False claims of Gurmehar Kaur interviewed by BBC in Pakistan; statements twisted

Twitter handle @squintneon, which has been suspended by the micro-blogging site twice in the past, is back with circulating misinformation. At 1:23 PM on February 21, ‘Comrade Squinty’ tweeted student activist Gurmehar Kaur’s interview with BBC Urdu and claimed that it was shot in Pakistan. The handle also alleged that she “went to Pakistan just to say that an attack like Pulwama hurts minorities.” @squintneon is run by state social media in-charge of ABVP Assam, Manas Jyoti Sharma.

In the 19-second slip, Kaur can be heard saying, “When an attack like this happens it hurts our minorities and many politicians bank on this polarisation within the country before the elections. What’s most important is that citizens don’t pay heed to such talks.”

A few after its initial tweet, @squintneon tweeted about some confusion regarding the studio where the interview was shot. It might be in London, the tweet said but added that since the anchor was talking in Hindi, the interview was most likely shot in Islamabad. The tweet ended with the statement, “I will delete once it’s clear.” 

Soon after, another handle infamous for circulating misinformation, @DrGPradhantweeted similar claims. “But the bigger question is why she is in Pakistan?,” he asked.

The video was shot in BBC London studio

BBC Urdu uploaded its complete broadcast on Pulwama attack on its official YouTube channel. The reportage titled ‘Sairbeen Friday 15th February 2019 – BBCURDU’ is 17:37 minutes long and at the start of the broadcast, the anchor says in Hindi, “This is Shafi Naqi Jamie from our London studios.” The BBC journalist himself said that he was reporting from BBC Urdu’s London studios.

For further confirmation, Alt News reached out to Aliya Nazki, BBC Urdu presenter based in London. She corroborated that Kaur’s interview with BBC happened in their London studios.

Moreover, the student leader herself responded to the false claims, saying that she has never been to Pakistan.

Kaur’s statements placed out of context

Not only did @squintneon and @DrGPradhan circulate misinformation that Kaur’s interview was shot in Pakistan, but her statements were also twisted and placed out of context.

At 12:18 minutes, the anchor questions Kaur in Hindi, “This attack has visibly affected India-Pakistan relations, but is it having any effect on the internal politics in India right before the elections?”

Kaur answers, “Even now it can be seen how politicians are using this attack. Because of the attack, there is so much hatred in the minds of the people. We have noticed how Islam and Pakistan are suddenly seen in the same light.  When an attack like this happens it hurts our minorities and many politicians bank on this polarisation within the country before the elections. What’s most important is that citizens don’t pay heed to such talks.”

Kaur’s statements were portrayed as though she said that only minorities were affected by the Pulwama terror attack. When, in fact, she said that the aftermath of the attack witnessed polarisation within the country, which is affecting minorities.

Squint Neon – an incorrigible offender?

Twitter handle @squintneon has an infamous reputation on social media. Its daily online activities juggle between circulating misinformation (often communal in nature), targetting journalists (most of whom are female), and sending out offensive tweets to those its handler, Manas Jyoti Sharma, seems to disagree with politically.

Twitter handle @squintneon is followed by senior BJP leaders Smriti Irani and Office of Piyush Goyal. It is also followed by Delhi BJP spokesperson Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga.

Alt News has documented the fake news circulated by @squintneon several times in the past. In the aftermath of the violence perpetrated by Kanwar Yatra pilgrims last year in August, the handle attempted to falsely propagate that it was Muslims who committed the violence in the garb of the Hindu pilgrims. But the newspaper clip shared by @squintneon actually said that two Muslim youths dressed as Kanwariyas to pass a road jammed due to the attacks. However, they accidentally hit a constable.

At another instance, a beggar beaten up by a Hindu family for molesting a woman was shared by the handle as an attack on a Naga Sadhu by Muslims.

In June 2018, @squintneon claimed that the Rupee-Dollar exchange rate has slipped by only Re 1 since 2014. However, the claim was unsurprisingly false.

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