Hyderabad: A mischievous twist to a particular set of data on missing persons has now triggered a political war of words apart from having the top brass of the Telangana Police trying to douse a malicious fire on social media, which is threatening to spread far and wide.
Vernacular media reports and social media posts, which gave sinister interpretations to 540 missing person cases being registered in 10 days in Telangana and last year’s missing person cases, forced the police, including the State Police Chief, all the three Police Commissioners in the State Capital and IGP (Women Safety) Swathi Lakra, to come out through different platforms, pointing out that there was nothing to panic and that such figures were not unusual.
On the other hand, a political storm also began blowing, with BJP State president K. Laxman blaming the State government for the ‘situation’, while TRS MLC Karne Prabhakar retorting, saying the BJP was trying to exploit the rumours to gain political mileage.
The social media fire was actually sparked by picture posts and WhatsApp shares questioning the missing of 540 persons from June 1 to 10 in Telangana. However, Additional DG (Law & Order) Dr. Jitender says this is nothing unusual, with variations happening on a regular basis. In fact, 222 of these were already traced.
The missing persons included male and female, children and elderly persons, with the reasons varying from fear of examinations and results, love affairs, family disputes, financial reasons, murders, suicides in untraced locations and running away from the law as well.
According to Lakra, 13,322 persons, including children, went missing in TS in 2018, out of whom 12,093 were traced, which meant a tracking rate of 87 per cent.
However, these facts barely bothered social media activists, with one on Twitter calling it the work of a terror organization, while some on Instagram blaming the police.
DGP M. Mahender Reddy and Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar said efforts were on to trace the missing persons and that the messages were ‘untrue’. The two officials warned of legal action if such messages were shared, while the DGP also held a meeting to assess the situation. Rachakonda Commissioner Mahesh M. Bhagwat urged netizens to ‘not like or share frivolous posts over missing cases as such posts are creating unnecessary panic’. Cyberabad Police chief VC Sajjanar also tweeted, requesting women, particularly, ‘not to believe such rumours and press reports’.
Earlier, the fake messages on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook included some requesting ‘female folk to be careful and highly watchful’, and some that claimed ‘82 people went missing in Telangana within just 24 hours’.