Muzaffarnagar rioters used WhatsApp to fan flames, find police

Muzaffarnagar Riots A girl, injured in the communal clashes, is taken to a hospital in the violence-hit Muzaffarnagar. (PTI)

The investigation into the origin of the violence that gripped Muzaffarnagar for four days has led police to a popular networking application WhatsApp. The police believe a video of two young men being allegedly lynched, which was actually recorded at least two years ago, was passed from phone to phone across the district through this application.

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WhatsApp is a cross-platform mobile messaging app which lets users exchange messages without having to pay for SMS.

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On August 27, police said, Gaurav and Sachin knifed Shahbaz in Kawaal village after an argument over a petty issue. Soon after, residents of the village lynched the two boys. A few days later, a video of two boys being beaten did the rounds across the district on the Internet and mobile phones. However, police later determined that the video was two years old and was actually recorded in either Afghanistan or Pakistan. Although police blocked the video on the Internet, it spread through WhatsApp.

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Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) R K Vishwakarma said: "The video surfaced on August 29 and a day later we had blocked it on the Internet. However, it was passed on from phone to phone through WhatsApp and within a few days, thousands of people had viewed it. This only served to inflame sentiments." He added that this method was indeed a "learning experience" for the police.

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Senior police officials admitted that the application caught then unawares. "We did not imagine so many people would have access to the net on their mobile phones and WhatsApp.

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