On March 21, Bhadu Sheikh, a TMC’s deputy pradhan in Bogtui village of West Bengal’s Birbhum district, died after four men on two motorcycles allegedly lobbed crude bombs at him. This incident sparked off a chain of events that led to at least eight houses in the area being attacked and set on fire, resulting in eight deaths, including that of women and children, reported The Indian Express.

Police told The Indian Express two FIRs have been filed – one over Bhadu’s killing and the other over the attack on the houses. Eleven people have been arrested in the second case. Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee is expected to visit the violence-affected district on March 24, and the centre has sought a report of the violence within 72 hours.

Against the backdrop of this, BJP MLA Raja Singh released a video statement saying “innocent Hindus were burnt to death in Bengal”. He requested Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to enable a law that “provides guns” to every Hindu in Bengal for “self-defence” because they face threats from the increasing population of Bengali Muslims, Rohingya and Pakistan Muslims under Mamata Banerjee. These claims have been shared on social media with various hashtags, such as ‘#बंगाल_में_हिंदू_जल_रहा_है‘, ‘#BengalBurning‘, and others. Multiple Facebook accounts have shared this clip on pro-BJP Facebook groups and pages such as — I Support Raja Singh [86K followers] and Sudarshan News Fans [56K followers].

Ranjit Savarkar, chairman at Swatantryaveer Savarkar Rashtriya Smarak, also made the same claim and reminded that this was a wake-up for the Hindus. He also tweeted two images, of which one of them shows charred bones. This tweet has gained over 2,000 likes.

Twitter user @doctorrichabjp made the same claim on Twitter. BJP leader Uday Pratap Singh shared identical text as posted by Doctor Richa in form of a screenshot. Alt News has documented multiple instances of misinformation shared by Richa in the past.

Hindu Yuva Vahini Gujarat in charge Yogi Devnath, Sudarshan News journalist Santosh Chauhan, RSS member Sunil Mittal.

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Fact check

The Telegraph published reports on March 23 and March 24. The latter includes details narrated by Mihilal Sheikh, whose family members were killed in the above-mentioned attack. He ran over 10km through paddy fields, along with his elder brother Banirul, after their homes were set ablaze. Mihilal told The Telegraph that [sic] he had “lost faith” in police and would back whichever party that brought the CBI to investigate the killings.

The eight deceased include Sheli Bibi, 32 (Mihilal’s wife), Tuli Khatun, 7 (his daughter), Nurnehar Bibi (his mother who Mihilal claimed was a 75-year-old widow), Rupali Bibi, 44 (his elder sister), Jahanara Bibi, 38 (his sister-in-law), Lili Khatun, 18 (his niece), Kazi Sajidur Rahman, 22, (Lili’s husband) and Mina Bibi, 40 (Mihilal’s sister-in-law).

As per March 23 report, the first seven were relatives and their bodies were found in the one-storey house of Sona Sheikh. Kazi Sajidur and Lili Khatun were the newlyweds. These names establish they were from the Muslim community. Thus, social media claim that Hindus were targeted in Birbhum violence is false.

The March 24 report added [sic] that Mihilal, Banirul and two other survivors of the massacre are currently at Gopaljal in the Sainthia police district. They were reportedly offered large amounts of money by Trinamul “agents”.

A day prior, the West Bengal Police tweeted, “No Hindu Women or Children has been killed at Village- Bogtui, Rampurhat, Birbhum. Legal action is being initiated against the persons who are trying to communalize this tragic incident through misleading posts to create social unrest in the state of West Bengal.”

Alt News spoke with a regional journalist who confirmed that over 20 accused have been arrested in relation to the incident. The journalist confirmed that all the accused are from the same community.

We also gained access to the suo-moto complaint by Rampurhat police station in relation to the massacre — the complaint listed that as per preliminary enquiry, 22 suspects have been listed and charged with various Indian Penal Code sections. They are associates of Bhadu (killed on March 21). Alt News read the names of the accused and can confirm that both victims and accused in the massacre are from the same community. Thus, there is no question of the incident being communal.

Additionally, Alt News spoke with Nagendra Tripathi, SP Birbhum, who confirmed that both the accused and the victims are from the minority community.

To sum it up, BJP leaders and several pro-BJP social media accounts falsely gave the unfortunate deaths in the Birbhum violence a communal spin.

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About the Author

Archit is a senior fact-checking journalist at Alt News. Previously, he has worked as a producer at WION and as a reporter at The Hindu. In addition to work experience in media, he has also worked as a fundraising and communication manager at S3IDF.