In the wake of reports of the death of at least 14 people in political violence that broke out after the results of West Bengal assembly elections were declared, BJP West Bengal addressed a press conference on May 5. The press conference was addressed by BJP president JP Nadda, national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, BJP WB president Dilip Ghosh and spokesperson Swapan Dasgupta. A video presentation played during the conference showed the alleged violence against BJP workers and supporters in the state. This was when an image of a man claimed to be ‘Manik Moitra’ was shown and claimed that he died in Sitalkuchi. The video of the press conference has over 1 million views.
The presentation shown during the press conference was also separately uploaded on the Facebook page of BJP West Bengal but later taken down.
Alive man declared dead
On May 6, India Today journalist Abhro Banerjee posted a screengrab from the video along with a screen-recording of BJP West Bengal’s now-deleted Facebook post and informed, “I am Abhro Banerjee, living and hale and hearty and around 1,300 km away from Sitalkuchi. BJP IT Cell is now claiming I am Manik Moitra and died in Sitalkuchi. Please don’t believe these fake posts and please don’t worry. I repeat: I am (still) alive.” He tweeted the same message from his Twitter account.
We rummaged through Banerjee’s Facebook account and independently verified that the image of the man claimed to be dead is indeed him. He posted the photo on March 11, 2017. Alt News is not uploading the original photograph to protect Banerjee’s privacy.
Banerjee is a journalist with India Today and speaking to the channel he said, “I woke up a little late this morning and saw over 100 missed calls. Even before I could check what happened, my friend, Arvind, told me that the BJP IT cell has used my picture in place of Manik Moitra who had allegedly died in Sitalkuchi. I was shocked as I am 1400 kms away and the kind of misinformation can be quite damaging.”
While we haven’t been able to independently confirm the death of a BJP supporter named Manik Moitra, there are a few local media reports on the death of a BJP supporter named “Manik Maitra”. According to Anandabazar, he was allegedly shot dead in the Shalbari area of Sitalkuchi. India Today’s report claimed that BJP had announced names of nine people who allegedly died in the violence, out of which one was ‘Momik Maitra’ but no ‘Manik Moitra’.
BJP West Bengal used India Today journalist Abhro Banerjee’s picture claiming he was Manik Moitra, a BJP supporter, who was allegedly killed in the political violence that ensued in Sitalkuchi.