A video of a man burning alive is being circulated on social media with the claim that he is a Hindu youth named Vishnu Goswami who was immolated by Imran, Tufail, Nizamuddin and Ramzan in Gonda, Uttar Pradesh.

A Twitter user Nidhi Gupta shared the video with the caption, “हिंदुओं हथियार न उठा सको तो आवाज तो बन सकते हो ! उत्तर प्रदेश के गोंडा के, चिश्तीपुर गांव में ,विष्णु गोस्वामी को इमरान, तोफेल, निजामुद्दीन, रमजान ने, पेट्रोल डालकर जिंदा जला दिया मीडिया में कोई खबर नहीं मुस्लिम मरे तो मोब लिंचिंग, हिंदू मरे तो सन्नाटा ज़रा देखें वीडियो (Hindus, if you can’t take up arms, you can at least raise your voice. In Uttar Pradesh’s Gonda’s Chistipur village, Vishnu Goswami was burnt alive by Imram, Tufail, Nizamuddin and Ramzan by pouring petrol on him. There are no reports in the media. If a Muslim dies, there’s mob lynching but if a Hindu dies, there’s complete silence. Watch the video.)”

Another Twitter user Umesh Tiwari had also posted the video with the caption, “अखलाक पे रोने वाले भड़वों कहाँ मर गये विष्णु गोस्वामी पर। (The pimps who cried for Akhlaq, where are you now for Vishnu?)”

A screengrab from the same video has been circulating since earlier this month. National General Secretary of the BJP, Abhijat Mishra, had tweeted on May 16, “उत्तर प्रदेश के गोंडा में एक हिन्दू युवा #विष्णुगोस्वामी को चार शांतिदूतों इमरान-रमज़ान-निज़ामुद्दीन-तुफैल ने पहले पेट्रोल से नहलाया फिर आग लगा दी हालांकि चारों जिहादी गिरफ्तार हैं पर #मॉब_लिंचिंग चिल्लाने वाला गैंग कहाँ है (A Hindu youth #VishnuGoswami was doused in petrol and burnt alive in Uttar Pradesh’s Gonda by four peacefuls Imran, Ramzan, Nizamuddin and Tufail. Even though the four jihadis were arrested, where is the gang that screams mob lynching?)” Mishra has now taken down his tweet.

Co-convenor of BJP IT cell, Jamnagar district, Ranjitsinh Chudasama, had also shared the photograph.

What is the truth?

The textual claim made via the tweets is true. A man named Vishnu Goswami was burned alive in Gonda, Uttar Pradesh reportedly over a verbal altercation. The youth was taken to a hospital in Lucknow for recovery. According to Dainik Jagran, Goswami was beating his father when four men intervened, which led to an argument. The altercation soon took a turn for the worst. The men poured petrol on Goswami and set him of fire. The police arrested the perpetrators namely, Imran, Tufail, Nizamuddin and Ramzan.

According to a subsequent report in Amar Ujala, the perpetrators were drivers who transported oil tankers. Vishnu succumbed to his injuries on May 19.

The incident was also reported by Hindustan Times, according to which, The victim’s cousin, Raj Kumar Goswami, said the incident occurred when Vishnu and his brother Mahesh had gone to get back their drunken father, Ramgeer Goswami, who was loitering near the village, under Kotwali Dehat police limits, at around 8.30 pm on Tuesday. He said the four accused got into a verbal duel with the brothers while they were trying to take their father home. The accused confronted Vishnu and allegedly set him ablaze after pouring petrol on him when he was washing his face after the heated exchange.”

However, the video of the man burning alive does not correspond to the said incident. Gonda police tweeted about the misinformation on May 16. “It has come to our notice that people are using a misleading image to spread a rumour by giving the incident a communal colour to cause disruption. This is illegal and irresponsible,” the police wrote.

Gonda police reiterated to Alt News in a phone conversation that the incident was not communally motivated. We also spoke with Vishnu’s cousin Raj Kumar Goswami and his brother Mahesh, who had accompanied his brother when the incident took place. Both the men narrated the same story reported by Hindustan Times.

Yandex search results revealed that the video viral on social media has been around on the internet at least since 2013.

SM Hoaxslayer found that the video depicts a 2010 incident from Mehsana, Gujarat. According to an Indian Express report published on September 9, 2010, the deceased (Kalpesh) had set himself on fire at a police station, following which, two journalists were booked for abetting the suicide as they had made a video of the incident. “To douse the fire, we had no other option except our cameras. Due to unbearable mental stress exerted by the police, Kalpesh committed suicide in their presence. We have taken the footage to support this. The incident was also recorded by Kamlesh Rawal, Vinod Rawal and Chandresh Parmar,” the journalists said in a plea.

An old video was, therefore, shared in the context of a recent event. Furthermore, the crime was claimed to be communally-motivated but the allegation has been denied both the police and the family members of the victim.

[UPDATE: The 2010 Indian Express article that reported the incident depicted in the viral video has been added to the fact-check.]

About the Author

Pooja Chaudhuri is a senior editor at Alt News.