downed their shutters, and residents brought their children home from school. During the quarrel, weapons were used from both sides, but rumours were circulated about a big riot taking place.

Rumour mongering, forwarding objectionable videos and giving death threats, have brought about a situation where such inimical forces can create a divide in our society. Remember, people are using 21st century digital means to take this country back to the Middle Age of 14th century.

Whether you are a Hindu or a Muslim, you must identify such people, and expose them in society. While forwarding any objectionable message on social media, think several times about the intent of the person who had sent it to you. Think about the intent of the person who has created an objectionable video. If all of us remain vigilant, then a handful of religious zealots and fanatics cannot harm society by misusing religious sentiments.

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