Cops trying to nab those who used WhatsApp to try and spark riots in Lalbaug

Police officials say that after the clash on January 4, mischief mongers used old and unrelated photos to fan hatred; commissioner Rakesh Maria says case has been registered

An inquiry into the inflammatory WhatsApp messages circulated following the clash between members of two communities in Lalbaug on January 4 has revealed that mischief mongers used old or unrelated photos to fan hatred and create a riot-like situation.

Police chief Rakesh Maria took to the streets to control the violence in Parel and prevent the situation from getting out of hand on January 4. File pic
Police chief Rakesh Maria took to the streets to control the violence in Parel and prevent the situation from getting out of hand on January 4. File pic

“We have registered an offence under Section 505 (Statements conducing to public mischief of the IPC and Section 66A (Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc) of the IT act,” said Mumbai Police commissioner, Rakesh Maria.

The police have learnt that the day the clash took place, a 14-year-old boy had met with an accident near Mazgaon Court, Byculla, and died at J J Hospital because of the injuries from the accident. “Somebody had clicked a picture of the boy and was circulating it on a WhatsApp group saying that he had been beaten up by members of another community when there was nothing like that.

There were also other messages with the picture of the boy, saying that members of the community should get up and do something,” said a senior police officer. “In another case, a damaged bike was shown and it was said that it had been damaged by a mob at Manish Market area.

When we checked, we learnt that the bike was from Karnataka and the incident had taken place in Belgaum, where a dispute is already on,” he added. Officials said that though the police have not got any help from WhatsApp so far, they are now going to write to it with the help of Central agencies to help them find where the messages originated from and who the original senders were.

“We want to find out who downloaded or clicked the pictures of the boy in J J Hospital and circulated it with the intention of creating a wall between the two communities. We are treating peace on the ground and in cyberspace as equally important,” said Maria.

The Bhoiwada police is inquiring into the matter with the help of the Cyber Crime cell of the Mumbai Police. Officials said the police want to arrest the accused in this case to send out a strong signal, so that people think twice before circulating fake messages with the intention of causing panic and creating an adverse law-and-order situation.

Firm speak
WhatsApp has, till date, claimed that it is an application-based service and it does not store any data. Mumbai Police, however, claim that they will take help from Central agencies to crack the case. The Cyber Crime cell is also ready to call each and every person who got such messages to trace the original senders.

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