A photo of a billboard featuring Maharashtra minister Aaditya Thackeray has been shared by BJP members and supporters to show him ‘appeasing’ the Muslim community. The billboard has a picture of Thackeray on a green background waving to people and a text in Urdu (سلام ورلی) that translates to ‘hello’. Below is a tweet by BJP national media panellist Charu Pragya.
From Saffron to Green.
From Marathi to Urdu.
From Shiv Sena to ……………..?
— Charu Pragya🇮🇳 (@CharuPragya) September 7, 2021
Another user wrote that Thackeray is bidding farewell to his Marathi identity.
मराठी अस्मितेला भावपूर्ण श्रद्धांजली💐💐 pic.twitter.com/ZZaSGnhRl9
— टमरेल तोंडया (@tamrel143) September 6, 2021
The image is massively widespread on Facebook.
A reverse-image search of the photo takes one to an article published by News18 in 2019 about Aaditya Thackeray filing his nomination papers for the Maharashtra polls in Worli. The article has pictures of the billboard in question and other similar billboards with different background colours and texts in varied languages reading ‘hello’. The one in Gujarat reads ‘Kem Cho Worli’ while the Telugu and Hindi texts say ‘Namaste Worli’.
The billboard that carries Urdu text was cherry-picked to give a false perception that Thackeray was appeasing Muslims when, in fact, he was appealing to people from different communities. The disinformation also brings forth the demonisation and communalisation of Urdu. A similar misleading narrative was attempted to be built around farmer leader Rakesh Tikait’s speech in Muzaffarnagar where he uttered ‘Allah hu Akbar’. Tikait was sharing a message of religious harmony, telling protestors at the ‘Kisan Mahapanchayat’ that Muzaffarnagar, a place that has witnessed communal riots, is known for farmers’ movements that invoke chants of both ‘Allah hu Akbar’ and ‘Har Har Mahadev’ together.