New Delhi: Facing widespread criticism for its handling of the gang rape and brutal murder of a young woman in Hathras, the Uttar Pradesh police has now alleged that there is an ‘international plot’ to cause caste and communal riots in the state and defame chief minister Yogi Adityanath.
There’s only one problem. The website set up by unknown persons and touted as being at the centre of this conspiracy has crudely plagiarised a Black Lives Matter protest site without bothering to cover up their tracks by at least deleting the obvious US references and making it relevant to Uttar Pradesh.
An FIR has been lodged against unidentified persons at the Chandpa police station on Hathras under several sections of the IPC including sedition. At the same time, more than a dozen similar FIRs have been lodged in different districts.
Though the FIR at Chandpa PS does not mention it, senior police officials say that an English language website, justiceforhathrasvictim.carrd.co, is linked to the conspiracy. The website has since been taken down but a cached version is available for reference. Carrd.co is a publishing platform that allows anyone with an email address to open a blog site with it. The UP police have not disclosed if they know the identity of the site’s creator. The Wire has written to Carrd.co seeking that information but has yet to receive a reply.
What the police has not explained is how a website in English would end up instigating riots in a state that is largely Hindi speaking.
Curiously, the most ‘damaging’ entries from the website shared with The Wire by the state police – and touted as evidence for the ‘international plot’ to cause riots – have clearly been lifted in a ‘cut and paste’ operation from a Black Lives Matter protest-related site in the United States. The ‘Hathras’ site reproduces that language verbatim, leading to a bizarre set of instructions for would-be protestors and rioters in UP. Sample these:
- Those considering joining a protest are advised to research the protest to ensure they are not a “set up” where “white supremacists try to lure in people” and counselled the residents of Uttar Pradesh to be smarter than those in San Diego and Pheonix.
- The website which the police says aimed to get villagers and town dwellers in UP to riot also advised that if they see “black people running” to run with them. It is unclear whether the UP police expected African Americans to riot in Hathras as part of the international plot.
- In a section on “What to Not Wear’ to a protest, villagers in Uttar Pradesh are instructed not to “put vaseline, mineral oil or oil based sunscreen on skin, it can trap chemicals.” They were also told not to wear contact lenses and ties and jewellery and branded clothes.
- The website also instructed protestors, presumably people in UP villages and towns, to wear loose clothing and ‘swimming goggles’.
- People were told to wear sneakers that are comfortable to run in, a hat where the brim has to be bended to keep it low. A hat would allow UP villagers prone to rioting from being identified as well as protect them from ‘the sun and chemical exposure.’ A bicycle hat was also recommended and so were gloves.
- Villagers were also told not to wait for an Uber, presumably in Hathras, after protesting but to use a bike to navigate since that’s more discreet.
- Protestors were also told to bring a backpack with snacks, water, a portable charger and cloths to drench in milk or water in case the police fired teargas.
Surprisingly, the ‘incriminating literature’ touted by the UP police, warns the would-be rioters of Uttar Pradesh that the New York Police Department (NYPD) would be filming the protests.
A sample poster carried on the website describes the organisers of a protest in Kolkata as ‘Leftist and Congress affiliated student and women’s rights’ groups’, even though Left groups do not usually use the word ‘Leftist’ to describe themselves.
The website also carried links to petitions that can be signed demanding justice for the victim. It also listed several government email addresses where aggrieved citizens could send emails and advised them not to copy paste emails but to change sentences so they are not considered spam. UP police claims all this was to ‘defame’ the state government.