Missing….? Will you Like or Share?

The 5.35 pm train was late. Neha wanted to get home early to help daughter with her homework. She managed to scrape into the carriage that looked like a stockpile of people. An unusual smell of sweat interspersed with the odour of perfume filled the air.

Few years ago, the train carriage used to be a noisy chatterbox. Now, the smartphone has drifted everyone into their private world and online network. As the train reached Andheri station, some people offloaded. Neha managed to grab a seat and started to play with Facebook on her smartphone. The first post in her news feed read:

Have you seen him?
Mr Jagdish Acharya
Age: 54
Height: 5’8.”
Wearing a white shirt with blue stripes and black trouser
Missing since two weeks.
Last seen on 20/02/2016 at Kalidasa Road, Malad West, Mumbai – 400095.
Mr Jagdish suffers from dementia. His family is searching for him. If found, please comment on this post or call the following numbers 9NNNNNNNNNN / 8NNNNNNNNNN

The post carried a photo of the missing person. It showed upper half of a middle-aged man wearing a yellow coloured shirt half-folded, thin, cheeks drawn inside, wrinkled face, white hair on the sides, a white stubble, and wearing broken old spectacles.

The post had been doing the rounds for a couple of days and shared by more than thousand users, and there were few hundred comments and shares.

The photo made Neha remember her father, who died in a road accident three years ago due to lack of medical attention. Since then, she made it a point to help every aged person in need. She too liked and shared the post.

The train screeched to a halt atBorivali station. Neha’s house was a ten-minute walk from the station. As she greeted her husband and daughter, the local channel displayed the breaking news:

“One killed in shooting at Goregaon West area.
The person identified as Yogeshwar Tripathi.

Police suspect the involvement of Firoz Daruwala gang.”

They also captured a photo of the deceased. Neha dissuaded her daughter from looking at the picture, but she couldn’t turn her head away. The picture seemed familiar and why not? He is the same person in the post of the missing person she shared on Facebook.

Must have been a case of mistaken identity, she thought looking at the post again on her smartphone. Individuals who saw him in their vicinity had made comments about his whereabouts.

It was a trick used by the Firoz Daruwala gang to locate their gang member who had turned informer. Some do-gooders shared the post; no one knows where it originated. Naturally, the Daruwala gang did not use Yogeshwar’s real name to avoid being called a hoax, alerting the police, and being caught.

Neha was a participant in helping the gang to nab Tripathi.

As they say, If Facebook were a country, it would be the most populated one. Without policing and governance, there are are going to be incidents involving all kinds of criminal activity.

What could Neha and other persons have done differently?

  1. Searched the name of the person reported as missing. Google would spit out some information.
  2. Checked Interpol missing register at http://www.interpol.int/notice/search/missing or any local register of missing people.
  3. Checked local guidelines for posting on Facebook for missing people http://www.missingpersonsguide.com/facebook/
  4. Verified the police station, if the area from where the person is missing is closer to you.
Perhaps a life would have been saved. Next time, think twice before you like or share.



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