THE CENTRE has asked the Maharashtra government to submit a report on the two suspected cases of teenagers found involved in the online ‘suicide game’ Blue Whale Challenge. While one of the boys — a 14-year-old from Mumbai — allegedly killed himself as part of the game, the other boy from Solapur fled his home and was found in a Pune-bound bus by the police.
The Maharashtra cyber cell is now set to issue an advisory to parents and guardians, asking them to track their wards’ online activities.
Additional Chief Secretary (Home) S K Shrivastava told The Indian Express they would reply to the Centre soon. “We have received the letter from the Centre and will send a reply,” he said.
Another official from the state home department said they will seek a report from the Mumbai and Solapur Police on the two cases before drafting their reply.
“The two incidents suspected to be related to the Blue Whale Challenge have been reported in the jurisdiction of the Mumbai and the Solapur Police. While in the Mumbai case, the boy allegedly committed suicide while playing the dare game, in the Solapur incident, the teenager fled his city as a part of a task assigned to him by his ‘handler’. We will ask the two units if their investigations have confirmed that the cases were linked to the online suicide game,” said the official, on condition of anonymity.
Earlier this month, in the Maharashtra Assembly, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavishad expressed concern over the game and announced “stringent action” to discontinue it. His Kerala counterpart, CM Pinarayi Vijayan, wrote to the Centre to ban the game, following which the Ministry of Electronics and IT reportedly sent out a circular to Google India, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Microsoft and Yahoo India urging them to ensure any links of the game were removed from their platform and the proponent reported to law enforcement agencies.
The Maharashtra cyber cell’s advisory, which will be issued in newspapers, on TV and various other public platforms, will tell parents to keep an eye on their children and download parental control software in their computers and mobile phones, said an official.
“Parents and guardians are the first line of defence and therefore the advisory will ask them to monitor what their wards do online. This includes his/her activities on social networking sites, application-based messenger services and even websites. If anything indicates that the child is following the Blue Whale Challenge or any other such dare games, they should immediately take the help of counsellors ,” said the official. The advisory will also request parents to limit the internet usage of their children and block sites promoting dangerous activities.
Earlier this week, the Goa Police too issued an advisory asking parents to monitor the activities of their wards.
In July, 14-year-old Manpreet Singh allegedly flung himself from the terrace of his Andheri residence. Sources say that while his family members have denied the boy being addicted to the online game, his friend has given a statement that Singh told him he was playing the game and would bunk school to complete the challenge. The police is probing various angles.
In the Solapur incident, on August 10, a 14-year old son of a Solapur businessman left his home to complete the ‘task’ assigned to him by his ‘handler’. He was found on a state transport bus to Pune and brought back by the police. In this case, investigation revealed that the child was playing the game on his parents’ mobile phone. “The child is being counselled. We aren’t questioning him much. A cutter, a blade and a rope was found in the bag recovered from him,” said a police officer privy to the probe.
A suicide game that supposedly originated in Russia, the name of the Blue Whale Challenge reportedly originates from the way blue whales beach themselves on shore and die. The administrators of the online groups allegedly give members a set of 50 challenges to be carried out over 50 days.
The challenges become increasingly risky as the days go by, with members also required to carve out a blue whale on their forearm. In the final task, the administrators allegedly convince the teenagers to commit suicide.