People in several parts of Uttar Pradesh spent a sleepless night on Monday and police remained on high alert as a rumour that those who slept would turn into stone spread like wildfire. The night turned more dramatic following an hearsay about an imminent earthquake.
The cops had the onerous task of convincing the masses that the prophecy doing the rounds was baseless. Even 24- hours after the rumour started floating, the brain behind it has still not been unearthed.
“As a large part of the State was affected by the rumour, identifying the mischief mongers and the place from where it originated remains a difficult task,” said ADG (Law & order, crime) Subesh Kumar Singh on Tuesday. Around Monday midnight, people living in over two dozen districts, including Lucknow, Kanpur, Allahabad, Bareilly, Unnao, etc, started receiving calls from their kin and friends about an impending earthquake.
By the time they could come to terms with the development, followed another shocker — those sleeping during at the time would turn into stone statues. The mischief mongers asked people to remain awake and come out in the open to stay alive.
In Lucknow, people patrolled the streets in groups and raised slogans of “jagate raho,” as phones kept ringing at the police control room. Forgotten prophecies of the past were revived by old timers, and the night turned more and more eerie as the clock ticked.
Callers even claimed that several people had already turned into stones triggering panic in localities, even among highly-educated pockets. Within an hour, thousands of people spilled onto the streets, choosing to spend the night under the sky. Some were even seen praying and lighting ‘diyas’to ward off the evil and avert the impending disaster.
“I got a call at 1.30 am from my brother, who resides in a village, that an earthquake would strike and those found sleeping would turn into ‘pathar ka aadmi.’ He even said that some people in the village had already turned into stone,” Lalita, a maid said. “We came out of the house and stayed awake the whole night waiting for the earthquake,” she said.
The social networking sites also played a big role in spreading the rumour as netizens posted the warning on several of these sites. However, several others tried to soothe nerves by claiming that such talks were baseless. But they were unable to dispel the fears of an impending danger.
In Saharanpur, people came out and gathered at the Company Garden even as the cops tried to convince them that there was no truth in the information. It was only in the wee hours of Tuesday that people started returning to their homes after spending a sleepless night outdoors.
The rumor wasn’t limited to residents of Uttar Pradesh. Dharmesh Jaiswal, a 31-year-old living in Delhi, got a call from his sister in Lucknow at 3 am on Tuesday asking him to wake up everyone in the house. Mr. Jaiswal said he was “very angry” at being woken up, and at the fact that his sister believed the rumor.
For many people, the event was reminiscent of a frenzy in the mid-nineties, when idols of Lord Ganesha were reportedly drinking milk offered to them by devotees, prompting hundreds of people in different parts of the country to line up to feed the elephant god.
Source: The Pioneer