India Arrests Man for Social Media Post Calling Coronavirus an Organ Trafficking Scam

Medical staff attend Covid-19 coronavirus patients after a fire broke out inside a ICU ward at the Sir Sayajirao General Hospital (SSG), in Vadodara, some 110 km from Ahmedabad on September 8, 2020. (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)
-/AFP via Getty Images

Police in the northern Indian state of Punjab arrested a man this week for promoting a coronavirus conspiracy theory on social media.

He claimed in his post that the Indian government was capitalizing on the coronavirus pandemic to traffic victims’ organs, Asian News International (ANI) reported Wednesday.

Punjab Police said they arrested Mandeep Singh for “uploading a fake and objectionable post about human organ trafficking” to his Facebook account and “spreading rumors” in which he accused a local hospital of participating in the alleged trafficking. The rumors caused “panic amongst citizens” and tarnished “the state government’s efforts to contain the [coronavirus] pandemic,” the police said in a statement.

Mandeep “made disparaging remarks about [the local] Rajindra Hospital Patiala and referred to it as being a center for human organ trafficking” in an August 24 Facebook post. Singh also “leveled baseless allegation that they kill people [at the hospital] by injections, etc.” in the same post, police said.

The man admitted to police that he uploaded the post in an emotional state as “his uncle … had died recently due to Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus],” a Punjab Police spokesperson told ANI.

Punjab authorities have been struggling in recent weeks to contain widespread rumors across the state that the Chinese coronavirus is a hoax. Singh’s organ trafficking conspiracy theory has been peddled by many others in Punjab as well. Social media platforms have been flooded with baseless claims by Punjabis that state health authorities are falsely diagnosing people with coronavirus, then whisking them “away to care centers, where they are being killed for their organs,” the BBC reported Tuesday.

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