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Donkey poop a COVID-19 hack? Kolkata police take down 600 social media posts for ‘rumours’

The crackdown came after West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee warned against the spread of rumours about the coronavirus crisis after the state discovered its first patient.

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Kolkata: Police in Kolkata have taken down 600 social media posts and summoned 14 people since Wednesday for allegedly spreading panic and rumours about the coronavirus pandemic.

The crackdown came after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee warned against the spread of rumours about the coronavirus crisis after the state discovered its first patient.

The posts taken down allegedly contained “misinformation, rumour, texts and images that may lead to a public health hazard and threat to public sanity”.

According to Kolkata police officers, the social media posts included superimposed pictures over screen grabs from media channels to suggest fake information, false notices attributed to the World Health Organization (WHO), and “home tips to keep corona at bay”. 

The “home tips”, the officers said, included suggestions to eat “cow dung or donkey poop mixed with camphor and cardamom” daily and drinking one bottle of cow urine every three hours for immunity. 

Some posts also alleged a “quarantine” situation in the state, claiming that top ministers of the government had “self-isolated” themselves. 

A total of 14 people have been summoned to the Kolkata police headquarters at Lalbazar and interrogated, and two FIRs lodged for “creating panic and breach of peace”. 

The charges invoked include those dealing with provocations with intent to cause riot (IPC Section 153) and provoke breach of the peace (IPC Section 504), and publishing or circulating any statement, rumour or report that may cause alarm or fear (IPC Section 505).

Speaking to ThePrint, Kolkata police commissioner Anuj Sharma said the force had “formed a special team to maintain a strict vigil on cyberspace”. 

“Hundreds of posts were deleted or taken down by our team. We summoned some people to counsel them and reach the actual trouble-makers,” he added. 

“Any social media posts that may pose a threat to public peace and sanity will be considered a violation of the law. We will initiate strict action, including registering cases, under the cybersecurity law against the offenders. We are appealing to people to be responsible and sensitive.” 

Also Read: 1994 Surat plague has many lessons for India on how to beat coronavirus

Mamata warns against rumours

The first known case of coronavirus in West Bengal was detected Tuesday night. The next day, Chief Minister Banerjee, while attending a programme at state secretariat Nabanna, said she had “instructed the police commissioner to lodge FIRs against anybody who will indulge in rumour-mongering and create panic”. 

“We are passing through a tough time, a global health scare and people should behave now. This is above politics. I will appeal to all political parties to set aside their political agendas for the time being and act responsibly,” she added. “FIRs will be lodged and action will be taken if we see any violation.” 

The Chief Minister will Thursday hold a high-level meeting with all top civil servants, and heads of hospitals and testing laboratories to take stock of the situation in the state. She will also participate in the prime minister video conference with chief ministers Friday. 

Also Read: Why Pakistan is the most chilled out in a world hit by coronavirus




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