It seems we all have jumped the gun yet again. On March 31, Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma informed that he has a list of 299 people from the state who were in and around the ‘hotspot near Nizamuddin’.
Within a very short time, a list of 299 mobile numbers – with their subscriber’s name and address – started doing rounds on the social media. The unverified document, titled ‘Assam Persons Present In The Area’, listed mobile numbers along with their subscriber owners and their address.
An hour later, Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted that he has another list of 157 persons from Assam who were near hotspot of Tablighi Jamaat at Nizamuddin.
While the minister categorically mentioned in both his tweets that the list of people were “in and around” and “near” the hotspot, the local media and the netizens did their own mathematics and it was circulated that 456 people from the state attended the Tablighi Jamaat event at Nizamuddin in Delhi. Some of those reports can easily be found on Google search engine.
The misinterpreted information spread like wildfire as people from the list were being called for their whereabouts. One of the names on the list, a student from Assam, while talking to The News Mill said, “I travelled to Mayur Vihar via Metro on March 15. I don’t know why I find my name in this list now.” The student, who studies in the National Capital Region, added that he got calls from the health department and police on March 31 seeking details about his visit. “I explained them and they seem to be satisfied. My health is perfectly fine. I just hope that people don’t start believing that everyone in the list actually attended the event. My mobile number reception was detected near the area and thus I am on that list,” he added.
In another case, the Ukhrul district administration in Manipur had to come out with a clarification on March 31 that “none of the persons listed attended the religious congregation in Nizamuddin on March 13-15.” A report in the Imphal Free Press quoted Deputy Commissioner of Ukhrul Joseph Pauline Kamson saying that the list mentions people who were near the area or passing by the area in between March 14-21. SP Ukhrul Worngam Ningshen also requested to desist from creating panic or unwarranted stigmatization on concerned individuals due to their names appearing in the media or social media, The Imphal Free Press report said.
So, while it can easily be established that by jumping to get the biggest eyeballs, we the media dished our own mathematics on the issue, the people in the list may have to face tough questions – some without any fault.
Now, who will take the responsibility for “leaking” all these names, along with their contact details, without any proper verification?