Theweekendleader

Shaheen Bagh drama: 'UN team' to 'Guinness record'

ROHAN AGARWAL   |  New Delhi

27-January-2020

A sinister game has come to light where messages containing fake information are used as a tool to woo people to Shaheen Bagh and turn them into a crowd. From a supposed visit by a United Nations team to claiming a Guinness world record or even an imaginary police crackdown on protesters, these messages have been weaponised by the organisers to boost the headcount at the site of anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh.

On at least three instances when the numbers of protesters at the site began to thin out fake messages like these were used to attract more visitors.

These messages came into circulation from January 5, when organisers sent out a message claiming that security forces namely Delhi Police and CRPF had reached the protest site for a crackdown on the protesters.

The message, accessed by IANS, reads: "Just received this from a very reliable source...SOS from the one of the organisers of Shaheen Bagh protest: Delhi Police and CRPF have reached there and already removed the barricades the local community had out in place to keep control over the protest. They have been asked to vacate by tonight or maximum by tomorrow after which there is very strong fear that force will be used. Amit Shah has some inauguration in Noida for which he has demanded that the protest be cleared as he is bent upon using that route."

It goes on to claim: "MASS MOBILISATION is required there ASAP. Please show up right now in large numbers. Special shout out to Media people."

To make gullible protesters believe its authenticity, the message claims it to be "verified information because I received a call from one of the people who have been key to ensuring the protest continues, whom I have met on several occasions."

Within a few hours, the crowd started to swell at the protest site, as it was estimated that over 15,000 people had reached Shaheen Bagh on the night of January 5.

However the details in the message proved wrong as no barricades were removed from the site, and no security forces were near the protest site even days after the date of the claimed crackdown.

But facts don't count when it comes to the organisers of Shaheen Bagh protests, it seems. When the crowd started to decrease in a few days, there was another fake message out.

This time, false information of a visit by an UN team to "analyse the protest and the present situation of the country" was devised as a cause to pull in more crowds.

"There is one very good news - Coming Sunday on 12-01-2020 ko sham (evening) 7:30 pm per Shaheen Bagh protest main UNO team is coming to analyse the protest and the present scenario of the country. All citizens are requested to come in more numbers at Shaheen Bagh on Sunday before 7:30 pm to show your presence and strength in front of the UNO team," the viral message read.

The message left an impression on the recipients and the crowd on that night of January 12 swelled to an estimated 30,000.

Videos of large crowds, raising slogans against NRC and the contentious CAA with their mobile flashlights on, began to flood the internet.

In another instance, a viral message claimed that a team from the Guinness Book of World Records was slated to reach Shaheen Bagh on Republic Day to hand over a certificate of a new world record to the protesters as "10 lakh protesters had recited the national anthem in unison and hoisted the tricolour on a 80-foot high pole."

No foreign team however reached Shaheen Bagh, and the number of protesters was also below 10,000 as opposed to the claim of 10 lakh.

However, thousands of protesters singing national anthem in unison were seen as the 'Dadis' of Shaheen Bagh and mother of deceased student Rohit Vemula hoisted the national flag at Shaheen Bagh. It was a moving scene, but far from being a Guinness record.

While the sight of thousands of protesters sitting at Shaheen Bagh and blocking route 13A has been acting as a symbol of anti-CAA protests throughout the country and even getting the attention of some international media outlets, it has come under judicial and public scrutiny.

The protest that was launched on December 15 last year may have been a spontaneous move, but ever since it has been manipulated by its handlers who used every trick in the book, including circulating fake messages, to keep it going.

With the BJP calling the protest "manufactured" and alleging PFI money was used to keep the logistics of this long lasting protest afloat, Shaheen Bagh has come under some very serious scrutiny.IANS