“Rohingyas likely to attack Nagaland” The ANI story on Oct 12th quoted Intelligence branch of Nagaland Police to raise alarm bells about the security threat that Rohingyas pose to national security. The story went on to say that “the Imam of Dimapur is contacting the Rohingya rebels and has commenced collecting huge amount of arms and ammunitions from Bangladesh” and that “2,000 Muslims have volunteered to take up arms against the Nagas, if the latter try to drive them out.” It did not end there. ANI went on to say that around 20 ISIS terrorists had entered Nagaland and were training the volunteers and suicide bomb attacks and bomb blasts were likely throughout Nagaland. ISIS training camps? Bomb attacks throughout Nagaland? Even before we could react to the claims made, the news was deleted by ANI.

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The story disappeared from the ANI website almost as mysteriously as it had appeared but not before it was picked up by websites like Postcard News and India Times. You can read the now deleted ANI story here. We did not find the ANI report in any national newspapers or news channels other than Times Now. Even though the original ANI report has been deleted, the Times Now story is still available.

The story was also tweeted by several Right-wing handles.

Local publication Morung Express raised the flag about ANI falling for fake news. It reported that the so-called “news” was circulating widely on Facebook and WhatsApp groups before ANI reported it. Idgah Committee, the apex body of all the Mosques of Dimapur District had called it false propaganda that was being spread with a malafide intention. The publication also reported that the state Police was not aware about the “intelligence report” and was trying to trace the origin of the social media messages.

Alt News found messages dating back to October 10th on Facebook which claimed that Rohingyas are going to attack Nagaland. The following image is an example of one such chain message. The ANI story as we mentioned earlier was dated October 12th.

Yet another North Eastern Portal, Time8 spoke to Renchamo P Kikon, IGP, Intelligence Department of Nagaland Police who said, “We have not issued any such statement, also the Muslim Council and Idgah Committee of Dimapur have issued statements informing that these news are fake and they didn’t receive any inputs in the matter of Rohingyas. Most importantly, Police has a certain procedure in notifying an issue.”

So far ANI has not clarified why it deleted its story. Did ANI fall for a fake whatsapp forward? If it was later found to be based on unverified reports, ANI has the responsibility to say so. Quietly deleting a story is not the answer. The deleted story has set into motion the rumor mills, right wing handles and websites like Postcard News who are continuing to share and outrage about it. Interestingly, the breaking of this “news” came at the time of the Supreme Court hearing on deportation of Rohingya refugees. With so much of fake news around us on social media, if news agencies like ANI also delete stories without a clarification, who do we trust anymore?

Subsequent to our story, Smita Prakash who is the Editor News at ANI has put out a clarification on Twitter which we are presenting here in full.

Unfortunately, this news has already reached many because multiple media organisations and fake news portals have republished it and haven’t bothered to pull down their stories.