On August 17, News Nation anchor Deepak Chaurasia tweeted that Akram Hussain, a painter in Assam, exhibited an offensive picture of Hindu deity Krishna in a Guwahati art gallery. “I’m sure you all remember Bengaluru riots, but we are the ones termed intolerant,” wrote Chaurasia. As of this writing, his tweet drew over 9,000 likes and more than 3,000 retweets.
[Hindi text of Chaurasia’s tweet: “असम का एक पेंटर है अकरम हुसैन उसने गुवाहाटी आर्ट गैलरी रविन्द्र भवन में भगवान श्रीकृष्ण की एक आपत्तिजनक तस्वीर का विमोचन किया है।”]
The painting has been shared in the aftermath of the Bengaluru riots triggered by an inflammatory post against Muhammed, the Prophet of Islam, allegedly made by Congress MLA Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy’s nephew Naveen. Three people were killed in police firing and over 300 have been arrested for the violence.
Prior to Chaurasia’s tweet, Krishna’s derogatory painting was tweeted by NewsX anchor Shehzad Poonawallah who tagged the DGP of Assam and the Chief Minister’s Office to take action against Hussain. The same was tweeted by ISKCON Long Island, New York. ISKCON Kolkata vice-president and spokesperson Radharamn Das requested BJP MLA Himanta Biswa to arrest Hussain.
Madhu Kishwar, who has often been found sharing misinformation via her Twitter account, retweeted Arun Pudur’s tweet alleging the same. “They are free to depict their Prophet with 72 hoors but keep their dirty hands and minds off our sacred symbols and deities,” wrote Kishwar, enraged. Several other individuals who amplified the claim include BJP OBC Morcha Haryana vice-president Maya Yadav and Twitter users Karunesh Shukla, Manisha Mishra and Roop Darak.
2015 incident revived, accused was arrested by Guwahati police
The incident dates back to April 2015 when the Guwahati police had registered an FIR against painter Hussain Akram on the basis of a complaint filed by the Hindu Jagran Manch. “The artist has, however, immediately removed the painting and has apologised,” said Guwahati DCP Amitabh Sinha as quoted by The Indian Express. “The police were now looking for Hussain, who reportedly hails from Goalpara. The state cultural directorate has instituted an inquiry to find out how such a painting was permitted in the State Art Gallery,” the report adds.
Taking cognisance of viral claims, Guwahati police tweeted that Hussain was arrested on May 30, 2015.
Pls refer to info shared by concerned citizens regarding an objectionable painting of Lord Shri Krishna. This incident is of 2015. Accordingly, Latasil PS Case No. 127/15 was registered, accused Akram Hussain arrested on 30/5/2015 & painting seized. It is not on display now.
— Guwahati Police (@GuwahatiPol) August 17, 2020
How certain media outlets amplified misinformation
Hindi news organisations Amar Ujala and Punjab Kesari published the same report which said that ISKCON has demanded the arrest of Hussain Akram. The articles cite social media posts and neither clarify that the case is five years old nor that the accused was taken in custody.
An old inflammatory painting made by Assam-based Akram Hussain was widely shared by journalists, media outlets and BJP members and supporters. Hussain was arrested in 2015 but agitated individuals on Twitter tagged the police and CMO to take action against him. It’s been less than a week since a mere Facebook post sparked violence in Bengaluru yet certain people thought it wise to revive an offensive painting from five years ago.
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