A rumour that has been making rounds since last year made a reappearance yesterday. A twitter user @beingsandeep posted a pixelated picture of Barkha as a pillion rider with a young man driving a scooter. That picture was juxtaposed with a face shot of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Zakir Musa and a question was raised “Is it true @BDUTT that you were seen with Hizbul mujhaddin Commander Zakir Musa? What have you got to do with terrorists?”
This rumour was first floated by the right-wing in August 2016 with multiple right-wing accounts and websites spreading the same image.
This same tweet was carried by multiple right-wing fake news sites such as Postcard.news and Hindutva.info. Just yesterday, we had exposed Hindutva.info as to who runs that patently fake news site and how much money they make.
The picture of Barkha Dutt on the scooter was posted by Barkha herself on her Twitter account on August 18th, 2016. This was during the 3-4 month phase when there was a massive unrest after the former Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter on July and curfew was imposed for long periods of time.
The snapshot of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Zakir Musa that has been juxtaposed with Barkha’s picture was taken from a video that the Hizbul Mujahideen militants had made just a day before, i.e. on August 17th, 2016. The video was posted by many media outlets on their YouTube channels. Here’s one by Hindustan Times. One can compare the items behind Zakir Musa in the screenshot below from Hindustan Times YouTube channel to the items behind Zakir Musa in the picture that has been put alongside Barkha’s. It’ll be apparent that the snapshot that’s been put alongside Barkha has been taken from this video which was made public on August 17th, 2016.
Now, it is a very bad idea to compare grainy images to identify people, but since the right-wing insists on doing so, lets do it. If we cut out just the faces of Zakir Musa from the August 17th video posted by Hindustan Times and put it next to a face cut-out of the person driving the scooter on August 18th, this is what we get.
The above comparison makes it pretty evident that they are not the same people. One would have to go through quite a make over in the space of 24 hours, from August 17th to August 18th, for the two people to be the same. The hairstyle, the amount of facial hair etc clearly indicate that the two people are different. However, let’s flirt with the idea that they are the same person for a bit. What would that be like?
Zakir Musa, the newly appointed commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, pushes out a video on August 17th, 2016, stating his arrival on the scene as the replacement of Burhan Wani. The entire Kashmir valley is going through an unrest. There is CRPF and Kashmir police at every nook and corner. After he finishes his broadcast, he realises that there’s going to be a curfew in a town called Budgam, which is tens of kilometres away from his hideout. He realises that if there’s a curfew, Barkha Dutt won’t have any transport. So, he’s got to do something. He sheds his combat uniform and sets off to Budgam so that Barkha Dutt doesn’t get stranded the next day. The entire Kashmir valley is teeming with armed forces but he finds his way through all of them, for the sake of Barkha. And then, he realises that Barkha may not be too pleased with his look, so he goes to a saloon and gets a make over, and reaches in time on August 18th to give Barkha a ride on his scooter.
Barkha, swooned by this Hizb Mujahideen Commander’s heroics, decides to put a picture of this memorable scooter ride on her Twitter account. The ever alert right-wing Sherlocks detect the terrorist conspiracy and expose Barkha Dutt.
Either that could be the story. The other possibility is that multiple people and websites are lying through their teeth. All they desire is to defame people by hook or crook. The more we ignore these fake news websites, the more vicious they get. If people who hold positions of power do not take on them, then who will?