Dr Brijesh Kumar Rai, a former professor at IIT Guwahati, shared a printout of a screenshot of a tweet with Alt News. He informed that IIT Guwahati’s Board of Governors (BoG) minutes report cited a tweet in his name that he has never made. Dr Rai also shared some other documents of the court with us, where the screenshot of the relevant tweet has been attached.
What is the matter?
On January 1, 2020, Dr Brijesh Kumar Rai, then Assistant Professor of IIT Guwahati, was given Major Penalty Compulsory Retirement on charges of misconduct. On January 2, 2020, he was given a notice to vacate the quarters of the institute.
Dr Rai had been working in the Department of Electronics and Electrical Engineering at IIT Guwahati since 2011. He has filed four PILs and more than 450 RTI applications, alleging corruption at IIT Guwahati before his compulsory retirement.
A screenshot of an alleged tweet by Dr Rai was attached to a document of the 106th Board of Governors (BOG) meeting held on April 22, 2021. It is available on the website of IIT Guwahati. According to the screenshot on page number 96 of this 125-page document, Dr Rai tagged several accounts including the Ministry of Education, and the Prime Minister’s Office, and called for a protest against the forced expulsion of students. In this purported tweet, he also talked about mobilizing shopowners across faculty gates. It also says that the demonstration will be against the BJP, PM Modi, Himanta Biswa Sharma, and IIT Guwahati and it will be led by Vikrant and Himanchal.
Vikrant and Himanchal are students of IIT Guwahati. They went on a hunger strike from January 4 to 7, 2020, in protest against the compulsory retirement of Dr Rai. According to reports, in March 2021, Vikrant faced suspension from the academic session by IIT Guwahati. Following this, he was terminated from the institute. In the case of Himanchal, he was made to sign a six-point undertaking by IIT Guwahati to continue his research. The undertaking states that he will not participate in any future protest or agitation.
In October 2021, IIT Guwahati filed a criminal defamation complaint against Dr Rai before the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kamrup (complaint number – 79/2021). Point number 8 of pages 10 and 11 of this complaint states that “with the intention of making the most out of his disinformation campaign the accused Dr Rai published a tweet on his social media account with the purpose of organising a rally on March 11, 2021”. It furthers that the tweet said that he and his associates intended to protest against public figures belonging to a particular political party on the campus of IIT Guwahati. The said tweet was made by the accused person from his Twitter handle @brijeshrai on March 11, 2021, it alleges. In the document, a copy of the screenshot purportedly taken from his social media account is attached and marked as Annexure-B. When we matched the Board of Governors (BOG) minutes report and the tweet in Annexure-B, we found that both the screenshots are the same.
According to the writ appeal filed by IIT Guwahati in the Guwahati High Court on March 14, 2022, the sequence of events is given below. Respondent means Professor Dr Brijesh Kumar Rai, and Appellant Institute means IIT Guwahati.
The index of this Writ Appeal (W.A. No. 117/2022) has a mention of the “copy of the screenshot of the Respondent’s social media accounts” in Annexure-7 (Page No. 464 to 474). When we saw page number 465 (Annexure-7) of the writ appeal, we found that a screenshot of the alleged tweet has been attached.
The tweet mentioned in the documents appears to be fake at first glance as it contains many errors. There are a total of 341 characters in this tweet, while the character limit of Twitter is 280. The tweet has 61 characters extra.
Furthermore, the screenshot of the alleged tweet has ‘Tweet’ written on top as well as a back button, which is visible only when we click on a tweet and open it. Tweets appearing on the feed do not have the back button. When a tweet is opened, details such as time, date, device, number of retweets and likes are visible. At the bottom, Reply, Retweet, and Like buttons are visible without their corresponding numbers. The third element to note is that when a tweet is opened, the text perfectly aligns with the profile image. This is not the case with the tweet attached in the document.
In the writ appeal filed in the Guwahati High Court, we found another alleged tweet by Professor Brijesh Rai. This tweet is still present on Twitter. It can be viewed on this archive link.
The original tweet (right) and fake tweet (left) are below and the discrepancies can be clearly observed.
Another aspect to note is that in the original tweet (right), all the accounts mentioned have a space before the ‘@’ except in the case of ‘@EduMinOfIndia’. This is exactly the same in the fake tweet which means that this portion of the tweet has been copied from the original.
Therefore, we found that the Board of Governors (BOG) minutes report of IIT Guwahati and other court documents mention a fake tweet in the name of Professor Dr Brijesh Kumar Rai.
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