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June 2019: Misinformation Fomenting Communal Hatred Returns Post Election

Misinformation ahead of the general election was varied, and not exclusively focused on communal hate-mongering, which seems to have returned with a vengeance post the election.

Contrary to expectations that the cycle of fake news may stem following the general election, misinformation of communal nature continues to plague the social media ecosystem. June 2019 saw several such instances.

1. Old incident of fire at Rohingya camp in Delhi shared with hate-filled narrative

A Facebook user shared an image of a man surrounded by children. According to the text attached to the photograph, he is a Rohingya Muslim who has no food to eat or clothes to wear but has three wives and eight children. It further claimed that the man also has a mobile phone worth Rs 29,000.

The complete text reads, “A helpless poor person on the side a road in Delhi. #Rohigya who has no food to eat and no clothes to wear but has three wives, among whom two are pregnant. He has eight children and just a cheap Samsung C7 pro worth Rs 29,000…we want to improve his standard of living so please file your taxes on time. #Shut_up_there_are_seculars_in_the_country” (translation).

Reverse-searching the image on Google led us to an April 15, 2018 ground report by News18titled, “Rohingya Lose Their Sanctuary in Delhi to Fire, New Life of Six Years Turns to Ashes.” The image was credited to photographer Debayan Roy. According to the report, a Rohingya named Haroon had fled persecution in Myanmar. His family, and 52 other Rohingya families, had been living in a makeshift camp Darul Hijrat in Delhi’s Madanpur Khadar since 2012. On April 15, 2018, the camp was engulfed in fire and reduced to ashes.

In another instance, a photograph of a young Rohingya girl, taken from a BBC video report on refugees was shared with a false, communal claim.

2. 2017 video from Bangladesh shared with false claim of Hindu lynched by Muslims

A video shared by several social media users claimed to depict the lynching of a Hindu man by members of the Muslim community. “मरने वाला हिन्दू और मारने वाला मुसलमान है… शायद इसलिए बुद्धिजीवियों की नजर में ये लिंचिंग नहीं है (The one who died is Hindu and the one who killed him is Muslim. Perhaps this is why intellectuals did not see this lynching.)” was the message accompanying the video. It was shared by numerous individuals on Facebook.

The video actually depicts a 2017 incident from Bangladesh. On April 1, 2017, assailants killed Abu Syed and seriously injured Md Ali. The two men were accused in the murder of Jubo League leader Monir Hossain Sarkar and were absconding. This incident occurred in Titas subdivision of Comilla district in Bangladesh and was also covered by a local news website.

3. UP: Video of injured, pleading man and woman shared with false, communal claim

#लखनऊ यह घटना #इंटोजा थाना क्षेत्र की कल की है, #शांतिप्रीय_कोम के #इस्लाम,और चार पांच लोग और, इसकी बहन का रेप करने आए इसने रेप नही करने दिया तो इसकी बहन और दोनों को बुरी तरह पीटा, #जागो_हिंदू_जागो आप लोगों का अंत निश्चित है, और इस घटना में क्या पुलिस वाले इन्हें अस्पताल पहुंचा सकते थे, पर दुर्भाग्य देखिए हमारे देश के शासन का” (#Lucknow This incident is of yesterday, from Intoja jurisdiction, Islam and four-five people from the peaceful community had tried to rape his sister but he didnt allow them to, so he and his sister were beaten up mercilessly, Jaago Hindu Jaago, your end is certain, and in this incident, the police could have taken them to the hospital but look at sad condition of the nation’s administration- translated).

A disturbing video showing a man and a woman in bloodied condition, was circulated on social media with the above claim, that siblings were beaten up after the brother of the girl resisted ‘people belonging to the peaceful community’ from sexually assaulting her. The term ‘peaceful community’ is used derisively to refer to the Muslim community. The slogan “Jaago Hindu Jaago” in the claim suggested that the victims were members of the Hindu community.

https://www.facebook.com/100007796707181/videos/2387528734850327/?t=0

The incident occurred at Itaunja in Lucknow, and not Intoja as claimed in the viral message. Alt News spoke to Ashish Kumar, Media Relations Officer, Lucknow police, who dismissed the claim. “There is no Hindu Muslim angle. Both parties are Muslim. The claim that there was an attempt to rape, is also false. There was a fight between children and elders got involved. This is what had happened.” (translated from Hindi). Moreover, Uttar Pradesh police took to Twitter to clarify that the incident in question occurred between members belonging to the same community.

4.  Misinformation: Australian PM Julia Gillard asking Muslims to leave the country

A message viral on social media attributed a purported speech to former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard encouraging Muslims to leave the country. “Muslims, who are demanding Sharia law have been asked to leave Australia by Wednesday because Australia sees fanatic Muslims as terrorists. Each and every mosque will be searched and Muslims will cooperate with us in this process.”, read a part of the supposed speech attributed to Gillard, who was the 27th PM of Australia from 2010 to 2013.

Alt News found that the speech ascribed to Gillard was cooked-up with bits and pieces lifted from various places. Most of it was from an article by Larry Bouldermilk published by a local newspaper in Georgia. “Everything in the example from the paragraph beginning with the word ‘Quote:’ onwards is an Australianized version of [the] text lifted from an opinion piece written in 2001 by a U.S. Air Force veteran shortly after the 9/11 attacks on America and had nothing whatsoever to do with Australia or Julia Gillard.”, reported the American fact-checking website Snopes.

5. Misinformation: Andhra CM appointed an evangelist to head the Tirupati temple trust

How can this be allowed @HMOIndia? Sudha Murthy resigns from Thirupathi board. Jagan appoints his uncle YEHOVA VINCENT Subbareddy( YV SUBBARADDY) -a staunch Evangelist as chairman of TIRUPATI TUMALA BALAJI TEMPLE, richest Hindu shrine He works to spread more CHURCHES in Andhra.

The above message was tweeted by Madhu Kishwar, who alleged that Andhra Pradesh CM Jagan Mohan Reddy had appointed his uncle, allegedly “a staunch evangelist”, as the chairman of the Tirumala Tirupati temple trust, displacing author and chairperson of Infosys Foundation Sudha Murthy, who was a member of the board. Kishwar in her tweet claimed that the full name of Y V Subba Reddy, Jagan Mohan Reddy’s uncle, is Yehova Vincent Subbareddy.

Y V Subba Reddy’s full name is Yarram Venkata Subba Reddy and NOT Yehova Vincent Subba Reddy, as claimed by Madhu Kishwar in her tweet. This was confirmed by Subba Reddy himself, who retweeted a tweet in response to Madhu Kishwar, in which a copy of his poll affidavit was attached. The fact-check can be read here.

6. Tarek Fatah tweets video of Islamic flags waved during Ramzan as ‘Pakistani flags’

“Guess which community is waving Pakistan flags in India’s Tamilnadu state? Buddhists? Zoroastrians? Must be Jews,” read a June 9 tweet by Tarek Fatah, posted along with a video of a bike rally where several people can be seen waving green coloured flags. As per Fatah, the rally took place in Tamil Nadu and the flags were of Pakistan.

If one carefully watches the video, the bike-borne individuals are not waving Pakistani flags. The country’s flag has a rightward facing crescent moon and star and a white strip on the left. The flags in the video do not have the white strip. Alt News noticed two different kinds of flags in the clip – one, which has a crescent moon and a star in the middle; two, which has a crescent moon and star in the middle and three stars on the left. The entire fact-check may be read here.

7. False claim: Madrasa students “enroute terrorist training” detained in Kolkata

“Bhai log kolkata ke raza bazar me 63 madarse ke bachhe ko police ne giraftar kr liya h unka kahna h ke ye aatankwadi ka training lene ja rahe h..is Msg ko jaldi forward kre media dekhne se in kar kar Diya h media bol raha h ke hme uper se order h nhi dekhne ka plz forward all grp”, read the message attached to a video posted by an individual user on Facebook. In the video, a group of students can be seen walking in a queue with policemen guiding them. It was claimed that these were Madrasa students who were arrested by police. According to the post, the police said that they on their way to attaining training in terrorism.

Bhai log kolkata ke raza bazar me 63 madarse ke bachhe ko police ne giraftar kr liya h unka kahna h ke ye aatankwadi ka training lene ja rahe h..is Msg ko jaldi forward kre media dekhne se in kar kar Diya h media bol raha h ke hme uper se order h nhi dekhne ka plz forward all grp…

Posted by Nazeer Naz on Friday, May 31, 2019

Alt News found that the video is four years old and has been circulating on social media with afalse narrative. According to media reports, the students were on their way to a madrasa in Pune when they were stopped by the police in Kolkata’s Sealdah railway station due to alleged lack of documentation.

8. Image from Bangladesh shared as roads blocked to offer Namaz in India

“Ban offering of Namaz on roads on #SecularIndia. @PMOIndia @HMOIndia This is NOT allowed in Islamic countries. Why it is allowed here ????? #PayalRohatgi,” read a June 3 tweet by Payal Rohatgi where she shared a photograph of hundreds of people offering Namaz on the road, thus blocking traffic.

The same image was circulated on social media with the message, “इस्लामिक देशों में जो गलत है वह भारत में सही कैसे..?? सड़कों पर नमाज पढ़ना प्रतिबंधित है इस्लामिक देशों में भारत में सड़कों पर नमाज पढ़ना क्यों प्रतिबंधित नहीं हो सकता क्यों गुलामी करने पर मजबूर हो….???? (How can something that is wrong in Islamic countries be right in India? If offering Namaz on the streets is banned in Islamic nations, why can’t it be banned in India? Why are we acting like slaves?)”

A simple reverse-search on Google threw up the link of the website where the image was uploaded. The website describes the photograph as – “Muslims are praying at in the road due to large number Muslims gathered at Bishaw ijtema at Tongi, Bangladesh.”

CHILD ABDUCTION AND ORGAN TRADE RUMOURS RESURFACE

A rumour viral on social media claimed that organ smugglers are killing innocents to sell their body parts. The message circulating in Telugu claimed that 500 people travelling from Bihar to Jharkhand, disguised as beggars, are killing people to sell their bodies and kidneys to medical colleges and illegal organ trade businesses. The rumour suggested that six to seven perpetrators have been caught by the police. The message was also circulated in Hindi.

Breaking down the video into multiple keyframes and reverse-searching individual images on Yandex revealed that the video has been doing rounds on social media at least since 2017. It has been shared in varied foreign languages.In March 2019, Agence France-Presse (AFP) had fact-checked a photograph depicting the same events shown in the video. It was then viral as, kidnapping syndicates in the Philippines targeting people for their organs.” Alt News’ fact-check may be read here.

MISINFORMATION AROUND DOCTORS’ STRIKE IN KOLKATA

1.  MP Congress posts old, erroneous report about arrest of Bajrang Dal members, links it to WB violence

The political situation in West Bengal was volatile after the result of the 2019 general election. According to some media reports, a BJP worker was killed in post-poll violence in the state. In the midst of all this, Madhya Pradesh Congress tweeted via its official Twitter handle, “BJP had got its workers killed in West Bengal, 11 Bajrang Dal members arrested…”(translation). Along with this tweet, a link to an article which appeared on Daily Hunt, was also shared.

This claim about the murder of BJP workers at the hands of 11 Bajrang Dal members, is based on an incident which had taken place in 2018. An article related to this had appeared in NewsHunt (DailyHunt) on June 4, 2018. This report had been published by ANI as well, but it was later removed.

According to a report by NewsLaundry, the arrest of Bajrang Dal members was related to violence at Ram Navami, and not over the murder of BJP workers. ANI had told NewsLaundry that the article published by it was factually incorrect and hence, was taken off.

2. 2018 video of doctor attacked in MP recirculated amidst doctors’ strike

“দেখুন ঠিক কেন ডাক্তাররা নিরাপত্তা দাবি করছেন। দেখুন পুলিশের ভূমিকা। পরিষ্কার সিসি টিভি ফুটেজ থাকলেও কোন শাস্তি হয় না। (This is exactly why doctors are demanding safety. See the police’s role. Despite a clear CCTV footage, there is no penalty.)” 

In the backdrop of the doctors’ protest in Kolkata, the above message was viral in Bengali on social media platforms. The message was circulated with CCTV footage that shows a group of people thrashing a doctor.

দেখুন ঠিক কেন ডাক্তাররা নিরাপত্তা দাবি করছেন ,দেখুন পুলিশের ভূমিকা । সম্পূর্ণ ভিডিওটি দেখার জন্য আগ্রহ করছি ।

Posted by Akash Sadhu on Friday, June 14, 2019

A careful glance at the video was sufficient to debunk the false claim that it depicts a recent event. Since it is a CCTV footage, the top left corner of the clip carries a date – ’10-24-2018′. A keyword search with time filter on Facebook led us to an October 31, 2018 report in medicalreportertoday.comAccording to the report, the incident took place in the district hospital of Bhind in Madhya Pradesh. The family members of a deceased patient thrashed the on-duty doctor inside his chamber.

PHOTOSHOPPED TELEVISION SCREENGRABS

1. No, PM Modi did not announce total alcohol ban

“Modi ji’s important decision since barabanki liquor accident has been stopped by alcohol in whole india from tonight,” was a message viral along with an alleged screengrab of an Aaj Tak broadcast. Citing the media outlet, social media claims suggested that the Prime Minister had decided to ban liquor across the country.

The image shared on social media was photoshopped. Closer scrutiny of the image revealed several errors which are uncharacteristic of a professional TV news channel. Alt News’ fact check may be read here.

2. “Watching porn leads to reproduction of more children”: False quote ascribed to Yogi Adityanath

A quote that says – “पोर्न देखने से ज़्यादा बच्चे पैदा होते हैं (Watching porn leads to the reproduction of more children)”, was attributed to UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The statement was circulated as a news broadcast by ABP News.

Alt News contacted ABP News editor Pankaj Jha who said, “It’s a fake graphic plate. We don’t use this font for text.” A comparison of the screengrab and a genuine ABP News graphic plate from its broadcast shows a clear distinction. Moreover, the content was taken from a satirical website.

MISCELLANEOUS

1. ANI misreports PMO granting Rs 30 lakh to ailing Agra girl, several media outlets follow suit

Agra resident Lalita Kumari, 17, has been suffering from aplastic anaemia for the past 19 months. The family required Rs 10 lakh for her treatment, an appeal for which was made to the PMO last year in July. Two months later, in September 2018, partial financial assistance of Rs 3 lakh was provided to Lalita.

Since then, the family has been struggling to gather the remaining Rs 7 lakh. The Times of India reported on June 22, 2019, that the family, unable to arrange for the funds, sought euthanasia for their daughter in a written request to chief minister Yogi Adityanath. Soon after, media reports started pouring in with the claim that the Prime Minister extended Rs 30 lakh aid for the ailing child.

A sum of Rs. 3 lakh had been granted for the treatment out of the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund. An extra zero was mysteriously added to this figure, with numerous media reports stating that a sum of Rs. 30 lakh had been granted, which was not true. Alt News’ fact check may be read here.

2. Man of Indian origin urinating during cricket match falsely claimed to be Pakistani

A poster shared on social media claimed that a Pakistani man masquerading as an Indian cricket fan was urinating at The Oval, London, during the India vs Australia game. A collage of photographs, where a man dressed in the Indian tricolour can be seen, was also shared along with the poster. The text reads, “Farid Khan, this man from Pakistan wear Indian flag dress pretend to be an Indian cricket fan is peeing in The Oval gallery during India v/s Australia match and also recorded the video and posted on social media, video goes to viral then London police arrested him and his 2 brothers. Such a shameful act by Pakistani citizen”. It suggested that a Pakistani citizen attempted to tarnish India’s image by pretending to be an Indian fan who indulged in the obscenity.

The claim that this person, dressed in Indian colours is actually a Pakistani, is false. Alt News found that the man dressed in the tricolour is an avid Indian cricket fan named Narendra Bhojani. The entire fact-check may be read here.

3. Video of elderly Brahmin dancing falsely shared as crowd in South India beating him up

A video of an old man surrounded by a crowd of people was shared on social media with the claim that he is a Brahmin who was thrashed in South India. “एक वृद्ध ब्राह्मण की पहले यग्योपवित (जनेऊ) काटी फिर कपड़े उतार कर भीड़ ने डांस करने के लिए मजबूर किया। यह स्थिति है दक्षिण के .@INCIndia शासित राज्यों की, .@RahulGandhi जी क्या यह अल्पसंख्यक ब्राह्मणों के साथ मोब लिंचिंग नही है? (An old Brahmin’s janeu (sacred thread) was removed and he was forced to dance in a crowd after his clothes were stripped off. This is the state of South. States under Congress rule. Rahul Gandhi ji, isn’t this mob lynching of minority Brahmins?)” – is the message shared with the clip.

Alt News found that the video was uploaded on the application Tik Tok, and the person seen in the video seemed to be voluntarily dancing, with the crowd cheering him on, unlike what was claimed.

4. False claim: Saudi Arabian govt releases Arabic version of the Bhagavad Gita

“सऊदी अरब सरकार ने अरबी में “भगवद्गीता” रिलीज की। यहाँ तो “भारत माता की जय” बोलने से इस्लाम खतरे में आ जाता हैं।” (Saudi Arabian govt released ‘Bhagvad Gita’ in Arabic. Here, even saying ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ puts Islam in danger- translation).

The above message was circulated widely on social media, claiming that the Government of Saudi Arabia has released an Arabic translation of the Bhagavad Gita. It had been shared on both Twitter and Facebook. Accompanying the message is a picture of a book cover showing Krishna and Arjuna on a chariot, along with what appears to be Arabic text.

The claim that an Arabic translation of the Bhagavad Gita has been released by the Saudi Arabian government, is utterly false. A simple Google search with the keywords ‘Saudi Arabia Bhagavad Gita Arabic translation’ throws up not a single news report. Moreover, Arabic translations of the Bhagavad Gita have been available for several years.

5. False claim: Prabhat Pheri taken out for the first time in 40 years in Srinagar, Kashmir

A social media claim suggested that Prabhat Pheri – the custom of chanting and singing bhajans during early morning walks – took place for the first time in 40 years in Srinagar, Kashmir Valley. A video shared to support the claim shows a group of people singing ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ on the road while the police are providing protection to the devotees. The accompanying caption said,“श्रीनगर कश्मीर में 40 वर्षों में पहली बार प्रभात फेरी का आयोजन हुआ। सोचो ये कैसे मुमकिन हुआ…? मोदी है….. तो मुमकिन है। जय श्री राम (For the first time in 40 years, Prabhat Pheri was organised in Srinagar, Kashmir. Did you wonder how this was made possible? Modi hai toh mumkin hai.)”

Alt News found this claim to be false. Firstly, the video accompanying the claim did not depict the Prabhat Pheri as claimed, but was shot on Ram Navami. Secondly, both Prabhat Pheri and Ram Navami have been celebrated earlier in the valley.

Misinformation ahead of the general election was varied, and not exclusively focused on communal hate-mongering, which seems to have returned with a vengeance post the election.

This article was first published at Alt News.

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