A policeman holds recovered arms during a door-to-door search operation in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh.
The Uttar Pradesh police claims the Muzaffarnagar violence was triggered by a violent and gory video posted online as part of a "well organised campaign to create hatred between two religious communities of the country".
Police claims that the video titled "killing of Hindu youths by Muslim mob while they were protecting the honor of their sister" was "at least two years old and appears not to have been filmed in Uttar Pradesh".
Asking people not to pay heed to rumours, IG, Crime Ashish Gupta told reporters in Lucknow that some unscrupulous elements were using social networking sites and SMSes to spread rumours to create tension.
“A video is also being circulated through Facebook and other networking sites to create tension. I want to tell you that the said video is probably over two years old and is of some other country. I appeal to people that they should not pay heed to it,” Gupta told PTI.
The brutal and graphic video clip is apparently one that was shot in 2010 in the Pakistani city of Sialkot when a mob misidentified two brothers as dacoits and brutally lynched them.
So far 31 people have died in the weekend violence and the Army is conducting flag marches in the district.
The police officials said that the video has been blocked and an investigation is being conducted to locate the person who uploaded it.
Trouble started allegedly when a young man from the minority community was killed on August 27, allegedly over an incident that is said to have been triggered off by lewd comments about two girls belonging to the Jat community in Kawal village in the Jaansath tehsil of Muzaffarnagar.
Two of the girl's cousins attacked the young man with knives in retaliation. He suffered serious injuries and died in the hospital.
The series of clashes spun out of control thereafter as the dead man's relatives and local villagers caught hold of the two who had attacked the dead man with knives. These two boys were beaten to death.
The Jat community, in turn, protested, demanding punishment for the killing of the two youth.
The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) wanted to hold a "condolence meet and Jansabha" on August 31 which was postponed for 15 days on the administration's request.
On August 31, the panchayat at Jaansath town demanded action against those responsible for the murder of the two Jat youths. It also called for the removal of the Superintendent of Police of Shamli district for his "partisan behaviour".
It also gave an ultimatum that if action was not taken within a week, a mahapanchayat would meet on September 7 at Nagla Mandaur village to decide the future course of action. Various khaps joined in this call for a mahapanchayat.
The Indian Express reports that villagers had raised the issue of "one-sided action" by administration in the Kawal incident and demanded compensation of Rs 25 lakh each for the family members of the two boys killed on August 27.
The BJP too joined in with a a call for Muzaffarnagar bandh on September 5.
Meanwhile, prohibitory orders under Section 144, of the CrPC, were imposed in the entire district Muzaffarnagar district.
Armed forces and the Rapid Action Force were deployed but tens of thousands of Jats from Rehmatpur, Tejalheda, Baseda, Kakrala, Bhokarhedi, Chachroli converged for the scheduled `Bahu Beti Samaan Bachaoi Mahapanchyat’ in defiance of the curfew.
BJP legislative party leader Hukum Singh, MLAs Suresh Rana, Bhartendu, Sangeet Som and former Congress MP Harendra Malik were among those who attended and addressed the mahapanchayat. Inflammatory and provocative speeches followed, and the anger was fuelled even further when some of the participants were attacked after the meeting. Incidents of firing, stone pelting and violence in which an IBN7 journalist and a part-time photographer of the state police was killed set off a communal conflagration that is yet to subside fully despite the army having been called to control the situation.
This festering protest and lack of police action is said to have provided an opportunity for trouble-mongers to step into the breach.
This is where the old 2010 Pakistani video entered the picture, as that also showed two youth being brutally lynched by a mob. This was projected as the killing of the two boys following the Aug 27 incident.
A BJP MLA is said to have shared this 2010 video from Pakistan on his Facebook profile, asking people to "see what is going on in Muzaffarnagar”. Other groups moved in and the video is said to have been shared widely on Facebook.
An FIR has since been filed against the BJP MLA and other 229 unidentified persons, which included three other BJP MLAs, for sharing the video who have been booked under Sections 420 (forgery), 153-A (promoting enmity on religious grounds) and 120-B (conspiracy) of the IPC and Section 66 of the Information Technology Act at the Kotwali police station in Muzaffarnagar.
The video is then said to have been spread via CDs as well. Whether or not the video played any part in spreading the spiral of violence, this much is clear that some groups have tried to exploit and capitalise on what appears to have been a localised clash and at least spread misinformation on social networking sites.
A similar misinformation campaign seems to have been carried out by changing the headlines of a local newspaper, as this tweet marked to UP Police claimed:
Whoever be the people behind the mininformation campaign, the spiral of violence in Muzaffarnagar has not stopped since then and was aggravated by the posting of this 2010 Pakistan video which was apparently circulated in Muzzafarnagar last week by making it seem as it was the August 27 lynching of two boys by a mob in Kawal village, Muzzafarnagar district.
(With inputs from PTI)