[Warning: This report may be distressing for some. Reader discretion is advised.]
A disturbing clip of a group of people slitting a young boy’s throat has gone viral on social media. Given its visceral imagery, we will not be including the video in the article. The footage is being circulated on WhatsApp as an incident of poll violence following the West Bengal assembly election results.
Accompanying the video is a viral caption that states, “#Intellectual_Bengal In West Bengal’s Birbhum, TMC workers mercilessly beat Sudip Biswas to death and posed with his corpse afterwards. Biswas’s only crime was supporting and campaigning for the opposing party. This is akin to the photos hunters take while posing with the animal’s dead body. In today’s India, even an animal wouldn’t be treated with so much cruelty. The sad part is that local intellectuals are justifying these rapes and murders. Political differences are indeed an integral part of democracy. There are hundreds of political parties in the country, so it’s only natural that each will have its own workers with different viewpoints. If 10 candidates are contesting for a seat, you can only support and vote for one of them. Does this mean that the remaining nine can resort to committing physical harm and murder?”
It was also posted on Twitter with the following message, “Sorry to upload this video. TMC workers are attacking BJP workers like animals. This is a highly condemnable and sad clip. What’s going on in West Bengal is nothing more than ‘jungle raj’. One could never have imagined that politics would take such a dark turn. What does such an attack on Hindus indicate? #TMCTerror #tmcgoons”
Old video from Venezuela
We performed a reverse image search of the video stills on Yandex, which led us to a 2018 news report on news.com.au. The story dated February 6, 2018, says that the incident took place in Venezuela, a country in North America. The boy in the clip was kidnapped by a rival drug mafia gang and strangled to death at an unknown location. The gang filmed the incident and shared the footage online. The article also contains some frames from the video.
On February 6, 2018, Daily Mail also published a report on the incident. It stated that the boy was a victim of the dreaded ‘megabandas’ gang that formed in Venezuelan prisons. The group was said to specialize in kidnapping, extortion and murder. The clip first came to light after being published in news.com.au, which attributed the murder to a local gang. Crime expert and journalist Javier Ignacio Mallorca told media outlet Efecto Cocuyo in March 2017 that at least 19 such gangs were active in Venezuela.
The Sun also reported on the gruesome murder in February 2018. Stating that news.com.au first broke the story, it mentioned that the Venezuela prison system was one of the most violent in the world, with almost 6,500 murders committed in custody between 1999 and 2014. According to The Sun, the ‘megabandas’ gang was one of the largest in the area, operating alongside another syndicate known as the ‘Cartel of the Suns’. Together, they smuggled drugs from Colombia into the United States.
Therefore, an old video of a brutal execution at the hands of a Venezuelan drug cartel was falsely shared as an incident of poll violence following the announcement of the West Bengal assembly election results.