NEW DELHI - There has been a concerted push on social media to criminalise the Odisha train disaster and shield the rail minister from criticism, according to Scroll.
Hours after the deadly train crash in Odisha’s Balasore killed at least 288 people and wounded 1,000 others on Friday evening, several social media accounts insinuated that Muslims were responsible for the accident.
A preliminary inquiry by the Indian Railways says a signalling error was responsible for India’s deadliest train accident in two decades, The Indian Express reported, citing a “multi-disciplinary joint-inspection note by supervisors”. News reports have highlighted concerns over maintenance and declining funds, as well as flaws in the signalling system.
However, accounts known for spreading Hindutva and Bharatiya Janata Party propaganda swung into action to shield the government as well as Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw from criticism amidst the growing calls for the minister to resign.
On Saturday afternoon, a Twitter account with the handle @randomsena posted an image of the crash site with an arrow pointing to a white structure with domes close to the tracks and captioned it “just saying…yesterday was Friday”. This seemed to suggest that the structure was a mosque and that Muslims were somehow responsible for the tragedy.
Fact-checkers from Boom and AltNews pointed out that the shrine is, in fact, a temple run by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness or Iskcon. Boom said its team checked images as well as footage from news agencies that showed that the structure is a temple.
By Sunday afternoon, the tweet had garnered four million views and nearly 4,500 retweets. The account also posted a series of old news reports involving Muslim suspects in cases of previous, unrelated train incidents with comments such as “something is fishy” to claim a bigger “conspiracy” at work.
The Twitter account of “Prof.N John Camm”, who claims to be a senior Germany-based cardiologist, tweeted “rail jihad”. Several more right-wing Twitter accounts have joined the chorus alleging “sabotage” and a “conspiracy”.