New Delhi: Police investigations have revealed that three doctored videos circulating widely on messaging apps were among the reasons behind violent mob frenzy in Maharashtra, leading to the death of nine men and injuring ten others within 25 days. The manipulated video clips showed two men on motorcycles picking up a boy, women putting on burkhas while walking on a road and a boy telling reporters that he was kidnapped from Buldhana, Indian Express reported.
According to the police, these three videos either do not belong to the locations claimed in WhatsApp messages accompanying them or have been deliberately doctored to misrepresent facts. Investigators have also said that they are looking into the authenticity of at least two more videos that are doing the rounds, the newspaper reported.
“All the three videos misrepresent incidents of kidnapping in order to create panic,” Harsh Poddar, additional superintendent of police, Nashik rural, told the Indian Express.
The newspaper reported that the most widely circulated video – which shows two men on motorcycles going up to a group of children playing at the same of the road, picking one of them up and driving away – is actually party of a campaign by a Karachi-based NGO to raise awareness about missing children.
The NGO, Roshni Helpline, has told Indian Express that it is ‘appalled’ at the misuse of the video, which it says was widely successful in Karachi and was responsible for reuniting ten children with their families. “The clip used in the WhatsApp messages in India has been edited to remove the context and messaging. It shows CCTV footage of a child being snatched by two men on a motorbike. What it hides (which is in the original video) is the two men returning to the spot and placing the child back. One of the men then holds up a sign that reads, ‘It takes only a moment to kidnap a child from the streets of Karachi’. It also contains text that states, ‘Every year, over 3,000 children go missing in Karachi, Pakistan. Keep an eye on your child’,” a spokesperson from the NGO said.
The second video, which shows women changing into burkhas, has nothing to do with kidnapping, Poddar said. “It wasn’t even a case of kidnapping, but the video was spread with the claim that the women are kidnappers and that the incident had taken place in Nandurbar, which is close to Malegaon. However, we found that the actual location of the video is Bengaluru,” he told Indian Express.
Police investigations revealed that the third video – of a child saying he was kidnapped – had been edited in a manner that it did not tell the entire story. In the latter part, the child retracted his story and said that he willingly accompanied the man, known to his family.
Maharashtra has seen a number of instances of mob violence recently, which are said to have been instigated by videos like this, feeding rumours of child-lifters being in the area and adding fuel to the fear of ‘outsiders’. On July 1, five men from the nomadic Nath Panthi Davari Gosavi community were lynched in Dhule, based on rumours of child-lifting. On the same day, police rescued a group belonging to the same community as they were attacked by locals in Malegaon who assumed they were child-lifters.