An alleged newspaper clipping is viral on social media. It claims that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said that he has lost faith in religion because of the coronavirus outbreak. The title of the purported report makes this claim in Hindi — “कोरोना ने तोड़ी मेरी धर्म में आस्था – मोहन भागवत” — and says that the number coronavirus cases in India has crossed 25,000. The clipping pins the spread of the infection on the closure of temples and opening of schools and colleges in their stead. Apart from the title, the clipping does not carry Mohan Bhagwat’s name in other sections.

On May 18, Twitter user @DR_Ambedkarji shared the clipping and wrote (archive), “This is the greatest news of today. It feels good to see RSS and Mohan Bhagwat’s fear. This fear should be there and soon, people should rid themselves of religion. Our children’s futures need to be better. The world has blind faith and is capable of doing anything. They have freedom.”

[Translated from: आज का सबसे अच्छा समाचार मुझे यह लगा R.s.s. और मोहन भागवत का यह डर देखकर अच्छा लगा यह डर होना चाहिए और जल्दी ही लोगों को धर्म से छुटकारा पा लेना चाहिए जिन्हें अपने बच्चों को भविष्य सुधारना है बाकी तो दुनिया है अंधभक्त है कुछ भी कर सकते हैं स्वतंत्र है.]

On May 20, another Twitter user @The_Polkhol also shared the clipping.

Alt News has received several requests on its official mobile application and WhatsApp number (+91 76000 11160) to fact-check the clipping.

Manufactured clipping

A Google search does not throw up news reports which say that Mohan Bhagat made any such statement. In fact, the search results show numerous reports which say that the claim is false. A rummage through Twitter led us to a tweet by the publicity head of RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Sah, Narendra Kumar. He wrote that Bhagwat has never made the statement attributed to him and that a false quote is circulating on social media in his name.

The clipping alleges that the total number of coronavirus cases in India is more than 25,000 however, the country surpassed this figure almost one month ago on April 26. The number of cases as of May 22 stands close to 1.2 lakh.

However, on the likelihood that the clipping may not be recent, Alt News searched for statements made by Mohan Bhagat around April 26 when COVID-19 cases had just crossed 25,000. As suspected, we did not find any reports which claimed that Bhagwat said he has lost faith in religion.

A Google search with keywords ’25 हज़ार मोहन भागवत धर्म’ (25,000 Mohan Bhagwat religion) led us to a broadcast by India TV aired on April 26 where Bhagwat is addressing RSS workers via video. He asked them to follow lockdown guidelines and said that people are fighting coronavirus sitting at home. He also said that the entire world is trying to cope with the outbreak and that people are continuing to live their lives in the midst of the pandemic. We found that nowhere in his entire speech did Bhagwat claim that he has lost faith in religion due to coronavirus.

Furthermore, unlike in genuine newspaper clippings, Bhagwat’s photograph is not aligned. There are also extra spacings between the words in the headline.

Therefore, a manufactured clipping was widely circulated on social media. It made the false claim that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said that he has lost faith in religion owing to the coronavirus outbreak.

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About the Author

Kinjal Parmar holds a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology. However, her keen interest in journalism, drove her to pursue journalism from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication. At Alt News since 2019, she focuses on authentication of information which includes visual verification, media misreports, examining mis/disinformation across social media. She is the lead video producer at Alt News and manages social media accounts for the organization.