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Tripura Anti-Muslim Violence: How Social Media Was Used to Mobilize Mobs

The Quint studied the social media profiles and WhatsApp groups of some local right-wing leaders.

Published
India
7 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Tripura Violence: How Hindus Were Systematically Mobilized Using Social Media</p></div>
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Trigger Warning: Some of the visuals used in the story may be disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.

A spell of violence had gripped Tripura in the third week of October, with homes and places of worship belonging to Muslims being targeted.

The pretext for the violence is said to have been the attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh which the state shares a border with.

Hindus were attacked, houses were burnt and temples were vandalized in Bangladesh over the desecration of a Hindu deity and the Quran, during Durga puja.

There were protests across the country, including Tripura where right-wing groups like Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Hindu Jagran Manch led the rallies.

There were instances of protestors clashing with police personnel over being denied permission for the rally. This was followed by a spell of violence where Muslim settlements were attacked, at least 15 mosques were allegedly burnt or vandalized and shops owned by Muslims were set on fire, according to Maktoob Media.

Local right-wing leaders claimed that the situation got violent because either they were “provoked by Muslims” or “a small group of people caused it.”

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While the police have imposed section 144 in areas that saw violence, tensions remain high. For the sake of this article, it must also be noted that Muslims account for less than 10 per cent of the state's population.

This article will look at how social media was used to mobilise mobs in Tripura. This is critical to answering the question whether the violence caused was spontaneous or pre-planned.

The Quint studied the social media profiles and WhatsApp groups of some local right-wing leaders who were present in the rallies in Udaipur.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Group of local leaders at the protest rally in Udaipur, Tripura</p></div>

Group of local leaders at the protest rally in Udaipur, Tripura

(Photo: Facebook)

(Photo posted on 21st October)

In the subsequent parts of this story, we will take you through some trends which were used to mobilize people against Muslims.

‘Hindu Khatre Mein Hain’

Most of the posts put up by these leaders primarily aimed at the notion ‘Hindus are in danger and we need to do something about it.’

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Translation: Oh my Hindu brother, rise! No one else will stand for you.&nbsp;</p></div>

Translation: Oh my Hindu brother, rise! No one else will stand for you. 

(Posted on 24th October 2021)

Some posts tried to invoke the 'Hindu pride', by saying something along the lines of ‘If you are a true Hindu then you must act now’. The posts also talked about leaving political differences aside because 'being Hindu is above all'.
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Translation: If there's even a single drop of Hindu blood then forget politics and come to BBI ground on 21.10.2021 evening, as a Hindu</p></div>

Translation: If there's even a single drop of Hindu blood then forget politics and come to BBI ground on 21.10.2021 evening, as a Hindu

(Posted on 19 October 2021)

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Translation: Hindu religion is above Congress, CPIM, Trinamool and BJP. Today is the day to prove it. Jai Shree Ram</p></div>

Translation: Hindu religion is above Congress, CPIM, Trinamool and BJP. Today is the day to prove it. Jai Shree Ram

(Posted on 18 October 2021)

While others talked about the 'safety of Hindus in Tripura' by claiming “if Hindus can be attacked in Bangladesh, how long is it before Hindus can’t protect their homes in Tripura either, against Islamic Jihad?”

<div class="paragraphs"><p></p></div>

Translation: Namaste, Jai Shree Ram. If we don't stand up against the atrocities against Hindus in Bangladesh by Muslims, then tomorrow we won't be able to protect our own homes. So Hindu brothers and sisters need to immediately rise up against this. To raise your voice against Islamic Jihad over Hindutva, gather at BBI ground tomorrow at 4pm. Raise your voice so loud that it scares the Islamist Jihadis.

Circulars shared on WhatsApp groups called for 'Hindus to unite'. It talked about how despite following different ‘gurus’, they are still 'Hindu at the end of the day', and so it is their responsibility to protect the respect of their religion.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Translation: Tomorrow 18/10/2021 Monday 4pm, Hindu Jagran Manch is organisisng a rally in Udaipur's BBI ground to protest the atrocities committed against Hindus in Bangladesh. You might be followers of different gurus, but above all we are all Hindus. Come forward to save the dignity of Hindus. (The desecration of the idol in Cumilla is a political conspiracy)</p></div>

Translation: Tomorrow 18/10/2021 Monday 4pm, Hindu Jagran Manch is organisisng a rally in Udaipur's BBI ground to protest the atrocities committed against Hindus in Bangladesh. You might be followers of different gurus, but above all we are all Hindus. Come forward to save the dignity of Hindus. (The desecration of the idol in Cumilla is a political conspiracy)

(Posted on 17 October 2021)

These posts which were mostly posted between 17-21 October called for people to assemble for ‘Hunkar rallies’.
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Translation: See you tomorrow in front of Geeta Bhavan. Let the Hunkar of Kurukshetra be Heard again.&nbsp;</p></div>

Translation: See you tomorrow in front of Geeta Bhavan. Let the Hunkar of Kurukshetra be Heard again. 

(Posted on 20 October 2021)

Some posts even carried a provocative tone. For example, this particular post talks about “how there are several Hindus, but the only difference between them is who has a spine and who doesn’t.”

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<div class="paragraphs"><p>Translation: Hindus come and go. The only difference is if you have a spine or not.&nbsp;</p></div>

Translation: Hindus come and go. The only difference is if you have a spine or not. 

(Posted on 19 October 2021)

It must be noted that Tripura shares a border with Bangladesh on three sides, and its capital Agartala is hardly 10 kilometers away from the Bangladesh border. Cumilla, where the deity was desecrated is also 10 kilometers away from the Tripura border.

Provocative Posts Against Muslims

WhatsApp groups saw posts highlighting the violence in Bangladesh with a question posed: "Do you want the same to happen in Tripura?"

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Translation: Do you want something like this to happen in Tripura?</p></div>

Translation: Do you want something like this to happen in Tripura?

(The Quint couldn't independently verify the authenticity of the photos.)

(Posted on 17 October 2021)

The groups also saw frequent posts which included unverified videos targeted against the minority religion over issues like ‘Love Jihad’, and ‘how Pakistan treats Hindus’.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Translation: Learn what is being about Hindus in Pakistan</p></div>

Translation: Learn what is being about Hindus in Pakistan

(The Quint couldn't independently verify the authenticity of the posts.)

Meanwhile on more public platforms like Facebook, posts about how ‘People should not be quiet against unrighteous acts' were shared.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Translation: We are not Gandhi's three monkeys that we will stay silent against unrighteous acts.&nbsp;</p></div>

Translation: We are not Gandhi's three monkeys that we will stay silent against unrighteous acts. 

(Posted on 18 October 2021)

Some posts said how Ram wants to live with communal harmony but Rohim want to ‘rule alone’.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Translation:&nbsp;Ram  wants to live with communal harmony but Rohim  want to rule alone. So if they are brothers, then why the discrimination.&nbsp;</p></div>

Translation: Ram wants to live with communal harmony but Rohim want to rule alone. So if they are brothers, then why the discrimination. 

(Posted on 19 October 2021)

There were also posts describing what happened in Cumilla Bangladesh in relation to the desecration, but not at all the information has been verified yet. One post, dated 20 October, talks about how some of the 'real' culrpits are still absconding and that the police have not arrested them yet. The post ends with a question asking ‘whether the Bangladeshi Muslims will set fire to the houses of the culprits, or will they be forgiven?’

Tripura Anti-Muslim Violence: How Social Media Was Used to Mobilize Mobs

(The Quint couldn't independently verify the authenticity of the posted content.)

Translation: The temple's priest on his way to the temple heard about the violence and then didn't go there. But people say that he didn't let the Quran be removed from the lap of Hanuman.

The person who was supposed to guard the temple all night was named Mohd. Shaheen. He is in police custody.

The Quran sharif found in the temple is not from Bangladesh. It has been imported from Saudi Arabia. The person who was doing the live was named Faiz. He is a recent return (from Saudi). He's also in police custody.

The person who kept the Quran in Hanuman's lap, he can be seen in the CCTV footage from the adjacent street. He was seen keeping the Quran, took Hanuman's Gada and was walking. He used to come to the Mosque near the temple everyday to read his Namaz. He didn't visit since the incident.

The person who informed the OC about the incident, used a fake identity. His name was Akram. He is also in police custody.

I am asking Bangladeshi Muslims and their supporters that when the real culprits are found, will your sensitivity work the same? Will they set fire to the houses of the people of their own religion? Or will they forgive them?

How much will we suffer?

We need to expose the real culprits now. Everyone rise against them.

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A Call to Action

The most worrying evidence found in one of the user’s profiles was a photo of weapons with the caption ‘I am preparing a few of these immediately’. This was posted around the same dates when the protests were taking place.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Translation: I am preparing a few of these immediately</p></div>

Translation: I am preparing a few of these immediately

(Posted on 20 October 2021)

It must be noted however that at the time of writing this article, no person was attacked with a weapon.

From social media to rallies, the sentiment was the same. While some rallies saw derogatory slogans against Muslims being chanted w.e.f the viral video of the rally in Tripura where demeaning slogans against Muslims were chanted, some others went a step ahead in requesting the Bangladesh government to give arms to the Hindus.

(Posted on 18 October 2021)

Translation: On behalf of the International Hindu Seva, we request the Bangladesh government to give arms to the Hindus. We are Hindus; we will either kill or die trying. We are the sons of lions; we aren’t scared of sons of goats.

Other rallies saw slogans which asked 'Hindus to unite to fight against Jihadis, and to beware of the Taliban regime (in Bangladesh).'

(Posted on 18 October 2021)

We discovered a systematic mobilization of the mobs in Tripura with the violence in Bangladesh as a trigger point. The messages primarily sought to show how Muslims are evil and lives can be endangered by them if they don’t act now. While we could not find a direct call to violence, the above messages and trends do argue a strong point as to why mosques were burnt or vandalized and Hindu houses were burnt.

The Tripura police tweeted that certain persons by using fake social media IDs were spreading fake news/rumours on Tripura. They further warned that action will be taken against those spreading fake news and communally sensitive rumours.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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