A two-minute clip of a street play on the importance of social distancing during the pandemic has gone viral. In the play, we can see police officers requesting a Muslim man, who insists on visiting a mosque, to offer prayers at his home. The man doesn’t listen to the police and starts to pray in public. That’s when three men enacting the coronavirus enters the scene and infect the man. Subsequently, the Muslim man is taken by the medical staff and quarantined. The skit ends with a police officer instructing people to do puja or read namaz at home.

The message shared with the viral video suggests that Bhopal Police claimed that Muslims are responsible for the spreading COVID19. The viral text in Hindi reads, “This video is from Bhopal where the police created a play and blamed Muslims for spreading coronavirus. (ये वीडियो भोपाल का है जुसमे police द्वारा एक नाटक बनाया गया कोरोना फेला ने के लिए मुस्लिमो को नाटक में जिमेदार बताया गया इसको इतना फैलाओ के सब के सब सस्पेंड हो सके इन पुलिस वाले ने अगर किसी ओर धर्म को इसतरह से दिखया होता तो??”)

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The street play was organised by Shiksha Samadhan, a Dhanbad-based NGO. The NGO is an initiative by Damodar Prasad Saw. While looking for clues on Twitter, Alt News came across Saw’s tweets where he has posted multiple videos from the play. In one of the tweets, he wrote, “On the behalf of Shiksha Samadhan Trust, I’m uploading all the proper videos that we performed with Katras Thana on 4-05-2020. Please don’t be misled by haters. We are mainly spreading awareness of COVID-19.”

Saw tweeted the viral video on May 8 and wrote, “Please don’t take in other ways. It was only a drama act for social awareness.”

While speaking with Alt News, Saw said, “The play was performed on May 4, around 4 pm, near Katras Police station. Since the lockdown, we have performed ten such plays in Dhanbad. The play’s theme was Go Corona, it was divided into four parts — people visiting temples, people visiting mosques, people playing cards and people playing cricket.” As per Saw, since the lockdown, the NGO has organised 8 to 10 such street plays. Saw added, “Unlike other characters, the police officers in the play are also police in real life. We thought having police officers in the play would lift their moods and add a dash of realism in the play.”

On May 11, Saw also posted a video statement on the NGO’s Facebook page informing about the misleading narrative used to share the video.


मैं जागरूकता फैलाने की कोशिश कर रहा हूँ , कृपया इसे कोई धर्म से ना जोड़े। कृपया आप लोग भी इस वीडियो को ज्यादा से ज्यादा फैलाये ताकि लोगो में कोई भ्रांति पैदा ना हो। पूरा विडिओ देखने के लिए मेरे ट्वीटर अककॉउंट पे या फेसबुक अककॉउंट पे जाए। धन्यवाद

Posted by Damodar Saw on Monday, May 11, 2020

Alt News also spoke with Sanjeev Kant Mishra, Katras Police inspector. He said, “The NGO wanted to collaborate with the police to perform nukkad natak (street play) and spread the importance of social distancing.” Mishra informed that no complaint has been registered yet against the misleading video.

Thus the two-minute clip from the street play is shared with a false and misleading narrative that Bhopal police organised a play to portray that Muslims are behind the spread of coronavirus, The play was organised by an NGO in Dhanbad and also featured temple-goers.

[Update: An earlier version of the title of this report suggested that the play was organised in Bhopal. The same has been rectified.]

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