Srinagar, Mar 28:: Imagine you receive a WhatsApp message from a reasonable man asking you to recite azaan either from your home or mosque. Asked why? He rebukes in harsh tone reasoning that it is the only way to save the world and ward off coronavirus threat.
Minutes later every mosque blares with azaan and people come on the windows reciting verses. Some people shunned social distancing and converged in mosques and shrines. Police had a tough time control the situation in Charar-e-Sharief
If this was not enough, another message on friends WhatsApp group said that there are two moons on the sky. Everyone opened windows to check on. Those who confronted were shouted down as irrational and agonistic.
Welcome to the world of `dapaan’, where rumors and fake news supersedes sanity, science, and reality.
For the last few weeks, Kashmir has become a haven for rumor mongers. Panic-stricken people believe everything and anything which is sugarcoated as reality.
Sample this: On March 19, people had a harrowing time when WhatsApp groups started sharing the message about SMC spraying chemicals. People were advised to stay indoors and not venture out after 10 pm as chemicals might cause harm to humans in case they are not protected.
Sensing panic, SMC took to Facebook and Twitter to debunk the theory. “Message about spraying medicine in air attributed to SMC Commissioner is fake. Please do not pay heed to rumors”, said an SMS spokesman.
Even before people could heave a sigh of relief, another WhatsApp message that WHO is spraying some chemicals from airplanes to kill coronavirus, sent people into a tizzy. And both times your argument fails to convince them that this is not happening. This is Kashmir where rumor mills churn overtime and fake news overtakes sanity and reality.
To top it all was the press statement by a self-proclaimed Sufi leader claiming that amulet, chilly water and waer (chilly cake) can cure coronavirus. The vast majority of people debunked it but some wanted to give it a shot.
Police had to arrest a man in Tangmarg who uploaded a video on social media claiming that he can cure coronavirus. Police thought people might make beelines to his house and that is why he was taken into preventive custody.