BY AMARNATH TEWARY | NT
MARGAO: The pell-mell world of social media spreading deadly rumours across the country also infected peaceful Goa so much so that it triggered panic button to the officials in charge of administration.
Even, though, Goa maintained its magnificent resilience and horizontal harmony, the officials appeared in tearing hurry to stem any of the aftershocks of social media virus.
It was ten past 7 p.m. at the South Goa District Collectorate on Saturday at Margao and the dirt blue painted official building appeared haunted by eerie silence and vacuous chambers. Everyone had left. But, there was some buzz of a whirring ceiling fan and yellow lights on the second floor. The District Magistrate, Mr N D Agrawal sits there.
After sometime a police constable came and called us into the chamber of the Collector. There was complete silence out there as the Collector was busy preparing an order on his desktop computer while, the other gentleman sitting by his side across the table, looked focused on a sheet of paper. He was Mr Allen De Sa, the South Goa district police chief.
They both did not throw a glance at us in the chamber for about five minutes. By the time, we could gauge it out that something serious must be going on, the District Magistrate was making a draft of his order to impose Section 144 of the CrPC for banning the circulation, forwarding or viewing any of the hate MMSes or SMSes by individuals or by members of community in South Goa.
Earlier, the Margao police had registered a case against unknown persons under Section 153-A of the IPC and 66-A of the IT Act for spreading rumours on social media.
After making few changes here and there when both the officials appeared convinced with the draft they exchanged introductory pleasantries with us. The tension creases crowding on their foreheads were quite conspicuous.
“We’re issuing an order with immediate effect to ban the MMSes or SMSes which are in circulation to disturb the communal harmony,” said Mr Agrawal.
“We cannot take any chance…the MMS in circulation may vitiate the situation”, said Mr De Sa.
The district police chief further said that they were busy taking every precautionary measures for the last 24-hours that he even could not sleep properly.
When asked, if the situation here in Goa is really so alarming, he reiterated: “how can we take any chance?”
Both the officers, earlier in the day had held peace meeting at Vasco assuring people not to be panicked and that everyone was safe in the state.
The South Goa district police chief declared that Goa police has been on high alert and prepared to tackle any untoward situation arising out of the inflammatory MMS in circulation.
But, when told that like others states there has been no mass migration or “exodus” of Northeastern people from Goa as yet, the south Goa police chief said: “their number is low and since they are not concentrated at one place it is not visible”.
Both the top district officials plunged into pensive mood thereafter - planning their next strategy or the necessary precautionary measures to be taken. Beads of sweats apparently failed to accumulate as the effective air-conditioner was on.
It was basically the social media carrying and spreading the hate mail and video clips which had given nightmare to these higher officials of a peaceful place like South Goa. Social media is like gadda joints where people habitually drop in to chat and take the gossips around.
The rumour mills might go uncontrolled, feared the officers.
And, why not? Rumours, as they said, are the oldest form of mass media — and, in the present tech-savvy world it gel well to spread like wildfire.
But, Goa is quite unlike others states. It has always been peaceful and will be peaceful, believed many of the Northeastern people who, in spite of all this crisis moment, have decided to stay back in the state. Significantly, with their fingers not crossed.