ISLAMABAD: Pakistani NGO Roshni Helpline has sought action against the culprits who doctored its child safety video to spread kidnapping rumours on WhatsApp, leading to lynchings in several Indian states in recent weeks. The video, showing an apparent child kidnapping, had gone viral on social media, sparking mass hysteria and violence that claimed at least 20 lives across the border since May.
It was actually recorded on a street in Karachi, Pakistan, where kidnappings for ransom, especially of children, are rampant. The aim: to spread awareness about the danger and the need for parents to be careful.
Muhammad Ali, founder-president of the Pakistani helpline that works for the rescue and rehabilitation of missing children, told TOI: “We made this video to help society. In 2017 alone, 1,894 children went missing in Karachi. It is very unfortunate the video was wrongly used to cause deaths of innocent people. Whoever is responsible for it should be prosecuted.”
In the video clip, two men on a motorbike ride up to a group of children playing on the street. The pillion rider, wearing a helmet, grabs a little boy and the two men speed away.
The original footage shows the other children running after the ‘kidnappers’, who soon return and set the child down. The boy joins his playmates, while the man who had grabbed him unfurls a banner with a message, “It takes only a moment to kidnap a child from the streets of Karachi.”
Edited clips of the video had circulated on WhatsApp around India, with parts of it omitted, leading people to believe the video was evidence of increasing kidnappings in India.
The video was made by an ad agency, Spectrum Y&R. Both the NGO and the charity expressed horror over the violence its doctored version has unleashed. Asrar Alam, Spectrum’s creative director said, “It was shocking that the video was edited for a bad purpose. We made it for a charity organisation to halt the menace of child abduction. The real culprit is the one who has edited it”.
Islamabad-based rights activist Ismat Shahjehan makes a different point, “The problem with the video is not that it is fake. What if it was real CCTV footage of a kidnapping case?” she asked. “Fake news certainly is a problem but what to do with the deep-rooted human suspicion of the other?”