New Delhi: The Delhi Police is in the process of registering a case under the IT Act to crack down on those it claims spread “fake news” during the Jamia protests, including social media posts that contained videos suggesting police had burned DTC buses.
The police are also disputing claims that they entered the hostels of Jamia Millia Islamia and will now take action against those who put out posts claiming they did.
According to a source in the police, investigation of the violence reported from South Delhi’s Jamia area Sunday afternoon has revealed that they were allegedly fuelled by “irresponsible posts” peddling fake news on social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp.
The source told ThePrint that police have identified 10 to 12 inflammatory posts that were put out to “flare sentiments in an already charged environment”.
“There were some people who planned to put out these posts that instigated people to come out on the streets. These posts suggested that police had opened fire on people, killing a few and had barged inside hostels to drag students out,” a police source said.
“Once these posts were circulated, rumours spread like wildfire and people in residential areas around the university campus came out in large numbers to attack the police,” the source added.
“These locals then started pelting stones and indulged in arson. When we tried to push them back, they set bikes afire and also burnt two buses and vandalised public property.”
The police have also decided to take action against those who put out videos showing policemen pouring a liquid on a DTC bus. While many on social media claimed that the policemen were setting the bus afire, police have claimed that they were actually dousing the flames.
The videos have been shared by many on social media, including Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.
The Delhi Police has been under fire for its actions at Jamia Millia and its headquarters had been besieged by protesters late Sunday.
The situation at the headquarters was relatively peaceful Monday morning, with the protesters vacating the area outside by 4:30 am. The barricades outside the main gate of the police building in ITO were removed by 10:30 am but several gunmen and cops were seen proactively asking passersby to not stand near the entrance gate.
Exercise on to identify the creators of the fake posts
The Delhi Police has now begun work on identifying those behind the “fake posts” and has roped in a technical team to help with the work.
Speaking to ThePrint, an officer investigating the incident said those who shared and circulated the posts without any verification too will be liable.
“The experts will look at the technical aspect. Anything digital when created has a hash value. Also, there is a technology called video DNA that helps reach the creator of the content,” the officer said. “Every time a video is shared or sent on WhatsApp, it leaves a digital sign that can be traced back from where it originated. The creator of that content can certainly be tracked,” he added.
“Moreover, the persons who shared and circulate these posts too are liable.”
According to the same source, the police are also making a list of people who peddled and circulated fake news on social media.
‘Lot of rumours were spread’
The Delhi Police is now claiming that a lot of rumours were spread throughout the two days of protests in the national capital.
“There have been so many rumours that are being spread and it is our responsibility to clarify our stand,” DCP M.S. Randhawa told ThePrint. “First of all, there were no casualties reported after or during the clash. It is wrong to say that the police opened fire,” he said.
“First they said three students died, then they said two are dead. No one died in the clash,” Randhawa added.
He also denied claims that the police had set fire to buses.
“Then people started saying that the police were setting vehicles on fire. Delhi Police is a professional force and we exercised great restraint in handling the protest. Why would the police set vehicles afire?” he asked. “The policemen were just trying to douse the fire. You can see the bus on which the policeman was pouring water is parked safely in a lot.”
He further said the allegations about police entering hostel rooms and misbehaving with women students too were baseless.
“We never entered a hostel room. It was a residential building in Mata Mandir Marg,” he said. “The police had gone inside to pull out the protesters who had gone in. The idea was not to attack students at all,” Randhawa said.
“It is incredible how people on social media used visuals of Patna and Aligarh as that of Jamia Millia Islamia to provoke locals and incite violence,” he said. “In fact, another video in which the policemen are seen firing rounds is not from Sunday’s protest.”
Delhi Police headquarters back to normal
The situation outside the police headquarters remained relatively peaceful Monday, after witnessing a massive protest Sunday night.
There was, however, tight security throughout Monday, especially in the first half of the day. Constable Rajesh Kumar, who was on the morning shift, told ThePrint, “We were not prepared last night for something like this, so now all safety measures are being taken.”
Another policeman, Sajid, was struggling to read the graffiti that the protesters from the previous night had sprayed across the police headquarters.
The main board at the headquarters had a Swastika sign, a Nazi symbol.
- With additional inputs from Aneesha Bedi.