Agnipath protest: 35 WhatsApp groups banned for spreading fake news, 10 held
The Centre on Sunday banned 35 WhatsApp groups for spreading fake news on Agnipath scheme and Agniveers, the ministry of home affairs said. At least ten people have been arrested on charges of rumour-mongering and organising protests.
The Centre has also issued a number 8799711259 for WhatsApp fact-checking, the home ministry said. The crackdown comes amid reports of social media platforms particularly WhatsApp being used for mobilising protests in states like Bihar which has witnessed incidents of train bogies being torched.
On June 17, the Bihar government while suspending internet services in 12 districts till Sunday had said that internet was being used to transmit objectionable content in order to spread rumours with an intent to incite public and cause damage to life and property.
The district administration in Patna also said that the information collected from the mobile phones of arrested protesters pointed to the role of coaching centres.
The Telangana Police arrested the owner of a coaching institute in Narasaraopet town of Palnadu district in Andhra Pradesh for allegedly instigating the youth to participate in the protests against the Agnipath scheme. The detained coaching institute owner Avula Subba Rao is accused of having created a WhatsApp group called Hakimpet Army Soldiers which comprised hundreds of army aspirants. On this group, he had allegedly sent messages to all the members asking them to take part in the protests.
Amid the protests, the Centre has made it clear that there will be no rollback of the Agnipath scheme for recruitments to the armed forces for a four-year tenure. On the issue of vandalism and arson, the defence ministry said that those accused in violent protests will not be recruited. The aspirants will have to submit a written pledge stating they didn't take part in the protests. The pledge will be verified by the police.