On December 14, Business Standard reported that Rashtriya Janata Dal (JRD) had called for a Bihar bandh on December 21 in protest against the recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The bandh took a violent turn when two groups clashed in Phulwari Sharif, Patna in the view of protests against the CAA.
According to a December 22 report in Hindustan Times, violence started after miscreants allegedly began stone-pelting. At least 25 persons were injured due to stone-pelting and gunshots.
Subsequently, social media was brimming with claims related to the violence.
Claim 1: Temple vandalised in Patna
On December 22, BJP supporter Shubhrastha shared a 14-second video of the protests and tweeted, “Peaceful’ protests in Patna. Temple vandalised. Seen placard seculars stop chanting Faiz and take a look? Has anyone seen Swara Bhaskar, Barkha Dutt writing a Washington Post article? (Will get you more original footage if you do!) Farhan Akhtar any comments? Shame on you all!”
‘Peaceful’ protests in Patna. Temple vandalised.
Seen placard seculars stop chanting Faiz and take a look? Has anyone seen @ReallySwara ? @BDUTT writing a Washington Post article? (Will get you more original footage if you do!) @FarOutAkhtar any comments? Shame on you all! pic.twitter.com/fEPmOTRqQi
— Shubhrastha (@Shubhrastha) December 22, 2019
Anshul Saxena wrote that a “Hindu temple was vandalized by anti-CAB protestors in Patna”. His tweet was retweeted over 7,000 times. Several social media users claimed – Twitter and Facebook – that Muslims are destroying temples in the name of peaceful protests. Several videos related to this incident are available on Facebook.
A similar claim suggested that the temple which was vandalised was dedicated to Shiva. @Pushp_Kul tweeted, “Yesterday rioters destroyed the Shiva temple at Phulwarisharif in Bihar. Opposing Modi, Muslims have also started targeting the temples of the Hindu God Shiva, Ram and Krishna. What the hell do you want?
[Translated from कल दंगाइयों ने बिहार के फुलवारीशरीफ में शिव मंदिर को क्षत-विक्षत कर दिया। मोदी का विरोध करते करते मुसलमानों ने हिंदुओं के आराध्य भगवान शिव, राम और कृष्ण के मंदिर को भी निशाना बनाना शुरू कर दिया है। आखिर ये चाहते क्या है । ]”
Claim 2: One Hindu shot dead in Phulwari Sharif
Many Twitter users further claimed that a member of the Hindu community was shot dead in the violence. A user with the handle @SATSIDD tweeted, “In Patna, Phulwari Sharif one Hindu shot dead and temples vandalised by them. He was shot bcoz he protested for breaking the temple.” This tweet share shared over 1,600 times.
In Patna,Phulwari Sharif one Hindu shot dead and temples vandalised by them.He was shot bcoz he protested for breaking the temple. pic.twitter.com/SY2CY8QoJU
— SATYAM SIDDHARTHA (@SATSIDD) December 22, 2019
Many other users have posted tweets with the same claim
FACT-CHECK: Temple and cemetery vandalised, at least nine Muslims shot
Understanding the situation on the ground
Alt News spoke with R Rehman, SHO Phulwari Sharif Police station. He said, “On one side there was a temple and on the other, a cemetery. In the conflict, both the temple and the cemetery have been damaged. The temple came between the stone-pelting from both the groups.”
Alt News also reached out to Akshay Anand who did a ground report for HS Bihar, a Bihar-based digital news platform. He shared a video which clearly shows a mob attacking a temple in the Phulwari Sharif area. Below is the relevant bit from the video which has been slowed down for viewers to clearly see the attack.
“The Hanuman idol inside the temple was vandalised wherein the idol’s right arm was broken and the face was disfigured. After things settled, the Hanuman idol was covered with a piece of cloth to protect Hindu sentiments,” said Anand. “There was no damage to the structure of the temple but the right side of the door was damaged”, he added. According to the journalist, a majority of the people involved in the conflict were residents of Phulwari Sharif.
Therefore, the claim that a temple was vandalised is true, however, it wasn’t a Shiva temple but dedicated to Hindu deity Hanuman.
Was a Hindu shot dead?
SHO Rehman told Alt News that the police did not use firearms during the conflict and claimed that the gunshots were made against anti-CAA protesters by members of the Hindu community. According to the Rehman, no deaths have occurred.
“On December 21, around 1 pm, stone-pelting began. While the police were present in the conflict zone, they were drastically outnumbered,” said Anand. “The shooting occurred around 1.15 pm and by 1.30 pm Rapid Action Force (RAF) and armed district police reached the scene. The forces lobbed at least 40 tear-gas shells and used water cannons to disperse the violent mob. By 4 pm, the situation was under control,” he further informed.
Anand also said, “As per my inquiry, no Hindu was shot dead. In fact, the shooting was done by the Hindu community which injured at least nine Muslim men. One of them was shot in the neck and is in a critical condition.”
Alt News reached out to another Patna-based journalist, Sujeet Gupta, who was covering the aftermath of the riots. He said, “I don’t think the objective of the CAA protesters was to destroy the temple. But in the heat of the moment, things escalated.” According to Gupta, violence broke out after Hindus in the locality stopped the protesters from agitating. “Shots were fired at CAA protesters after they started vandalising the temple. The mob opposing the protesters did the shooting,” he informed.
Gupta added that the police too made gunshots but only in the air to disperse the mob. He confirmed that no one died as a result of the conflict but some anti-CAA protesters were injured. Expressing concern at the misinformation that a Hindu was shot dead, Gupta said, “Such rumours may cause communal tension. I have seen several posts on social media by young boys who are talking about taking revenge from the other community.”
Thus the claim that a Hindu was shot dead is false. Both police and local journalists stated that the conflict saw no casualties.
Who used firearms?
Anand shared a 44-second video with Alt News where one can spot gunshot victims. While he could not ascertain who shot the clip, he informed that it was taken at Imarat Shariya, a social welfare organisation which operates the Maulana Sajjad Memorial Hospital, commonly known as MSM Hospital.
In the video, we can spot at least three wounded men and someone in the background can be heard repeatedly saying that police fired the shots.
Alt News spoke with Mohammad Aadil Faridi, the office secretary at Imarat Shariya, who confirmed the location in the video. “Nine people were injured by gunshots. We sent them to AIIMS and PMCH in an ambulance. Two of them were critically injured – one was shot in the neck and the other was shot in his liver. But no one was reported dead in the incident,” he said. According to Faridi, bullets were fired by miscreants from a building’s rooftop on CAA protesters. Similar to Anand’s inputs, Faridi said, “The police did not fire the bullets on the mob. They only shot in the air to disperse the mob.”
Alt News cannot confirm the parties involved in gunshots. However, as per the police, journalists and Imarat Shariya, it is clear that anti-CAA protesters were the ones injured.
A temple was vandalised in Bihar’s Pulwari Sharif when clashes between two groups took a violent turn in the view of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. There were no casualties in the conflict but several people were injured, among whom were nine Muslims who suffered gunshot wounds. The claim that a Hindu was shot dead is untrue. According to a December 23 report in Times of India, at least 40 people have been arrested for the violence. The report also stated that three empty cartridges of 7.65mm were recovered.
[Update: This report, in certain places, identified anti-CAA protesters and the people who retaliated against them as members of the Muslim and Hindu communities respectively. They are now referred to as ‘groups’.]
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