Hyderabad: Confusion reigned supreme on Twitter throughout the day about who was to blame for the attack on JNU students. Rumours and speculation were fuelled with the help of screenshots of WhatsApp group chats, which apparently proved that RSS-affiliate Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad activists planned it.
People across the country, including well-known journalists, shared these and played detective by analysing them.
But both sides could play this game: People on the other side shared the same screenshots to plead their case.
These WhatsApp groups were named ‘Unity against Left’, ‘Friends of RSS’ and so on. That screenshots were from chats late in the evening with members discussing the logistics of the attack.
Screenshots, tweets add to chaos
People critical of the BJP government shared these screenshots (SS) triumphantly as they seemed to be undeniable proof of ABVP involvement. But soon, replies started pouring in claiming the opposite. Anshul Saxena, a self-proclaimed analyst with more than five lakh Twitter followers, claimed one of the members of these groups belonged to the Congress. This person ‘Kabeer’, he said, was a member of Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) at the University of Hyderabad.
He took many other numbers and connected them to anti-CAA groups, implying that the attacks were a false-flag operation by opposition parties and leftist student groups.
‘Kabeer’, apparently from ASA, could not be contacted as the number was switched off. Saxena, however, seems to have gotten his name right, according to search results on Truecaller. However, by the evening, this name was edited on Truecaller to say
‘Indian National Congress’. Congress’ official Twitter handle tweeted on the subject, claiming that the number belonged to private vendors for social media operations during the Lok Sabha elections. “The number has nothing to do with INC,” it said.
Saxena’s theory and others similar to his spread like wildfire. Though Saxena himself deleted his series of tweets on this subject, soon, some media outlets, known to be friendly to the government, reported on this “Congress and leftist connection”.
Confusion took over afterwards. The story became more complicated by late evening. It came to light that most of these WhatsApp groups no longer had just members of RSS, ABVP or similar organisations. As their screenshots went viral, so did the invite links to join them. People from all over the country joined these groups using these links. They started to change the name of these groups from, for example, “Left terror down down” to “ABVP Chee Chee” and “Sanghi goons murdabad”. It was no longer clear who the original members of these groups were, or if the screenshots could legitimately be used as proof of the attackers’ identity.
A Twitter user summed up the situation: “Had the people not infiltrated these groups, the original screenshots could still have been credible.”...