On January 26, 2023, news broke that a Pakistani flag had been hoisted on a residential building in Madhubani Sipahi Tola area in Purnea, Bihar. Several news media outlets reported this. Multimedia news agency ANI tweeted, ” A Pakistani flag was hoisted in the Madhubani Sipahi Tola area in Purnea”. The tweet further contained the Station House Officer’s statement wherein he states that the flag had been removed and that further action would be taken. The tweet also contained two pictures where the said Pakistani flag was visible. (Archive)

In its bulletin, a CNN News18 reporter said, ‘the Republic Day shocker’ was promptly taken up by the police who reached the location immediately. According to cops, the flag had since been removed. (Archive)

Times Now Navbharat also tweeted a clip of their report on this incident. The clip contains a video interview of a resident of the house, Rehana Parveen, who says that she didn’t know it was a Pakistani flag. She also says that the flag was hoisted on January 26 itself. (Archive)

News18 Bihar also tweeted a clip of their reportage of the incident. (Archive)

Other media outlets, including Times of India, Zee News English, ANI Hindi, OpIndia Hindi, Zee Bihar Jharkhand, India TV, India TV Hindi, The New Indian, Mid Day, RSS mouthpiece Organiser Weekly, Times of India Patna and Live_Hindustan also reported on this incident.

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Right Wing accounts amplified the claim

Several verified handles tweeted the CNN News 18 reportage. The BJP Andhra Pradesh state secretary Ramesh Naidu Nagothu tweeted that ‘the shameful act’ of hoisting the Pakistani flag in Bihar ‘is beyond condemnation’. Tripura BJP secretary Amit Rakshit condemned the apparent hoisting of the Pakistani flag as well. BJP Gujarat state media co-head Zubin Ashara also tweeted the News 18 report and called it a ‘shameful incident’. Andhra BJP general secretary Vishnu Vardhan Reddy wrote, “Law and order has gone for a toss since the Mahathughbandhan formed gvt in Bihar.”

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RVCJ Media tweeted a graphic containing images of the flag. According to the graphic, the police promised of strict action in the matter. The tweet garnered almost 7,000 likes. Twitter handle @BefittingFacts also shared an image of the flag and wrote that “A Pakistani flag was hoisted on a house owned by Mohammad Mubarukuddin”.

Fact Check

The reader must note that a video shot from an angle below the flag has been used by several media outlets in their reportage. If one looks closely, one might notice that parts of the flag toward the pole are not green in colour. There is a blue patch and then there is a part that is black and white in colour. Below is a screenshot from the Times Now Navbharat reportage which shows the relevant frame. This was also pointed out by a Twitter user in a thread.

This pattern is not present in the Pakistani national flag. The Pakistani national flag has a vertical white stripe on the left with a crescent moon and a star on a green background. Based on the stark differences in pattern, it is quite clear that the flag hoisted at the house in Purnea was not the Pakistani national flag.

Moreover, according to a statement released by Purnea Police on Twitter, their investigation concluded that the flag was not a Pakistani flag but a religious flag which had been hoisted a month ago. (Archive)

On the same day as it tweeted about the incident (that is January 26), The Times of India later published a report headlined ‘Pakistan’s flag not hoisted in Bihar’s Purnia, say police’. The report cites a police statement while saying that a religious flag had been hoisted at a house owned by Mohammad Mubarakuddin which is located adjacent to a local mosque. This confirmation was reiterated by Surendra Kumar Saroj, SDPO Sadar who stated that the religious flag had been put up there a month ago. He also said that the police were trying to identify the persons who spread the rumour that it was a Pakistan flag.

Alt News got in touch with Purnea SP Amir Jawaid who sent us an image of the flag after it was taken down by a police official. The reader can clearly spot the black-and-white part and the blue stripe with prints on it.

We reached out to Dr Anwar Raza Qadri, spokesperson for All India Muslim Jamaat, who explained the significance of the patterns seen on the flag in Islam. According to Qadri, the blue stripe is inspired by the pattern seen on the dome of Baghdad Sharif Mosque also known as Ghous-E-Azam. The white part with the black zigzag lines has been inspired by the dome of Dargah E Aalahazrat in Bareilly. Below we have compared the patterns on the flag with the domes.

This flag has been waved on several instances in India in the past, especially during the celebration of Eid Milad-Un-Nabi to mark the birth anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam. This flag has been seen in cities like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Varanasi and New Delhi.

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Similar claim made in the past

It is worth noting that a similar claim had been made in November 2019. A video of flags hoisted on the terrace of several buildings in Jalandhar, Punjab, was shared on social media with the claim that these were Pakistani national flags. However, an Alt News fact check found the claims to be misleading. The flags that were seen in the 2019 viral video had a similar pattern with two stripes- one with white prints on a blue background and the other with black lines on a white stripe. Below is a comparison between the religious flag that was seen in Jalandhar in 2019 and the Pakistani national flag. The following image has been taken from the 2019 Alt News fact check.

It is also worth noting that the images that Zee News English used in their report of this incident are old. These images were also used in a Zee Madhya Pradesh Chhattisgarh report dated October 26, 2022. The report, titled ‘मुस्ताक ने छत पर लगाया पाकिस्तानी झंडा, बोला- बच्चे ने की थी जिद; तानाव के बाद एक्शन’, was about a fruit-seller named Mustaq whose 15-year-old child had hoisted the Pakistani flag at their home in the Saria area of Raigarh, Chhattisgarh.

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To sum it up, a religious flag that was hoisted atop a house in the Purnea district of Bihar was falsely portrayed by various news outlets as a Pakistani national flag hoisted on the Republic Day. In reality, the Pakistani national flag and the religious flag that was hoisted are starkly different in terms of pattern and colour. The police have also dismissed the viral claims.

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About the Author

Student of Economics at Presidency University. Interested in misinformation.