Late on July 19, a video from violence-stricken Manipur surfaced on social media with disturbing visuals of two women being paraded naked by a huge mob and some of the men groping and molesting them. One of the women was also allegedly gang-raped. The incident occurred in B Phainom village on May 4.
After the video went viral sending shock-waves across the country, Manipur police tweeted that efforts were being made to nab the accused and that a ‘case of abduction, gang rape and murder etc’ was registered at Nongpok Sekmai police station in Thoubal district.
On July 20 at 9.39 pm, an update on the case came from the Manipur police that four main accused had been arrested in relation to the viral video case.
Minutes later, at 9.41, pm in a separate tweet, the Manipur police shared the news of the arrest of one PREPAK Pro Cadre, an individual named Abdul Hilim, by Imphal East district police.
At 9.47 pm, news agency ANI tweeted that PREPAK (PRO) cadre Abdul Hilim, 38, had been arrested in the viral video case. They asserted that Hilim’s arrest was in connection with the abduction and gang rape case under Nongpok Sekmai police station. NDTV and Outlook picked up the same news from ANI.
Both the tweets were later deleted.
Right after this, several Right Wing social media users claimed that Manipur police had arrested a person named Abdul Hilim and that he was the main accused in the shocking incident from May 4 captured in the viral video.
Twitter Blue user @MrSinha_, who shares communal misinformation on the platform regularly, shared a screenshot of the tweet by Manipur Police regarding the arrest of the individual Abdul Hilim and claimed that it was related to the viral video case. The user deleted the tweet afterwards and tweeted the same image of the tweet by Manipur police again, this time without mentioning the viral video. (Archive 1, 2)
BJP members Tejinder Pall Singh Bagga and Rishi Bagree, BJYM member Apurva Singh, Sudarshan News journalists Sagar Kumar and Abhay Pratap Singh, and Hindutva activist Shefali Vaidya also tweeted similar claims. Many of them referred to the arrested person as ‘Abdul Khan’ and described him as the main accused in the case.
At first, we noticed that the tweet made by Manipur police regarding the viral video case and the one regarding the arrest of Abdul Hilim were made separately.
The tweet by Manipur police regarding Abdul Hilim’s arrest mentioned that a PREPAK Pro cadre was arrested by the Imphal East District police. PREPAK (People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak) is one of the outfits in Manipur demanding a separate and independent homeland. We also noticed that the arrest was made in a different district. Abdul Hilim was arrested by Imphal East District Police while the Manipur police had mentioned that all four accused who have been arrested till now in relation to the viral video case are at Nongpok Sekmai Police Station in Thoubal district.
Further, we came across a Press Note from the Manipur Police sharing updates about cases on July 20. The arrests of Abdul Hilim (Point no. 4) and of the four accused arrested in relation to the viral video case (Point no. 2) are mentioned separately. The rest of the points also had information related to separate and unrelated cases from the strife-torn state.
Imphal East district police SP Shivakanta Singh told fact-checking website BOOM Live that Abdul Hilim was a member of a PREPAK insurgent group and was arrested for an extortion case under sections 17/20 of the Unlawful activities (Prevention) Act. SP Singh also added that this arrest was not related to the viral video case.
On July 21, ANI issued a clarification and apology regarding their initial misleading tweet.
Note on Story retraction and APOLOGY: Yesterday evening, inadvertently a tweet was posted by ANI regarding arrests undertaken by the Manipur Police. This was based on an erroneous reading of tweets posted by the Manipur police as it was confused with an earlier tweet regarding…
— ANI (@ANI) July 21, 2023
Therefore, the initial tweet by ANI connecting the arrest of Abdul Hilim to the viral video case in Manipur and the subsequent tweets by Right Wing users were false.
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