Fears gripped many people when rumours spread on Facebook on Thursday night that a newborn came up with a coronavirus treatment formula and an earthquake would destroy the whole country at dawn.
At first, people in the region were panicked following the false information over the newborn in Sylhet. Later, after midnight, another rumour was circulated that an earthquake might occur at dawn and would destroy the whole country. Generally, Sylhet is an earthquake-prone area. So panic gripped the people in the region.
As the country has been put on lockdown from Thursday in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus, silence remains everywhere and it is a favourable atmosphere for spreading such rumours.
Azan was called out at mosques in Sylhet. Hearing the rumour regarding earthquake, panicked people started coming out of home and gathered on open fields to save their lives defying a ban on public gatherings.
In many places such as Osmaninagar, Chatak, Kanaighat, Jointapur of Sylhet, Sreemangal of Moulvibazar, hundreds of people came out of home and brought out processions with the slogan "Allahu Akbar".
Azan was called out at Kandigaon mosque in Sylhet Sadar at midnight. When asked, Muazzen Mowlana Ashraf Hossain said after hearing the information that an earthquake might occur at dawn I delivered azan from the mosque. But there was no harm to circulate azan during a disaster.
Not only in Sylhet, people in neighbouring districts – Habiganj and Moulvibazar – also came out of home at midnight after hearing Azan from the mosque.
But no earthquake was reported from anywhere and there was no trace of wonder newborn baby despite a daylong search.
Asked, M Kazi Emdadul Islam, deputy commissioner of Sylhet, said there was an ill motive behind spreading the rumour. A vested quarter is trying to misguide the people, cashing in on people's fear during the coronavirus pandemic.
"We are trying to find out the people who spread the rumour."
He also urged people not to be confused hearing any kind of rumour.
Kamrul Ahsan, Sylhet range's deputy inspector general of police, said people who were involved in spreading rumours would be brought under the law. He urged people to be aware of those people who spread rumours.
People should abide by the government directives over coronavirus and not to be misguided by any kind of rumour, he added.
Later, a schoolteacher was held in Osmaninagar area of the city on Friday evening for spreading rumours on social media and then he was released upon a bond, said Osmaninagar Police Station Officer-in-Charge Rashed Mobarok.
Basir Mia is the teacher of Mobarakpur Bangabandhu High School.