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Kathua fallout: Hartal-mongers on Net face vicarious responsibility

Posted April 17th, 2018, 10:22 AM IST

Kathua fallout: Hartal-mongers on Net face vicarious responsibility

Thiruvananthapuram: A hartal call made by some unidentified groups on social media like Facebook and Whatsapp has led to widespread violence across the state, especially in northern districts. The protests over the brutal rape and murder of the eight-year-old girl in Kashmir are a suspected proxy operation by SDPI to cash in on communal sentiments. The misuse of the social media by the unidentified group also posed a fresh challenge to the police as other fringe groups too could adopt the modus operandi.

The state police is exploring the scope of curbing such misuse of social media by registering cases against them across the state for inciting violence. The police may seek the help of the administrators of the social media to trace the source of the messages and implicate them, said sources. State police chief Loknath Behera said in a statement that the shutdown call by unidentified groups could be misused by anti-social elements and hence stern legal actions would be taken to prevent such acts.




About 50 cases were registered, and over 250 people held in connection with stoning vehicles, including KSRTC buses and police jeeps, and forcibly shutting shops. Several cops and KSRTC workers suffered minor injuries. While disowning the hartal call, SDPI admitted that their cadres were among those who made the hartal call as they supported the cause. “SDPI had not called a hartal on Monday. But many of our cadres are among the social media gatherings that called for the hartal. We also plan agitations in coming days to protest the Kathua incident,” said SDPI state general secretary M. K. Manojkumar.

Top police sources said they came to know of the massive spread of hartal message through social media on Sunday evening. All district police units were immediately alerted to take adequate security measures, especially in communally sensitive pockets. The police, however, refrained from issuing a public clarification or alert fearing boomerang. “Had we issued any public alerts to the public or a warning against violence, it could have given more publicity to the hartal,” a senior police official said.

Sources said the proxy hartal call could be a test dose for communal polarisation. While life went as usual in almost all parts of the state initially, only in communally sensitive pockets shops remained closed right from the morning. The hartal supporters later unleashed violence all over the state to shut shops and block vehicles. Majority of the incidents were in northern districts. The hartal call was made on a Facebook page titled ‘United Social Media Users Kerala’ and was shared to various pages and groups. Hartal messages also spread through on WhatsApp groups.

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