“BJP is protesting against Kerala Police who have killed Mr. Shivadasan during Sabarimala women entry protest. Strike has been declared by BJP in Pathanamthitta district on 2/11/2018,” was the message inscribed in an image posted by the official Facebook page of BJP Kerala. It claims that the man shown in the image named Sivadasan was ‘killed by Kerala police’ during a protest against the entry of women in Sabarimala temple.

ശബരിമലയിലും പരിസരപ്രദേശങ്ങളിലും പോലീസ് അഴിച്ചുവിട്ട നരനായാട്ടിൽ അതിക്രൂരമായി കൊലചെയ്യപ്പെട്ട അയ്യപ്പൻ ശിവദാസന്റെ…

Posted by BJP Keralam on Thursday, 1 November 2018

Another post from BJP Kerala stated, “Murder of Ayyappa devotee, Hartal in Pathanamthitta tomorrow. He was killed in the police violence -translated”.

Both the aforementioned pictures were also posted on Facebook by Kerala BJP state president Sreedharan Pillai who made the identical claims.

ശബരിമലയിലും പരിസരപ്രദേശങ്ങളിലും പോലീസ് അഴിച്ചുവിട്ട നരനായാട്ടിൽ അതിക്രൂരമായി കൊലചെയ്യപ്പെട്ട അയ്യപ്പൻ ശിവദാസന്റെ…

Posted by Sreedharan Pillai PS on Thursday, 1 November 2018

Kerala State BJP General Secretary K Surendran joined the bandwagon and posted a message on Facebook, “Mr. Pinarayi Vijayan is responsible for this murder. Meet Mr. Sivadas, who became martyr while trying to protect God Ayyappa. People will remember your martyrdom until God Ayyappa dharma lives on. Pinarayi is planning to kill more and more devotees. On the 5th of November when Sabarimala reopens again I am sure police will kill more such devotees like Sivadas. But your plan will not work out even if you kill thousands of devotees -translated”.

J Nandakumar, an RSS functionary, also tweeted that Sivadasan died after ‘ghastly police action’ against Sabarimala pilgrims. NDA Kerala tweeted along the same lines saying, “Body of Sivadas who was missing after police atrocity on devotees at Sabarimala is found now. All Police officials involved should be punished for killing an innocent devotee. Also Home Minister (CM himself) should take the responsibility and resign. Pranams. @rajeev_mp @AmitShah”. This was retweeted by BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar.

Other prominent handles

On November 1, rebel AAP MLA Kapil Mishra tweeted a video of a man who falls into a gorge while escaping police lathi charge, “This man Sivadas, a devotee of Lord Ayyappa was trying to save himself from brutal police”. At the time of writing, Mishra’s tweet had been retweeted more than 6500 times and ‘liked’ more than 7900 times.

A Twitter user Gita S. Kapoor, who is followed by PM Narendra Modi, also made a similar claim while tweeting a photo of Sivadasan.

What is the truth?

In the video statement, SP T Narayanan of Pathanamthitta district has categorically rubbished the claims of Sivadasan’s death being linked to Sabarimala police action. According to him, the police lathi charge happened on October 17 while Sivadasan left for the pilgrimage on the morning of October 18 and was in touch with his family till the morning of October 19.

He said, “Sivadasan, who went missing after Sabarimala pilgrimage was found dead near Laha. Police noticed that there are a lot false news circulating on social media related to the dead body and the cause of death with police lathi charge which happened on October 17 at Nilakkal. Sivadasan left home only on the morning of October 18 for Sabarimala pilgrimage. After reaching Sannidhanam, he made a call to his wife from a Tamil Ayyappa devotee’s mobile phone and again on the morning of October 19, informing her about the return plans (he informed her I am done here and am getting ready to come back). But he didn’t reach home that day. So, his son and family members started searching for him. On October 25, his son registered a complaint at Pandalam police station. Police registered a missing person case, number 1974/2018, and started a search operation for Sivadasan. This is the truth. So the police will take strict action against all, be it media or individuals who are spreading false news about this incident. Thank you -translated”

An article published by The News Minute on November 2, 2018 also corroborates that Sivadasan left for Sabarimala on October 18. “A complaint filed by Sivadasan’s son Sarath at the Pandalam police station on October 25 states that Sivadasan left home on October 18, and that he never carried his mobile with him while going to the temple,” according to the report.

Regarding the video shared by Kapil Mishra, many versions (1, 2) of this video from different angles are available on the Internet, all of them shot on October 17. This video is of a lathi charge at Pamba which is a Sabrimala base camp. Earlier, it was claimed that a woman was injured during this lathicharge due to Kerala police brutality. However, an Alt News investigation revealed that the woman was hit by a stone from a protester. A video of the same incident is now being used to claim that one of the devotees jumped into the ‘gorge’ and possibly died. However, no media reports have claimed any deaths due to the police lathi charge on October 17. As we mentioned earlier, Sivadas was alive till at least October 19, and has no connection with the above video.

An incident of death of a Sabarimala devotee was falsely linked to police action initiated against worshippers. In the past as well, Alt News has reported how misinformation about Sabarimala and the events surrounding it were circulated on social media, where old and unrelated images were shared to claim police brutality on the protesters. In yet another instance of misinformation about Sabarimala, Kerala government and CM Pinarayi Vijayan were targeted with false claim that a CPM worker disguising as a cop incited violence.

About the Author

Jignesh is a writer and researcher at Alt News. He has a knack for visual investigation with a major interest in fact-checking videos and images. He has completed his Masters in Journalism from Gujarat University.