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Tripura & Amravati Unrest: How Fake News Undid Communal Peace in Two States

In both regions, the unchecked spread of false claims on social media led to on-ground violence.

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True, there were some scattered attempts in late October – exaggerated by rumours on social media – in some parts of Tripura to disturb the communal harmony in the state. But due to the state administration’s action, the sporadic incidents didn’t turn into large-scale riots. The situation on the ground was brought under control. So, it’s absurd that on November 13, some unfortunate incidents took place in Amravati of Maharashtra based on rumours related to Tripura, where currently, the situation is under control.

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Numerous Rallies Were Held in Tripura

In Tripura, processions were held against the attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh during the Durga Puja festival. However, these processions were in different parts of the state and most of them – if not all – were peaceful. According to news reports, in one such rally held in Panisagar town of North Tripura district, some miscreants tried to deface a local mosque but failed. Later, fake pictures of a “burning mosque” were spread on social media, and as a result, some tensions erupted between the two communities in the district. But the administration intervened, and the Tripura police clarified that no mosque was burnt in the state.

Some days before the Panisagar incident, an image of a broken Shiva idol found on an abandoned hillock in Kailashahar of Unakoti district was being circulated on social media. The Tripura police, as reported by the Indian Express, said there was no way to tell whether it broke due to natural causes or if it was already broken.

On receiving reports that some miscreants were attempting to deface mosques at night to disturb communal peace, the Tripura police decided to provide security cover to almost all mosques in the state. Even then, exaggerated posts were circulated on social media.

And interestingly, many of such posts were shared by outsiders. Tripura Jamiat president, Mufti Tayebur Rahman, as reported in the media, said that a section of miscreants was trying to disturb communal peace and malign the state government.

A few days later, a clash in the Kailashahar town area between Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) leaders and Trinamool- and Congress-affiliated student unions got a communal colour when ABVP leader Shivaji Sengupta was stabbed. On the same day, there was also an attempt to deface the Kali temple situated just near the India-Bangladesh border of Kailashahar. But locals — both Hindus and Muslims — came together and thwarted attempts to ignite communal tensions in such a sensitive area.

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Political Parties and Civil Society Came Together

The good part is that the administration was acting to restore normalcy. Some miscreants belonging to different communities have already been arrested. Even opposition parties came together to support the various meetings organised by the administration. In one such peace meeting held in Panisagar, four MLAs belonging to both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) participated, rising above their political ideologies.

Two BJP MLAs, Benoy Bhusan Das of Panisagar and Biswabandhu Sen of Dharmanagar, and two CPI(M) MLAs, Mobassar Ali of Kailashahar and Islam Uddin of Kadamtala, were present, along with speakers from local communities. In another peace meeting held in Kailashahar, District Magistrate UK Chakma, state Cabinet Minister Bhagaban Das, local CPI(M) MLA Mobassar Ali, Unakoti district Congress president Badrujjaman and leaders of different faiths were present.

With the active coordination of administration, political representatives (both ruling and opposition) and people from all communities, normalcy was restored in these areas.

On Deepavali, Kali puja was peacefully organised in the same Goddess Kali temple situated just near the India-Bangladesh border of Kailashahar.

On the night of Kali Puja, the local Muslims, as usual, took part in the festival along with the Hindus, who offered puja to the Goddess.

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MHA Had to Step In Over Kakraban Reports

Incidents in the two states raise important questions about the consequences of sharing fake posts on social media. Every individual has the right to freedom of expression in a democracy. But that doesn’t mean that the individual has the right to share fake information that may incite violence.

In the case of Tripura, many fake posts, including pictures of political clashes, were shared on social media as pictures of communal clashes. Even after the restoration of normalcy, the fake campaign on social media aimed at igniting communal tensions in the state continues.

Recently, even the Union Ministry of Home Affairs had to issue a clarification stating that no mosque was damaged in the Kakraban area of Gomati district, as was being claimed on social media. The authorities must take swift action to stop the rumour-mongering on social media. Otherwise, there could be a repeat of what happened in Amravati.

Ahead of Civic Polls, Political Violence On Rise

Tripura will hold civic body elections on 25 November. The main opposition party, the CPI(M), and its ally CPI, and other opposition parties such as the Trinamool and the Congress have alleged that their candidates aren’t allowed to campaign freely and that party cadres and supporters are being attacked. The ruling BJP, too, has alleged that in some places, its campaign posters were defaced and its workers were attacked. Though communal harmony has been restored in the state at present, the rise of political violence is concerning.

(Sagarneel Sinha is a freelance writer from Tripura who writes on politics, foreign affairs and Indian mythology. He tweets @SagarneelSinha. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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Topics:  Amravati   Tripura   Communal violence 

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