M A I N   N E W S

NIC meets today; social media misuse tops agenda
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 22
When the National Integration Council (NIC) meets tomorrow in the backdrop of the recent Muzaffarnagar riots that claimed 48 lives, two issues would top its agenda: Preventing and tackling communal violence.

The NIC, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, will deliberate upon steps that allow the Centre to unilaterally send in forces in case of rioting and, secondly, find a way to curb the impact of social media in spreading hatred through morphed and falsified pictures and videos besides inflammatory articles.

With policing listed a state subject, Central forces can go in only when called by the state government. The pending Communal Violence Bill that is opposed by some states, is likely to be discussed as it allows empowering the Central Government to send forces unilaterally in case of a communal disturbance.

In the Uttar Pradesh riots, the Army called in by the local District Magistrate, put a lid on the mayhem.

The 140-member NIC includes all Union ministers, Leaders of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and in the Rajya Sabha, Chief Ministers of all states and Union Territories that have legislatures, leaders of national and regional political parties, chairpersons of national commissions, eminent public figures, editors of select newspapers and television channels, film personalities and representatives of women organisations.

Notably, BJP’s newly-anointed Prime Ministerial candidate and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had skipped the last meeting in 2011. The other key issue before the NIC will be to tackle the growing menace of social websites spreading hatred. The Muzzafarnagar riots in Western UP owe their origin to the murder of a youth for alleged eve-teasing.

A morphed video on the Internet showed how ‘Hindus’ were being ‘ill-treated’ by Muslims and became one of the trigger points for the riots. A BJP MLA is under the scanner for uploading this video and has been arrested.

In August 2012, a fake video (with origins in Myanmar) was circulated showing how ‘Muslims’ were ‘ill-treated’ by Bodos in Assam lead to a clash in Mumbai’s Azad Maidan. Soon, another fake video online egged one community to attack the ‘Chinis’, a slang for people from the North-east, leading to a mass exodus of north-easterners from cities such as Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad and Chennai. The Ministry of Home Affairs had responded by blocking some Internet addresses and accused Pakistan of fomenting trouble.

The existing Information Technology Act allows the police to book individuals spreading falsehood, but getting such content deleted is the bigger task for Indian authorities. The servers of websites are in Europe or in the US allowing India no control. “These nations interpret issues as per their conditions and explaining the matter to them takes time. Days are lost before objectionable content is deleted,” a senior functionary said.

The NIC will also discuss issues concerning the safety and security of women, confidence-building measures taken to tackle communal disturbances and taking help from all sections of society in removing communal tension.

Whipping up a storm

  • Muzaffarnagar mayhem (2013): Morphed video on the Internet showed how ‘Hindus’ were being ‘ill-treated’ by Muslims; BJP MLA under scanner for uploading the video, arrested
  • Azad Maidan clashes (2012): Circulation of a fake video (with origins in Myanmar) showing how ‘Muslims’ were ‘ill-treated’ by Bodos in Assam lead to the clash in Mumbai
  • N-E exodus (2012): Fake online video egged a community to attack ‘Chinis’, a slang for people from the North-East, leading to mass exodus from Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad and Chennai
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs had responded by blocking some Internet addresses and accused Pakistan of fomenting trouble





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