August 2019 was characterised by a series of dangerous rumours about child abduction gangs, which resulted in a series of violent incidents in various states. This time around, the rumours specifically targeted mentally challenged persons and transgenders. Furthermore, the central government’s decision to revoke the special status of Jammu & Kashmir also triggered a deluge of misinformation on social media. This misinformation was generated and furthered by all sides of the political and ideological divide.
CHILD ABDUCTION RUMOURS CONTINUE UNABATED
Rumours of child abduction gangs on the prowl continued from July and took a sinister turn as mentally challenged people and transgenders were specifically targeted via these rumours.
1. Mentally challenged woman falsely accused of child kidnapping held hostage by mob
Two videos of a woman held hostage by a mob which is accusing her of child-lifting were viral on social media. In the first video, the mob is questioning the woman dressed in a black saree about her team of ‘child-kidnappers’. It was shared with the message, “A team of 2,000 Rohingyas are on a prowl across the country to kidnap children. They either sell these kids or sacrifice them. Watch and listen to it yourself and share it as much as possible -translated. Another video of the same woman, where is she is inquired by the mob about the number of abducted children and their whereabouts, was also shared on social media.
सावधान पूरे हिन्दुस्तान में रोहिंग्या की 2000 लोगो की टीम आयी है जो बच्चों को उठा के ले जा रही है कोई बेचता है कोई बलि के लिये ले जाता है खुद देखो सुनो ओर ज्यादा से ज्यादा इसे फैलाओ
Alt News found that this woman was held hostage by a mob in Dimrauni village of UP’s Jhansi district. A YouTube Channel Bharat News 24 Live claimed that the woman was a child-lifter. Alt News contacted Badagaon police station to confirm the incident and inquire about its status. We were informed that the incident is at least 15-20 days old and the woman was a mentally-challenged person. The villagers had mistaken her for being a child-lifter.
2. Mentally-challenged man beaten on false child-lifting suspicions; video viral
A video of a man dressed in women’s clothing is massively viral on social media with the claim that he is a child-kidnapper. From a personal Facebook account फौजी सिहँ जी, the video has a whopping 2.3 million views. The post was shared with the claim that at least 2,000 Rohingyas are on a prowl across the country to kidnap children. They either sell these kids or sacrifice them, the message asserted.
Alt News contacted Mauranipur police station, Jhansi district in Uttar Pradesh and was informed that the man was not a child-kidnapper. He was a mentally-challenged person who was beaten on the suspicion of being a child-lifter. “This incident is at least 10-15 days old. The youth’s name is Pushpendra Singh, son of Gajrar Singh. He is from Ruthiyai gram in Guna, Madhya Pradesh and was getting treated for his mental illness in Gwalior. He lost his way at a station and wandered all the way to Khilara gram in Mauranipur where locals, who believed that he was a child kidnapper, thrashed him.”
3. Gory, disturbing videos shared to stoke false rumours of child-kidnapping
A set of videos was shared on social media with the narrative that these depict child-kidnappers who sell kidneys of children for money. The message used to share the video claims – “These videos were circulated from district morena of Madhya Pradesh. They were extracting kidneys and heart from children.” The visual description of the four videos from top-left is as follows:
- A disturbing, gory video of a man ripping out the heart from a living man’s body.
- Another disturbing visual of a boy held captive by an angry group of people who are beating him up while constantly questioning the boy about his place of residence.
- A gory of video of people rounding-up several dismembered bodies.
- A broadcast by news channel IBC24 News that reports about an arrest of a saint who was attempting to kidnap children.
Alt News was able to ascertain that out these four videos, three are unrelated to the child-kidnapping. We have traced the origins of each video with their actual narrative. Alt News’ fact-check may be read here.
4. Unrelated photos shared with false narrative of child abduction and organ trade
A photograph of lifeless bodies of five children was shared on social media with two separate claims. The first claim suggested that the image was released by Rajasthan police and warned people of an active gang prowling in Rajasthan. The message alerts people to take care of their children. A second claim, also shared in Hindi, was posted by a Facebook user who shared the image of the dead children in a set of four other photographs. He claimed that child-kidnappers are lifting kids and selling their kidneys.
A simple reverse-image search on Google revealed that all the five photographs were shared with a false narrative. Alt News’s detailed fact-check may be read here.
The video posted below is Alt News’s compilation of 15 such disturbing instances of rumours of child abduction.
MISINFORMATION OVER JAMMU & KASHMIR
Misinformation over Jammu & Kashmir was rampant in the month of August, soon after the Central government’s revocation of the special status of the state. This misinformation and in several instances, disinformation was common to all sides of the argument on Kashmir. Those opposed to the revocation of special status desperately sought to portray large-scale human rights violations and civil unrest in Kashmir. Alt News observed that the Pakistani social media ecosystem was particularly active here. On the other side of the fence were those who used misinformation to show absolute normalcy in J&K.
1. False claim of BBC, Al Jazeera, Reuters fabricating reports of unrest in Srinagar
On August 10, BBC News had reported that thousands of protesters had taken to the streets in Soura, Srinagar against the government’s decision to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status. The media outlet claimed that it “witnessed the police opening fire and using tear gas to disperse the crowd. Despite that, the Indian government has said the protest never took place.” The same was corroborated by Al Jazeera and Reuters in their reports.
Alt News’s detailed fact-check verified the timing and location of the video footage presented by BBC and Al Jazeera, and conclusively established that the visuals of the protest were from Soura, Srinagar. It was further established that the protest pertained to the Union government’s decision to revoke key provisions of Article 370.
2. Pakistan minister shares Burhan Wani funeral video as protest by Kashmiris
On August 9, days after the status of J&K was altered, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi tweeted a video of a mass gathering with the claim that these were Kashmiri people protesting against the Indian government after the recent development in J&K. “Millions of #Kashmiri rally in IOK against @narendramodi Govt”, read the message posted by Zaidi.
— Ali Haider Zaidi (@AliHZaidiPTI) August 9, 2019
Alt News found that the video posted by Zaidi was of the funeral of Burhan Wani, the terrorist who was gunned down by security personnel in Kashmir in 2016. Visuals of his protest, where a large number of people had gathered, were used to claim Kashmiris had risen against the Indian government. In another instance, Zaidi had shared an edited clip to falsely depict atrocity in Kashmir.
3. Old clip shared to claim Arnab Goswami called for killing of Kashmiris after Centre’s move on Article 370
A video of Republic TV managing director Arnab Goswami surfaced on social media where he was heard saying – “Now operation elimination will start. We have to eliminate all these people. These traitors, the sloganeering brigade, you think we have not given you chance? We now need to have a tough military option. And I’m saying as a proud Indian, I am prepared for collateral damage. Kill thousands.” The video was shared widely on Facebook and Twitter, and even quote-tweeted by some journalists.
It turned out that the video clip in question was of a programme on Republic TV conducted in March 2019, and was not broadcast after the Union government’s revocation of key provisions of Article 370.
4. Old BJP rally video shared as Kashmiri children singing patriotic song
A Twitter user who is followed by railway minister Piyush Goyal’s office, shared a video where several Muslim children are singing ‘Hindustan Hamara Hai’. She tweeted the video claiming that average Kashmiris are celebrating the dilution of Article 370. Her tweet read, “#KashmirWelcomesChange The children in Kashmir singing ‘Hindustan Hamara hai’ While the seculars are sulking the abrogation of Article 370, an average Kashmiri is celebrating the integration with Mighty India! #ThursdayThoughts #ThursdayMotivation.“
The children in Kashmir singing ‘Hindustan Hamara hai’
— Geetika Swami (@SwamiGeetika) August 8, 2019
Alt News fact-checked this and found that the video shared by Swami carried a logo that said – ‘Voice of J&K’. We found a Facebook page by the same name that had shared the identical clip on April 15, 2019. Since the video is almost five months old, it cannot be representative of an event that took place after the government’s decision to deem Article 370 ineffective.
5. Imran Khan’s party shares old videos from Kashmir to portray recent unrest
“Curfews and media blackout cannot contain revolutions that emerge as a result of grave human rights violations. Yet Indian Govt continues to alienate Kashmir. Unarmed men, women, children being attacked by Indian Army. Inhumane!”
With these words, on August 24, 2019, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the political party headed by Pakistani PM Imran Khan, tweeted a video claiming that it represented the supposed brutal suppression of Kashmiris by the Indian army.
Curfews and media blackout cannot contain revolutions that emerge as a result of grave human rights violations. Yet Indian Govt continues to alienate Kashmir. Unarmed men, women, children being attacked by Indian Army. Inhumane! #Kashmir pic.twitter.com/ixfPYd86F3
— PTI (@PTIofficial) August 23, 2019
The video in question, tweeted by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and claimed to be of a recent crackdown in the Kashmir valley, is actually a combination of two old videos. One of the videos is from 2018, while the other is from 2017. Alt News’s fact-check may be read here.
6. Multiple fake accounts impersonating Indian/Pak army officers spread fake news
On August 19, Republic TV Consulting Editor Major Gaurav Arya (Retd) quote-tweeted a tweet by a user who claims to be Pakistani Lieutenant Colonel Adnan Gulmirza (@AdnanGMpk). Arya’s tweet said, “In Pakistan, anyone who is not Sunni Punjabi is Wajib-ul-Qatl. The story of this Lt Col is not surprising. According to Pakistan’s Constitution, an Ahmadi can be jailed for simply calling his place of worship a masjid. Ahmadis in Pakistan are treated worse than animals.”
In Pakistan, anyone who is not Sunni Punjabi is Wajib-ul-Qatl. The story of this Lt Col is not surprising. According to Pakistan’s Constitution an Ahmadi can be jailed for simply calling his place of worship a masjid. Ahmadis in Pakistan are treated worse than animals. https://t.co/zW1ukI419p
— Major Gaurav Arya (Retd) (@majorgauravarya) August 19, 2019
Alt News found that the account which claims to be handled by Lt Col Adnan Gulmirza is fake. This account was recently created in August 2019 and the man in the profile picture is not Lieutenant Colonel Adnan. In fact, Lt Col Adnan Gulmirza does not even exist. Alt News found other such fake profiles of Indian and Pakistani army generals which have been created on Twitter, in an attempt to mislead social media users.
7. Photos of luxury hotel in Srinagar shared as bungalows owned by Kashmiri politicians
“Have a look at the Bungalows of….
*Mr. Gulam Nabi Azad*
*Mr. Omar Abdullah*
*Mr. Farook Abdullah*
*Ms. Mehbooba Mufti*
Houses in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir….
These R Government houses & maintained by the Government too at the cost of public money….
U shall soon come to know Y such people R opposing removal of Artical 370 & 35A….”
The removal of key provisions of Article 370 unleashed a wave of misinformation pertaining to the state. National Conference leaders Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad were targeted in the above message which accompanied a set of photographs showing what seem like fancy, lavish residential properties, purportedly owned by these leaders.
Alt News reverse-searched these images and found that they are not bungalows of top Kashmiri politicians as claimed, but a luxury hotel located in the heart of Srinagar. Photos of The Lalit Grand Palace, Srinagar were circulated with this false claim.
COMMUNAL RUMOUR MONGERING
1. School skit promoting India-Bangladesh brotherhood shared with hate-filled narrative
Twitter user @pokershash posted an image of children holding the flags of India and Bangladesh. He shared the photographs with the message, “Rampurhat Girls’ High School in West Bengal celebrated Independence Day with a Bangladeshi flag”. He also claimed that TMC MLA Asish Banerjee was present at the school function. The video was quote-tweeted by journalist Abhijeet Majumder.
Did you know?
The National Anthem of Bangladesh was sung at Rampurhat Girls’ School in Birbhum during #IndependenceDay celebrations..
Step by step, the State of West Bengal is heading towards West Bangladesh…
— Sourish Mukherjee (@me_sourish_) August 16, 2019
Alt News fact-checked this claim and found that the video was mischievously clipped. It was part of a skit promoting India-Bangladesh unity.
2. Video from Pakistan viral as woman lured in “love Jihad” abused by Muslim husband
A video where a woman narrates violent details of domestic violence was viral on social media with a “love Jihad” angle. The message accompanying the video said that the woman used to follow Muslim men on Tik Tok and was trapped by seven such people on the app.
एक और मोहतरमा लव जिहाद में गई। और इनको मारा पीटा गया पेसाब पिलाई गई। ये सेक्युलर थी। और बोलती थी ये बहुत अछे होते है।tik tok पर सभी मुस्लिमों को करती थी fallow वही से इन्हें फँसाया गया। 7 लड़कों ने…….
Posted by Harishchand Chauhan on Sunday, August 18, 2019
Alt News’s fact-check found that the video was first posted by Pakistani journalist Iqrar ul Hassan on August 13. According to his tweet, the woman is a Pakistani-Italian. The incident is from Karachi, Pakistan.
3. False claim of Union govt taking control of Kashmir mosques after seizure of weapons
“The central gov’t has taken custody of all the masjids in Kashmir and see yourself, why Masjids are taken into custody.”
The above message was circulated on social media and WhatsApp along with a set of photographs. According to the claim, a large stash of arms was recovered from mosques in Kashmir. It may be noted that this went viral after the Central govt’s decision of August 5.
Alt News found not only the claim to be false, but the images shared along with it to be either old, or unrelated, or both. Alt News’s fact check may be read here.
1. ANI, India TV portray photographs of mosque in Jammu as Eid prayers in Srinagar
On August 12, 2019, news agency ANI tweeted a set of photographs, reporting that these were clicked in Srinagar where “People offered namaz in the morning at Mohalla mosques in various parts of the city on #EidAlAdha.” The same set of photos was also published by India TV which reported that these pictures are from Srinagar in Kashmir.
— ANI (@ANI) August 12, 2019
Alt News was alerted by a tweet from a journalist working with AFP who pointed out that the mosque shown in the photos in not in Srinagar but in fact in Jammu. On further probing and a detailed comparison of photos, we were able to establish that the mosque shown in the pictures is the Makkah Masjid in Jammu.
2. Times Now tries fact-checking: Declares Indian parody handle as “Pakistani propaganda”
As part of its #IndiaRejectPropaganda campaign, Times Now recently announced that it will carry out “extensive fact checks to separate truth from fiction”. One such fact-check analysed a tweet from a handle @thezaiduleaks which had posted an image of a scene from the popular TV show ‘Game of Thrones’ with the text, “Kashmiri girl who became blind after she was hit by pellet gun, her brothers, father & mother were mercilessly killed, her sister was raped by Indian Army now begging on street of Srinagar. Where is Humanity?”
Kashmiri girl who became blind after she was hit by pellet gun, her brothers, father & mother were mercilessly killed, her sister was raped by Indian Army now begging on street of Srinagar.
— Fan of Zaidu🇵🇰 (@TheZaiduLeaks) August 3, 2019
With its screen flashing “Pak’s fakery caught out” and “Pak’s ISI propaganda exposed”, Times Now anchor said that “Pakistan is peddling lies”, referring to the Twitter handle which had tweeted the ‘Game of Thrones’ image. It was in fact a parody Twitter handle promoted by an Indian associated with the right-wing portal rightlog.in, which was claimed to be run by Pakistanis and ISI by Times Now. Not just Times Now, but India TV too had declared that a Pakistani handle is making pictures from ‘Game of Thrones’ viral as those from Kashmir.
3. Pak media broadcasts 2010 Dantewada Maoist massacre video as recent incident in Kashmir
A broadcast by Pakistani News channel 92 News HD went viral with the claim that RSS, Bajrang Dal, VHP and Shiv Sena goons, disguised as Indian army men, are in J&K to abuse Kashmiri women. Three lakh such “Hindu fanatics” were sent by PM Modi, the message claimed, adding that 170 of them were killed and their bodies were found.
फौजी वर्दी मे बजरंग दल और आर ऐस ऐस के भघवा गुन्डे जो कशमीर की बेटियो की ईज्जत लुटने गये थे आज मारे गये 170 भघवा गुन्डो की लासे मीली है । 3 लाख भघवा गुण्डो को नरेन्द्र मोदी ने कशमीर भेजा है जिसमे शिव सेना । बजरंग दल । आर ऐस ऐस । वी ऐच पी । के गुण्डे शामील है
Posted by Farhan Owaisi on Sunday, August 25, 2019
Alt News’s fact-check found that the video pertained to the killing of CRPF personnel in a Maoist attack at Dantewada in Chhattisgarh in 2010. 76 CRPF jawans were slain in the ambush.
1. False claim of petrol pumps in Kerala refusing petrol to army for flood relief operations
Media outlet One India Malayalam published a story on August 11 claiming that three petrol pumps in Sulthan Bathery in Wayanad, Kerala were seized by the army after they were refused petrol and diesel for rescue operations in flood-hit areas.
The same story was reported by Malayalam media outlet Thejas News the day before. Subsequently, it travelled to social media where several users made posts alleging that army men were denied petrol in Kerala.
Alt News found that this was fake news propagated by a few local media outlets, which was subsequently picked up by social media users and shared widely.
2. Photoshopped tweet of Bill Gates supporting animal sacrifice on Eid shared on social media
“I don’t want to see any tweet hating on Muslims for slaughtering animals, about 1 million animals killed each day by KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King etc. too feed the rich & make hella money out of it. During Eid Muslims sacrifice them to feed the poor for Free & Y’all lose ur mind.”, reads a screenshot of a purported tweet by billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Twitter user Enver Baig posted the screenshot with a message praising Gates for his tweet.
Your tweet is highly appreciated hope people around the world understand ISLAM, which is a religion of peace n harmony.@BillGates @realDonaldTrump @narendramodi @ImranKhanPTI pic.twitter.com/uHesj0PP1B
— Enver Baig (@SenatorEB17) August 14, 2019
With a keyword search on Bill Gates’ Twitter timeline, we found that he has never tweeted anything related to Eid or slaughtering. Furthermore, Alt News found that Twitter handle @WolfieBabiee was one of the earliest to post this message on August 10, 2019. The tweet has garnered over 48,000 retweets so far. The tweet was then falsely attributed to Bill Gates.
3. Old cartoon photoshopped to portray The New York Times as critical of Congress
A caricature of Rahul Gandhi has been shared on social media claiming that it was published on a cover page of The New York Times. “ये न्यूयॉर्क टाइम्स अमेरिका की प्रतिष्ठित मैगजीन में कवरपेज पर कार्टून छपा है। इसी से पता चलता है कि विदेशी मिडिया भी कांग्रेस के बारे में कैसी सोच रखता है। (This cartoon was published on a cover page of the reputed American magazine New York Times. This shows what international media thinks of Congress.)” – read the accompanying caption. The cartoon attempts to show Congress as terror-sympathisers. It went viral on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.
No such cartoon was published by The New York Times. The viral caricature is a photoshopped version of the original cartoon that was published by the LA Times in a 2012 article – “Republican Party suckles at the breast of Big Business.” A different photoshopped version of this cartoon was earlier viral, targeting PM Narendra Modi.
4. False claim of PM Modi asking citizens to buy only Indian made products this Diwali
A letter claimed to be written by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was doing the rounds on social media in August. The ‘letter’ urges citizens of India to buy only India-made products this Diwali, and it has a signature of the Prime Minister.
A Yandex search of the image led Alt News to a 2016 tweet by the official handle of Prime Minister’s office. This is an old fake letter circulating with the PM’s ‘signature’. PMO clarified that such documents floating on social media are not authentic. This letter was earlier debunked by ABP News in October 2016.
Independent journalism that speaks truth to power and is free of corporate and political control is possible only when people start contributing towards the same. Please consider donating towards this endeavour to fight fake news and misinformation.