The Hyderabad police have arrested Rehmat Shareef for spreading a voice note warning that Hyderabad may face “Delhi-like communal violence.”

Audio message warning Delhi-like violence in Hyd creates flutter man arrested
news Crime Wednesday, March 11, 2020 - 14:00

On Wednesday, the cyber crime branch of the Hyderabad police arrested a 35-year-old auto driver, Rehmat Shareef, for circulating an audio message over social media warning the Muslim community in Hyderabad of possible communal violence similar to those seen in Delhi. The audio, predictably, created panic among locals. The voice message reached the social media feed of local politicians and social activists who, in turn, reached out to the Hyderabad police seeking action.

The police told TNM that Rehmat allegedly created the audio clip in response to content that he read over WhatsApp, which seemed to be an excerpt from a blog post. The content, based on which Rehmat created the audio clip, supposedly claimed that Hyderabad had been chosen as the city where communal violence would be unleashed next.

The police have taken Rehmat into custody and booked him under Indian Penal Code Section 505 (creating public mischief), Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), and Section 298 (uttering, words with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person).

However, KVN Prasad, Assistant Commissioner of Police with the cyber crime branch of Hyderabad police, says the team will need technical evidence to prove Rehmat's link to audio. "He says he got a message from a group and thus recorded this audio,” said Prasad.

The blog that was circulated a lot on social media was titled- “Hyderabad is next target after Delhi as Muslims not prepared to defend” on March 7. The article claimed to have gotten this information from sources inside the BJP. The blog called for awareness among the locals and the formation of “protection committees” to keep an eye on strangers and bachelors new to the locality.    

Shahbaz Ahmed Khan, who runs multiple support groups for Heera scam victims over WhatsApp, says the groups of which he is an admin, had multiple people posting the blog link and voice note along with other fake news. “The content of the voice note has become the topic of conversation,” says Khan, who adds that WhatsApp group admins have little control over the content being shared over the groups.

The audio clip

The person in the audio clip, claiming to be Rehmat, says he is a school van driver and a part-time auto driver who travels around the city a lot. The voice note claims that for the past week, there has been an influx of people from the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh who claim to be construction workers in Muslim localities.

The voice warns the Muslim community in Hyderabad to stay vigilant and that communal violence along the lines of Delhi will happen in the city, backed by the RSS and BJP. The voice asks the public to adopt defensive measures such as stocking chilli powder and prepare to be attacked.

Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar took to social media to respond to the panic created by the voice note. “Requesting members of the public to not forward any message on WhatsApp with inflammatory content. Evil people are spreading rumours and fake news, don’t believe them. Tell us who is doing it. Help us in exposing the enemies of peace. The strength of Hyderabad city is the Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb (sic),” he tweeted.

After the voice note went viral, a spate of text messages asking people to adopt defensive measures at home began circulating. One such text suggests defensive instructions women can adopt in the event of violence at their doorstep.


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