India hunts 'fake news' spreaders after anti-Muslim attacks

Four mosques were vandalised and several Muslim-owned homes and businesses were ransacked in Tripura last month

AFP November 07, 2021
Students in New Delhi took to the streets to protest the eviction of Muslims and police tactics in Assam state. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Indian police are seeking the owners of around 100 social media accounts accused of sharing "fake news" after mob attacks on mosques in the country's northeast.

Last month's violence in Tripura state erupted on the sidelines of a rally for hundreds of followers of a right-wing Hindu nationalist group.

The incident appeared to be a revenge attack prompted by the killing of several Hindu worshippers across the border in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

Read more: Muslim body in India to rebuild mosques vandalised in Tripura

Four mosques were vandalised and several Muslim-owned homes and businesses were ransacked.

According to police, people aiming to whip up further violence shared misleading images on social media after the incident.

"The accounts identified were spreading rumours, fake news, fake videos and fake photographs that were not even linked to Tripura," a senior police officer in the state told AFP on Sunday, on condition of anonymity.

"It is still too early but everyone will be identified and arrested for such fabrications."

A police report released to media on Saturday identified 102 posts that it said were published by "unknown miscreants" to provoke conflict between "people of differing religious communities".

Local media reports said police had written to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to demand the posts be removed.

Also read: Mosques vandalised in India in protest against Bangladesh violence

Much of the offending posts had been removed by Sunday and AFP could not determine their content.

Those that remained online largely appeared to be highlighting the plight of Muslims targeted in the attacks.

"Tripura is burning!" read a post by an Indian journalist based in New Delhi, which was published on the day of the incident without accompanying photos or footage and highlighted in the police document.

Last month's attacks put the state on high alert, with security forces guarding mosques and police banning gatherings of more than four people.

Tripura is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party.

Leaders of India's minority Muslim community say they have increasingly been subject to attacks and threats, with little opportunity for official recourse, since the Hindu nationalist party came to power in 2014.

"The state government is yet to initiate any big action against those who perpetrated violence," said a statement from a coalition of Indian Muslim groups on Saturday.

"Those police officers who did not prevent the violence should also be subject to enquiry and action must be taken against them," it added.


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