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Peace prevails in Bhopal: How citizens ignored rumours, social media messages to stay calm

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Correspondent

NewsBits.in

BHOPAL: Life swiftly returned to normalcy in Bhopal on Wednesday, a day after confrontation between two groups led to tension in the city.

People were on the streets and life was usual in the Walled city today though there was strong police presence.

The citizens had once again managed to ensure peace in a city that has not reported any major commual conflict, except once (1992).

It was completely different scene from Tuesday evening, when people had come out on the streets and rumours were afloat in the city.

Clearly, majority of people were not swayed by the inflammatory messages and rumours that were spread on Tuesday evening and stayed calm and in control, thereby ensuring swift return of peace.

On Tuesday evening, certain anti-social elements had spread messages on WhatsApp, which suggested as if there was a major riot in Bhopal and rumours of casualties too, though the reality was different.

Some vehicles were damaged and there was indeed tension but the situation was soon brought under control. There were no casualties or any major injuries.

Due to Ramzan, large number of people had assembled in mosques for evening special prayers. People from other side had also gathered and there were confrontations, but soon quelled by the police that also resorted to lobbing of tear gas shells and firing in air to disperse crowd.

The messages that floated on social media gave an impression as if the situation was out of control. It caused alarm on Twitter and Facebook too.

Earlier, there was a call to gather residents at the structure that was unerarthed in Hamidia hospital premises. Similar calls were issued by groups of different communities issued on Whatsapp. They were largely ignored. 

But to the credit of residents, the messages were not believed. In fact, prominent citizens contradicted the rumours. As further control, the administration put a crackdown on social media briefly on late Tuesday night.

By late night, the situation was normal. On Wednesday, Bhopal woke up to a peaceful morning.

LESSONS FROM THE ENTIRE EPISODE

The lesson from the entire episode is that when inciting messages by anti-social elements were being floated on social media for the last couple of days, the local officials should have taken note of it earlier and taken due preventive action.

In the past, when there were such incidents, top police officials including IG, DIG and SP would get to the spot, interact with citizens and quell rumours by issuing statements.

Currently, Bhopal has several experienced officials (both in administration and police), who are posted here for several years. They are expected to act promptly and get to the field immediately to sort out any issue. Hope the incident would make them realise the need for better communication and stronger intelligence network.

On this occasion, there was no such effort and it was CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan who tweeted later in the night and assured citizens, urging them not to believe in rumours and support administration in maintaining peace.