Against the backdrop of Congress’s thumping victory in the Karnataka assembly elections, an image is being shared on social media which looks like a screenshot from a Facebook live by the Hindi news channel Aaj Tak, where the counting of votes in Karnataka and for the civic body polls in Uttar Pradesh were being broadcast.
In the screenshot, a comment by a Facebook account called ‘शबनम खातून’ has been highlighted which says in Hindi, “Congress’ win is a win for the Muslim community. I myself voted thrice wearing a burqa”.
Neetu Dabas, whose Twitter bio says that she is the national media in-charge of BJP mahila morcha and spokesperson of BJP Delhi, shared the above-mentioned image on May 14 with the following caption in Hindi: “Shabnam Khatun voted three times wearing a burka”. (Archive)
— Neetu Dabas 🇮🇳 (@INeetuDabas) May 14, 2023
A Twitter user named Vishnu Mishra, who is followed by the office of Union minister Piyush Goyal, also posted the image with the same caption. The viral tweet has received over 1,93,000 views and was retweeted over 3,000 times. (Archive)
— VISHNU MISHRA (@VISHNUK35030487) May 14, 2023
Shalini Kumawat, who often shares content targeting the Muslim community and in support of the Right Wing, also tweeted the image in question the same day with a caption in Hindi that says: “Shabnam Khatun herself voted thrice, Congress’ win was inevitable”. The tweet has received over 15,000 views and 1,000 likes, and it was retweeted 800 times. (Archive)
शबनम खातून खुद 3 बार वोट डाल कर आयी थी, कॉग्रेस को जीतना तो था ही pic.twitter.com/iL98QZ0Onh
— Shalini kumawat ( हिन्द की नारी ) (@ShaliniKumawat0) May 14, 2023
Many other social media users shared the same image with similar captions on Facebook and Twitter.
A keyword search led us to the Facebook account of ‘शबनम खातून‘ and a scroll down through the profile revealed that the first post was made on May 9, the day before the Karnataka elections. Before that, only a birthday post, a profile picture and cover photo update posts were shared from the account. Interestingly, the birthday update post by the account says that ‘शबनम खातून’ was born in the year 1920.
To confirm the identity of ‘शबनम खातून’ we ran a reverse image search on her profile picture which led us to a Twitter account that belongs to journalist Sanjukta Basu, who posted the image in 2021. The profile photo of ‘शबनम खातून’ is actually a photo of journalist Sanjukta Basu.
In one of the posts, ‘शबनम खातून’ is seen posing with Rahul Gandhi and the caption says in Hindi: “This is just a peep, 2024 is yet to come. Rahul Gandhi next PM”.
A Google reverse search with this image led us to a post where Basu shared a picture of herself with Rahul Gandhi. It is the same one posted in the ‘शबनम खातून’ account. The tweet was shared in 2020 on the politician’s birthday. (Archive)
Dear Rahul Gandhi wish you a very happy birthday. You are the most resilient, courageous and humble leader India has seen. You are the hero India needs but doesn’t deserve. Just stay the way you are. Don’t change. #HappyBirthdayRahulGandhi pic.twitter.com/xFz25OmTyJ
— Sanjukta Basu (@sanjukta) June 18, 2020
The Facebook account also uses videos posted by the journalist on her Twitter profile. Two screenshots from the Facebook account and from the corresponding Twitter videos can be seen below:
Therefore, it is clear that the account ‘शबनम खातून’ is a fake account on Facebook that has used journalist Sanjukta Basu’s images and videos to create a fake identity.
The fake user also shared a video on Facebook that was originally posted by an Instagram user @bhagwasach on May 3, 2022. It shows Sanjukta Basu and her team called ‘Zanana Ensemble’ performing a protest act against Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) at Shaheen Bagh in January 2020. This user, Bhagwasach, edited the video with a different song mocking Basu and also made a typo while mentioning her name in the frame. This edited video can be seen on ‘शबनम खातून”s Facebook page.
This was our first ever performance, at Shaheen Bagh. We were a group that got together impromptu, none of us knew each other before, and we debuted with barely 10 days of rehearsal. The video has 5 lakh views, 28k Likes and 600 Dislikes. Watch 🙂 https://t.co/fp3CMluCrP
— Sanjukta Basu (@sanjukta) November 28, 2020
We also noticed that the fake Facebook account has gone through a name change, previously it was called ‘महात्मा गाँधी’ (Mahatma Gandhi).
In another post, ‘शबनम खातून’ wishes Mother’s day to the Muslim men in a rather mocking manner. She writes in Hindi: “On this Mother’s day, sending good wishes to all my brothers from the community who have four mothers”.
One of the first posts from the fake account is apparently a movie poster of a film called ‘कालिया’ (Kalia). The images of Sanjukta Basu, former Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan and the spokesperson of the Uttar Pradesh Bharatiya Kisan Union Rakesh Tikait’s have been used in it.
Viral Screenshot is Fake
We further checked the authenticity of the viral screenshot by comparing it with the comment section of Facebook live videos. We noticed the following differences:
- Whenever a page or a profile is live on Facebook, the ‘LIVE’ symbol in red appears on top left of the video along with the count of number of viewers watching the live at that moment — as shown in the image on right in the first slide below, whereas the viral screenshot has no such symbol.
- In case the screenshot is taken after the live-stream is over, then the ‘LIVE’ symbol won’t appear on top left of the video but the comments will show the time at which they were made. This is shown in the second slide.
- We also noticed that the format of the badges next to the profile names (for example, ‘top commentor’ or ‘top fan’) of those commenting are different from the genuine comment section screenshot.
Therefore, it is clear that the viral image and the account ‘शबनम खातून’ both are fake. The said screenshot from a live-stream is manipulated and it has been shared with a false claim. Besides, the Facebook account of ‘शबनम खातून’ uses content belonging to another person on the internet.
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