Pune: As conventional media decided to show restraint in coverage of mob violence in Koregaon-Bhima on Sunday, experts believe that messages, posts and videos emanating from various social media channels being circulated wildly flared the already tense situation.
On Tuesday, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis appealed to citizens not to believe in rumours and avoid spreading messages which will incite violence. Many of the videos posted prior to this incident on social media have received have been viewed by thousands of people.
According to the initial assessment, 187 State Transport (ST) buses were damaged across the State in addition to the Rs 1.5 crore estimated loss of property in Koregaon-Bhima and Rs 90 lakh in Sanaswadi.
Many organisations had appealed to community members to gather at Koregaon-Bhima to pay respect to 20 soldiers who lost their lives during the battle on January 1, 1818. As it was the 200th year of the battle between British and Peshwa rulers, over a lakh people were expected to visit the spot.
As the violence sparked between two groups, those who were present near Koregaon-Bhima started posting several videos showing mob pelting stones on parked vehicles. These videos were being shared on WhatsApp and other platforms.
A top cop who does not wish to be named said that all such videos which were created and circulated before the incident and the ones created at the time of the incident, aimed at spreading hatred among the communities, will be probed during the course of the investigation.
Forwarding videos can get you in trouble
It may be understood that in such cases, cops can invoke Section 153 and 153A of Indian Penal Code against a person involved in generating content (posts, photos or videos) or giving speeches - that incite communal riots or provokes communal tension and enmity between communities - through WhatsApp and other social media channels like Facebook and Twitter.
This is not limited to generating and uploading content, but also includes those who forward such messages to other persons or in groups.
Such is punishable by imprisonment from 6 months to one year with a fine.
Similarly, under section 505 punishes persons who spread rumours through their statement to cause public disorder with an imprisonment up to three years.
Pune Police Commissioner Rashmi Shukla has appealed to the citizens of Pune to avoid circulating posts aimed at inciting violence.
Shukla has warned that those spreading such objectionable content online will be dealt with strictly.
Shukla has asked people not to believe in rumours and share information with the police control room if they get some information regarding such posts.