A wave of fake news messages on the National Register of Citizens implementation is doing the rounds over social media circles in Hyderabad. These messages in the form of texts and voice messages have created hysteria among those predominantly from the Muslim community in the city.
Over the past several weeks, WhatsApp groups in the city went abuzz with fake messages that the Telangana state government has ordered to commence NRC screenings in the state. The state government order for the 2021 census came out in May but was being peddled as a state government order for NRC says Amjadullah Khan, president Majlis Bachao Tehreek (MBT), a Hyderabad based political party, "Am getting a minimum of 200 messages a day on NRC, some saying that there will be detention centres opened like that in China. A few other text messages asking people to keep all your documentation ready," he adds.
Fake news being spread over WhatsApp is nothing new, though the app owned by Facebook has claimed to have addressed the issue in India and across the world, it has not had a huge impact. Its present feature that limits sharing of a post to five could be easily bypassed by a simple copy-paste.
Mohammad Irfan, a resident of Old City part of Hyderabad runs a few Whatsapp group for news related to Telangana. He runs a tight ship often booting out those who post fake news repeatedly. "There is genuine concern among the Muslim community on what will happen. People are wondering how they will get the documents from the 1950s and 1970s to prove their citizenship. They also want to know how to tell the government if they don't have the relevant documents," says Irfan.
One of the messages being shared on various social media groups reads, "Now that Amit Shah has taken over as the home minister of India. It is highly advised that every Muslim in this country quickly take possession of the Indian passport. He is likely to implement NRC nationwide, the national registry of citizenship, for which passport is an important document. Please spread this message and educate, especially the poor and weaker section of our community. Nothing to panic, but better be safe. Anyways passport is our right and better get it now before it becomes tough to get." This same message is being shared in different versions without adding Amit Shah's name.
A voice message too is doing the rounds on social media, Amjedulla observed that the voice message on NRC didn't seem to originate from India. "The voice takes the name of some cleric for legitimacy and the tone of the audio messages don't even seem to be Indian. It could be made from anywhere in the world. We appeal to the centre to give more clarity on NRC and dispel the rumours,"
The demand by the Telangana BJP to bring NRC in Telangana has also not helped ally the fears over the digital space. The party insists the Rohingya refugees settled in the city outskirts are in lakhs and not the 5,000 figure as claimed by the Hyderabad police. The party also claimed that many Bangladeshis are illegally settled in the Old City, a Muslim dominated locality in Hyderabad. The party had even alleged that the AIMIM is using the Rohingyas as a vote bank. AIMIM has rubbished these claims.