July 2019 round-up: Child abduction rumours return with vengeance

In July 2019, rumours about child-abduction gangs resurfaced on social media and WhatsApp, more than a year after over 30 people were killed in mob-lynching incidents over such rumours in 2018. Re-emergence of these rumours has led to a spate of mob attacks in different parts of the country. Another noteworthy aspect was the specific targeting of Rohingya Muslims in these rumours.

RUMOURS OF CHILD ABDUCTION GANGS RESURFACE

1. Video of 2017 Brazil prison riot shared as Rohingya Muslim kidnapping gangs on a prowl

A video showing dismembered bodies laid out in a room was circulated on WhatsApp with the claim that 500-2000 Rohingya Muslims divided into small groups are on a prowl in Madhya Pradesh to lift children aged 17 and 18 years. The message suggested that these gangs are armed and they lift kids from outside schools.

The message shared with the video says, “सावधान मध्यप्रदेश में 500से 2000 लोगों की अलग अलग रोहिग्या मुस्लिमो की टोली आई है उनके साथ  महिलाएं  और उनके पास हथियार भी है और वो 17 या 18 साल तक के लड़कों को पकड़ के ले जाते है स्कूल के आस पास से .. इसको आप सारे ग्रुप में शेयर करें।भोपाल  पुलिस C.S.P. Send to all group plz.”

Alt News had debunked this video in June 2019 when it was viral with the false claim that organ smugglers travelling from Bihar to Jharkhand were killing innocents to sell their body parts.

The video actually depicts riots that had broken out in Brazil’s Alcaçuz prison on January 14, 2017.

Alt News’s complete report may be read here.

2. Video of drunk woman mistaken to be child-lifter shared as Rohingya Muslim gangs on a prowl

A video of a woman caught by a mob that interrogates her on suspicions of child-kidnapping has emerged on social media. It has been shared with the claim that gangs of Rohingya Muslims are on a prowl to lift children at night.

Posted by Kirar Manoj Dhakad on Friday, 19 July 2019

The message accompanying the video says, “सावधान भोपाल में 15 से 20 लोगों कीअलग अलग रोहिग्या मुस्लिमो की टोली आई है उनके साथ बच्चे और महिलाएं हैं और उनके पास हथियार भी है और 2 बजे आधी रात को और किसी भी वक्त आते हैं और बच्चे की रोने की आवाज आती है कृपया दरवाजा ना खोले प्लीज इसको आप सारे ग्रुप में शेयर करें। भोपाल पुलिस C.S.P. Send to all group plz.”

According to Patrika, an inebriated woman had mistakenly entered a person’s house in Bareli [Raisen district] on the night of July 19. Falsely suspecting her to be a child-kidnapper, a mob beat her up. The woman was later admitted to a hospital after the police intervened. Alt News corroborated the set of events with Bareli police.

The complete fact-check story can be read here.

3. Photo of arrested sex racket gang from MP shared with child-kidnapping rumours

A photograph of policemen standing behind a group of people which includes both men and women was shared on social media with the claim that cops in Madhya Pradesh arrested a child-lifter gang of Rohingya Muslims who kidnap 17-18-year-olds. The message warns that 500-2000 such people are on a prowl to lift children from outside schools.

सावधान मध्यप्रदेश में 500से 2000 लोगों की अलग अलग रोहिग्या मुस्लिमो की टोली आई है उनके साथ महिलाएं और उनके पास हथियार भी है और वो 17 या 18 साल तक के लड़कों को पकड़ के ले जाते है स्कूल के आस पास से .. इसको आप सारे ग्रुप में शेयर करें। भोपाल पुलिस C.S.P.Send to all group plz,” reads the complete message circulated with the photograph.

Alt News found that the incident was unrelated to child-kidnapping. The people seen with policemen were alleged members of a sex racket gang. They were arrested from a redlight area located on Lebad-Nayagoan four-lane road in Madhya Pradesh. The incident was reported by Patrikaon July 15.

Alt News’ compilation of instances of misinformation surrounding alleged child abduction gangs may be read here.

COMMUNAL MISINFORMATION CONTINUES ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Misinformation of communal nature is a recurrent theme in the misinformation/disinformation ecosystem, with several such posts and messages floating on social media and messaging platforms.

1. Muharram procession video doctored with slogans against PM, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal

A video of men wielding sticks and swords, where they can be heard raising slogans against PM Narendra Modi, Bajrang and Shiv Sena is being circulated on social media. The video was posted with a message, “भारत का डरा हुआ, खौफजदा, पीड़ित समुदाय, हाथों में तलवार लेकर शिवसेना हाय हाय और बजरंग दल हाय हाय के नारे लगा रहा है. भाई-भाई और सेक्युलरिज्म का विधवा विलाप करने वालों को नहीं दिखेगा यह सब. (India’s scared, intimidated, victim community, is wielding swords and chanting slogans against Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal. People who talk about brotherhood and mourn like widows for secularism will not see this -translated)”.

The same video was shared with the narrative that the Muslim community was out on roads in Agra to protest against the mob-lynching of Tabrez Ansari in Jharkhand.

तबरेज अंसारी के समर्थन में आगरा में सबसे बड़ा जुलूस निकला हिंदुस्तान में रहना होगा अल्लाह हू अकबर कहना होगा दलित मुस्लिम मिलकर निकाला जुलूस

Posted by Ai MiM Rayachoty youth on Thursday, July 4, 2019

Alt News’ fact-check found that the video is from Gopalganj, Bihar and was posted in 2014. Insofar as the audio is concerned, With a Google search of the slogan“हिंदुस्तान में रहना होगा अल्लाह हू अकबर कहना होगा (If you want to live in India then you will have to say Allah hu Akbar -translation)”, Alt News found a YouTube video posted on December 29, 2017. From the start till 53 seconds in the video posted below, the same audio which was superimposed over the viral clipping can be heard.

2. Image from Pakistan viral as Hindu woman beaten by Muslim husband in India

A set of pictures – one of an alleged newspaper clipping about two Hindu girls who kept Roza [fast] in the month of Ramzan and another of a woman with supposed injury marks on her face – went viral on social media. Several users on Facebook posted the images with the claim that one of the two Hindu girls who had observed Roza was beaten by her Muslim husband and that their union is a case of ‘Love Jihad’.

A Google reverse image search of the photograph of the scarred woman led us to an article published by Pakistani news organization Geo TV on March 29, 2019. The article identified the woman as Hajra who had alleged that she was tortured by her husband and had suffered various injuries. The incident had occurred in Pakistan. The newspaper clipping circulated along with Hajra’s photo, meanwhile, pertains to a separate case where two Hindu women – Shivani and Riya – from Madhya Pradesh kept a one-day fast on Ramzan as a gesture promoting Hindu-Muslim unity. The newspaper clipping is of Dainik Bhaskar’s June 4 report.

3. False claim of madrasa students in Mandsaur, MP chanting pro-Pakistan slogans

A video massively viral on social media was circulated with the claim that students of a madrasa in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh raised anti-India slogans. Several social media users posted the video suggesting that the students were from Anjuman school and chanted ‘Pakistan Zindabad’.

A keyword search on Google led Alt News to several media reports which said that the students were protesting in support of the principal of their school. They did not raise ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans but chanted the name of their principal – ‘Sabir sir zindabad’. The social media claim was false and mischievous.

4. Street performance depicting ISIS sex-slavery used to target Muslim community

औरत को आसमानी ज्ञान वाले लोग कितना सम्मान देते है इस वीडियो से पता चल जाता है, जैसे सब्जी मंडी में सब्जियों की बोली लगाई जाती है वैसा ही शांतिदूत लोग करते हैं (How those who have knowledge of the heavens respect women can be known through this video, just how vegetables are auctioned at the market, thats how the peacefuls do it- translation).

The above message was posted on Twitter, along with a video in which a man is seen speaking into a microphone in Arabic. In the video, some women in burqa and chained together, can be seen. The video has subtitles which read,

“We have Yezidi women, we have Kurdish women, and we have Christians. get what your right hand possesses, come get your Mulk-al-yamin (slave). Get yourself a sex slave. Our brave fighters, our brave Islamic State fighters have gone into these areas and killed their murtadin (infidel) scum. So you can have their women today. Takbir, Takbir, Takbir (Allah is great)…”

After this, the auction of the women begins, and the people gathered there can be heard quoting a price for ‘Aisha, 13 years old fresh from Kobane’. This is followed by the auction of more women. The entire video is 2:20 minutes long.

To find out more about the video, Alt News used specific key words and came across an article by BBC News dated October 20, 2014. The article was titled, The mock Islamic State slave auction in London’, and contained a 16 second clip of the same video which has been posted on Twitter. The video in question was actually a representation of a mock sex slave auction performed by Kurdish protesters in 2014. It sought to bring to light the atrocities committed by Islamic State fighters in Iraq, when the terror organisation was then at its zenith, having captured vast swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria. 

5. Old photos, false claim: Weapons recovered from a mosque in Gujarat

गुजरात में एक मस्जिद से पकड़े गये हथियार:- आखिरकार ये मुस्लिम करना क्या चाहते हैं?? वैसे देशभर में मस्जिदों 
की चेकिंग की जाए तो ऐसे ही हथियार मिलेंगे?

Translation: Weapons seized from a mosque in Gujarat:- What do these Muslims want after all? If mosques all over the country are checked, will such weapons be recovered?

The above message was shared widely on social media platforms along with a set of photographs in which weapons, mostly swords and knives can be seen. It was claimed that these weapons were recovered from a mosque in Gujarat.

Alt News’ fact-check found this claim to be false. The weapons were seized not from a mosque but from a hotel on the Ahmedabad-Rajkot highway in Gujarat, which was running an illegal arms racket.

6. False claim of Dalit man thrashed by a mob inside a mosque

A video went viral on social media with the claim that it depicts a Dalit man being mercilessly thrashed by a mob of Muslim men in Uttar Pradesh. The man was beaten up for entering a mosque, the claim furthers. A Twitter user @shailen_pratap shared the video saying, “उत्तर प्रदेश में एक दलित को मस्जिद के अंदर खींच कर ले गए और मार-मार कर अधमरा कर दिया। #MobLynching (A Dalit was dragged into a mosque in Uttar Pradesh and brutally thrashed. #MobLynching.)” 

A keyword search redirected Alt News to news reports by Dainik BhaskarPunjab Kesari and Patrikawhich said that the man was beaten up by a mob on the allegation of stealing a mobile phone. The incident had occurred in UP’s Harpur district. According to Dainik Bhaskarhe was taken hostage by a mob when he had gone to pray namaz and beaten for more than an hour. The social media claim was false.

MISINFORMATION SURROUNDING HEAVY RAINFALL

1. Shooting stones on Jammu-Srinagar NH shared as landslide in Malshej Ghat, Maharashtra

A video was shared across social media platforms with the claim that a landslide occurred in Malshej Ghat, Maharashtra. This video was circulated at a time when the state was witnessing heavy rainfall. The message most commonly used to share the video said, “Malshej Ghat..plz Do not travel in this side . forward all groups.”

Malshej Ghat..plz Do not travel in this side . forward all groups

Posted by Yog Tikam on Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The video does not depict landslide on Malshej Ghat but the Jammu-Srinagar national highway. According to a report by The Tribune, “The Jammu-Srinagar National Highway was closed for traffic due to shooting stones at various places between Ramban and Banihal stretch of the highway, falling in Ramban district of the state” on July 28. The report further stated that “all types of vehicular movement on the highway was stopped, including the Amarnath yatra, after heavy rain lashed the region, due to which Panthal area witnessed shooting stones”.

2. Old images from Andhra Pradesh and Bangladesh shared as 2019 Assam floods

photograph of a teenager saving a deer in floodwaters is being circulated on social media. One Susanta Nanda tweeted the image with a message, “Hero’s are made by the paths they choose & not by the power they grace. This picture of the earth hero from Assam is simply outstanding”. Assam has been hit by severe floods this year, forcing 1.5 lakh people to take shelter in relief camps and reportedly taking lives of at least 30 people.

Another picture of a man carrying a baby above his shoulders while his body is submerged in water was also circulated with the claim that it pertains to the recent floods in Assam.

The above picture was clicked during floods in Bangladesh in February 2014. According to a photo-story by the UK based Daily Mail, the incident took place in Noakhali, Bangladesh where wildlife photographer Hasibul Wahab had captured this brave act by a teenager.

3. Old images shared as roads blocked in Gujarat due to heavy rainfall

Several social media users had circulated images along with the claim that the Ahmedabad-Bhavnagar highway in Gujarat was blocked after heavy rainfall lashed the state. The message was shared along with three photographs showing submerged roads and overflowing rivers underneath a bridge.

(ss)

Alt New

MISREPORTING BY MEDIA

1. Media misreports: Nirmala Sitharaman claimed demonetisation had no impact on economy

On July 2, multiple news organisations reported that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, on the floor of the Rajya Sabha, had said that demonetisation had no impact on the Indian economy. The media organisations which reported this included The Economic Times, NDTV, Outlook, ScrollDeccan HeraldThe QuintThe PrintBloomberg Quint and Hindu Business Line.

The fact of the matter is that the Finance Minister NEVER stated in the Rajya Sabha that demonetisation has had no effect on the Indian economy. Alt News searched the Rajya Sabha website for questions asked by members on the floor of the House. Congress leader and MP Digvijaya Singh had inquired about the impact of demonetisation on the Indian economy, MSMEs and employment, to which the Finance Minister replied that no specific study has been conducted in this regard.

2. Hindustan misreports, no ISIS flags waved at protest rally in Meerut

On June 30, a protest rally was taken out in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh over the recent incident of lynching of Tabrez Ansari in Jharkhand. The next day i.e. on July 1, the Hindi publication Hindustan, which belongs to the Hindustan Times group, published an article in its Meerut edition headlined,“आईएसआईएस के झंडे भी लहराए गए !” (ISIS flags were also waved!- translation). There are two photographs published along with the article. In one of the photos, a black and white striped banner can be seen. In the other photo can be seen two black coloured flags.

Alt News spoke to Akhilesh N Singh, SP City Meerut, who categorically stated that there is no information about ISIS flags being waved at the rally. “We have not seen (ISIS flags at the rally)” (translated). When asked about the report by Hindustan that BJP leaders have lodged a complaint with the police regarding the supposed presence of ISIS flags, Singh said, “We have not received any such complaint. Perhaps Hindustan would be able to clarify on this.” (translated).He however added, “They (protesters) pelted stones and did not allow an ambulance to pass. They did not have permission for the rally. A notice had been issued to them regarding this.” (translated). The full report may be read here.

3. Sudarshan News shares old video morphed with slogans calling to kill RSS workers

पूरे भारत मे मज़हबी उन्मादियों का खौफनाक रूप सड़को पर. नंगी तलवारों के साथ लग रहे नारे- चड्ढा चड्ढी वालों को, गोली मारो सालों को. मौत का इशारा @RSSorg व अन्य हिन्दू संगठनों के कार्यकर्ताओं की तरफ. @HMOIndia @AmitShahOffice @AmitShah @narendramodi @PMOIndia @naqvimukhtar (Horrible scenes of religious fanatics can be seen on the streets of India. People are shouting slogans with naked swords raised – Shoot those who wear shorts. The incitement to kill is aimed at workers of RSS and other Hindu organisations)”

A video shared by Sudarshan News with above claim shows a group of people allegedly shouting slogans that roughly translate to “Allahu Akbar, kill the murderers of Tabrez, RSS murdabad, shoot the half-pant guys, the blood of Tabrez will bring a revolution”. The video (archive) was retweeted 2,700 times at the time of writing this article.

Alt News broke the video into multiple key frames using InVid. On reverse searching one of the key frames on Google, we found it matched a video claimed to be of a Muharram procession in Dehri, Bihar. It was uploaded on YouTube on Nov 17, 2017. Unlike the video posted by Sudarshan News, this video has no incendiary slogans with reference to the lynching of Tabrez Ansari.  Alt News found that the audio was  morphed into the video broadcast by Sudarshan News in a clip of a recent protest rally against Tabrez Ansari’s mob lynching.

4. Zee News falsely claims Mahua Moitra plagiarised her maiden Parliament speech

After TMC MP Mahua Moitra’s speech in parliament wherein she spoke about seven ‘early warning signs of fascism’, Zee News anchor Sudhir Chaudhary in his prime time programme DNA claimed that Moitra’s speech was plagiarised.

The ‘truth’ about Moitra’s speech which Chaudhary claimed to have investigated, was a misreport. Towards the end of her Parliamentary address, the MP had mentioned the source of her inspiration behind the address. She had said, “In 2017, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum put up a poster in its main lobby and it contained a list of all the signs of early fascism. Each of the seven signs I have pointed to you, features on that poster.”

5. Fake news of fatwa against TMC MP Nusrat Jahan

TMC MP Nusrat Jahan had taken her oath in parliament wearing sindoor. Following this, several media organisations had reported that the Darul Uloom Deoband had issued a fatwa against Jahan. For instance,  India Today referred to the Islamic seminary as “Fatwa-happy Darul Uloom”,  The New Indian Express called it “Fatwa-loving Darul Uloom”.

The fact of the matter is that no such fatwa was issued by Darul Uloom Deoband. Alt News found that the controversy did not start with a fatwa but a statement that was reportedly given by a Deoband cleric Asad Qasim. The full report may be read here.

MISCELLANEOUS

1. False claim of ‘Make in India’ train manufactured for Sydney metro

A video of Australia’s double-decker metro train was massively viral on social media in July, with the claim that 22 trains, developed under ‘Make in India’, were made operational in Syndey, Australia. The video shows the inside of Sydney’s double-decker metro train with reversible seats. The message accompanying it said, “22 metro trains were Made operational in Sydney yesterday! A Matter of pride, all these trains were MADE IN INDIA! First time in History- Coaches Made in India being run in a foreign land! When PM Modi said New India, this is what he meant.”

Alt News found that the video in question is from 2018. Moreover, the coaches were not manufactured under the ‘Make in India’ initiative as claimed. French manufacturing company Alstom was given a contract to manufacture 22 trains for Sydney metro in 2014. The company manufactured these trains in India and delivered them from its Sricity facility in Andhra Pradesh in 2018. The trains were made operational in May 2019 for the northwest metro line.

2. Old images, digital artworks shared as first photographs of Earth sent by Chandrayaan 2

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