November 2019: Misinformation around JNU protest, Ayodhya verdict and more

November 2019 was characterized by a deluge of misinformation surrounding the protest by JNU students over the proposed fee hike. Another issue in the limelight was the Ayodhya verdict, which resulted in a flurry of falsehood on social media.

MISINFORMATION AROUND JNU PROTEST

1. Random images of young women found online shared to discredit JNU protest

A photograph of a young woman holding a liquor bottle in one hand and a cigarette in the other, has been circulated with the narrative that she is a JNU student. Another picture of a girl who has tied her hair with a condom too was shared as a protesting JNU student. “JNU ‘s fall cannot be explained better than this – Condom to tie hair & Naked protests”, read the caption along with the photograph.

Alt News reverse-searched both images and found they are unrelated to JNU protesters. The image of the woman holding the liquor bottle was found on a blog from August 2016. As for the picture with the condom, Alt News found it posted by a Twitter user in December 2017.

2. 23-year old student passed off as 45-year old Congress leader and JNU student Abdul Raza

In yet another example, a photograph was shared on social media, targeting the protesting students. An image of a student was circulated with the claim that he is a 45 year old Congress leader Abdul Raza, who is still a student at the university. The photograph was shared with the message, “ये JNU का छात्र निकला 45 वर्ष का जानते हैं कौन है अब्दुल रजा कांग्रेस का मण्डल अध्यक्ष कुछ समझे” (This 45 year old turned out to be a JNU student, he is Abdul Raza, a Congress leader- translated), and the hashtag #ShutDownJNU.

The social media claim, once again turned out to be false. The person in the photograph is Shubham Bokade, a 23-year old student at JNU studying MA in Lingustics. In a conversation with Alt News, Bokade said, ““First of all, the post being circulated is fake. I think the narrative being circulated is also very problematic. It is Islamophobic, clearly. Secondly, suppose even if I were the Abdul Raza who is 45 years of age as the fake news claims, the question is what’s wrong with a 45 year old man trying to get an education at an affordable price. The idea of education is not to make University spaces exclusive but rather to make space for the last person standing.

3. Photo of injured woman at Muharram procession shared in backdrop of JNU protest

A photograph depicting a young woman bleeding copiously from a head wound was circulated on social media with a narrative targeting the government. It was shared in the context of the clash between students and the police in the national capital, in which 15 students were injured.

The above picture is not from India. According to an article published by a Shia News website JafariyaNews.com in February 2005, these images depict the observation of Ashura on the tenth day of Muharram. Hence the suggestion that image was clicked during the recent students’ fee hike protest is false.

4. Photo of CPI leader shared as JNU student detained by police

A photograph of an elderly woman was shared widely on Facebook and Twitter with the narrative that the person is a student of JNU. The messages accompanying it were sarcastic in nature.

It turns out that the lady in the photograph is Annie Raja, a leader of the CPI and not a student of JNU. Annie Raja was among those who had protested outside the Supreme Court in May 2019 over the clean chit given to former CJI Ranjan Gogoi over allegations of sexual harassment. That is when this photo was taken.

Readers may refer to the Alt News compilation for more such instances.

MISINFORMATION AROUND AYODHYA VERDICT

1. Morphed letter shared as PM Modi congratulating CJI after Ayodhya verdict

A supposed letter written by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was circulated on social media. The said letter is dated on November 11 and reads, “Dear Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Let me begin by congratulating you and your bench Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice Ashok Bhushan & Justice S. Abdul Nazeer for your stupendous contribution to Hindu Rashtra. Hindus will always be grateful to you and your team for your compendable and memorable decision, which will make a new history for Hindu Rashtra. I wish you and your family the very best for your future endeavours and once again congratulate you for this remarkable decision. Thank you for the wonderful support at this crucial time.” The letter was trending on social media, and primarily on WhatsApp.

There are several inconsistencies which conclusively establish that the said letter is morphed. Alt News’s detailed fact-check may be read here.

2. False claim: Tirupati Balaji donated Rs.100 crore for Ram temple in Ayodhya

In the backdrop of the Ayodhya verdict, social media was abuzz with the claim that the Tirumala Tirupati Balaji will donate Rs 1 billion(100 crore) for constructing Ram temple in Ayodhya. A screengrab of Uttar Pradesh TV channel Bharat Samachar’s broadcast was shared by several individuals which gave credence to this narrative.

Alt News found that the claim about Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam(TTD) donating Rs 100 crore for construction of Ram Mandir is false. In an email response regarding the authenticity of the news reported by the above outlets, the PRO office at TTD said, “Kindly note that it is a fake news.”, thus clarifying that no such announcement for donation was made by the temple authorities.

3. Fake: Viral message warning of social media surveillance over Ayodhya case

Ahead of the impending Supreme Court verdict on the Ayodhya case, WhatsApp was rife with rumours and misinformation. A message which went viral stated that with the upcoming Ayodhya verdict, new rules for public communication will come into effect. The message stated that all calls will be recorded, all call recordings will be saved, and social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook would be monitored, as would WhatsApp. It further stated all personal electronic devices will be connected to systems in the ministry, and warned readers not to share content critical of the government or the Prime Minister.

UP police confirmed via Twitter that the aforementioned message is a hoax. It was one of several such messages circulating in Ayodhya. On November 5, the Twitter account of Ayodhya police uploaded an image of a news report titled, ‘सोशल मीडिया के माध्यम से अशांति फ़ैलाने की हो रही है नाकाम कोशिश’ (Efforts to spread disharmony via social media rendered futile- translation). Ayodhya police tweeted with the hashtag #UPPAgainstFakeNews.

4. Unrelated photos passed off as images of Babri Masjid from British Library’s archive

A collage of photographs was viral on social media with the claim that these are photographs of the Babri masjid, taken from the collection of the British library. All the photos are in black and white. Alt News found these photographs have been circulating online for several years.

Alt News’s fact-check found that except for one photograph, the rest of the images do not pertain to the now demolished Babri masjid. These photos represent mosques and mausoleums in Karnataka, Afghanistan and Turkey. In a similar instance, images from West Bengal and Karnataka were passed off as photographs of the Babri masjid.

MISINFORMATION OVER DENGUE

Like every year, the cases for mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue, spiked in different parts of India after the end of the summer season. This year the epidemic has lasted much longer than the previous years, while a 16-year-old girl died from dengue on the 10th of November 2019 at the Delhi hospital. This in turn led to a spate of misinformation on social media over prevention and cure of dengue.

1. False claim: Homeopathic treatment Eupatoriam Perfoliatum can prevent/cure dengue

WhatsApp forwards, YouTube videos and social media users claimed that Eupatorium Perfoliatum (EP), a Homeopathic preparation is preventative and curative for high risk as well as dengue infected populations. Alt News found multiple mainstream media reports of Eupatorium Perfoliatum being given to patients by Government organisations. (1234)

This is a false claim. Read the Alt News fact-check here.

2. False claim: Coconut oil protects against dengue viral infection

It has been claimed that application of coconut oil can be protective from dengue-infected mosquito bites due to its antibiotic properties. A viral message on social media and chat applications such as WhatsApp attributed to a doctor B Sukumar advises application of coconut oil in order to prevent dengue.

Coconut oil is not an antiviral compound and its application will not protect against dengue infection or dengue-mosquito bites. Read the Alt News fact-check here.

3. False claim: Carica Papaya extract or ‘Caripill’ cures dengue virus infection

With the surge in dengue cases this year, a 2012 Facebook post with an image of papaya leaves was viral again with close to 995,000 shares since it was first posted. This Facebook post attributes a Times of India article as the source of information, and suggests that the juice of papaya leaves may be a miracle cure for dengue.

It could be a miracle cure for dengue. And the best part is you can make it at home. (apologies for the typo in the…

Posted by Health Digest on Tuesday, October 30, 2012

This too is a false claim. Click here to read the detailed Alt News fact-check.

PHOTOSHOPPED IMAGES, FAKE QUOTES

1. Fake quote attributed to Kapil Sibal: “I will not let Ram Mandir be built till I’m alive”

A quote on Ayodhya-Ram Mandir, attributed to Congress Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal, was widely circulating on social media. It says, “जब तक जिंदा हूँ, राम मंदिर नहीं बनने दूँगा – कपिल सिब्बल (I will not let Ram Mandir be constructed till I’m alive – Kapil Sibal.)” A similar version of the quote has been floating around since 2017. The earliest version on Twitter discovered by Alt News says, “कपिल सिब्बल: अगर तीन तलाक ख़त्म हुआ तो राम मंदिर नहीं बनने दूंगा।  (Kapil Sibal: If triple talaq is deemed removed, I will not let Ram Mandir be constructed.”)

A quick Google search throws up no news reports crediting the quote to Kapil Sibal either recently or in the past. It is improbable that the media would not report such a controversial statement, had it been made by a prominent opposition leader. Moreover, the screenshot shared by several users redirects to a shady website digitalindiatv.com which had attributed the quote to Sibal on March 15, 2018. Alt News’s fact-check may be read here.

2. Photoshopped: Image of NDTV India report targeting Shahrukh Khan over Burj Khalifa

“ये क्या हो गया सच्चा मुसलमान कभी ऐसा नही कर सकता तो इसका मतलब क्या समझा जाये शाहरुख खान सच्चे मुसलमान नही है ओ भी मात्र दो करोड़ रुपये के लिए ..! #ShahRukhKhanBirthday” (“What is this, a true Muslim would never do this, should we suppose that Shahrukh Khan is not a true Muslim, that too for a mere two crore rupees!” – translation).

The above message was shared on Twitter along with a screenshot of a report by the Hindi news channel NDTV India. The title of the report supposedly is, “2 करोड़ में लिखवाया बुर्ज खलीफा पर अपना नाम। पैसे देने की बारी आयी, अब फ़ोन नहीं रिसीव कर रहे शाहरुख़ खान।” (He got his name written on the Burj Khalifa for 2 crore. When it came to payment, Shahrukh Khan is not receiving his phone- translation). 

The NDTV India headline is photoshopped. To fact-check this image, Alt News perused the NDTV India website and found one report pertaining to Shahrukh Khan published on his birthday. The title of the report found on the NDTV India website is, ‘शाहरुख खान के रंग में रंगा दुबई का ‘बुर्ज खलीफा’, देखने पहुंची लोगों की भारी भीड़…देखें वायरल  Video’ (Dubai’s Burj Khalifa splashed with image of Shahrukh Khan, big growd gathers to watch. view viral video- translation). In the below image, the difference between the actual NDTV India report and the viral screenshot has been shown.

3. Kanhaiya Kumar’s image morphed with map showing Indian states as part of Pakistan

An image of CPI leader and former president of JNUSU Kanhaiya Kumar was shared on social media. It shows the politician purportedly giving a speech in front of a map depicting Indian states as part of Pakistan. The accompanying message read, “इस कुत्ते के पीछे भारत का नक्शा देखो यह जेएनयू में पलने वाला कुत्ता है भड़वा है और इस देशद्रोही को पलवल आने का न्योता दो इसका इलाज पलवल में ही संभव हो पाएगा (See India’s map behind this dog. This dog was bred in JNU. This anti-national and traitor should be given an invitation to Palwal. His treatment is only possible in Palwal.)”

A simple reverse image search on Google leads one to the original photograph which does not show a distorted map of India. The background is plain. The Hindu had used the image in a 2015 article, crediting it to photographer Sandeep Saxena.

MISINFORMATION OVER KASHMIR RAGES ON

1. Video from Bihar shared as Kashmiri Muslim child tortured to death

November 12, 2019, marked the 100th day since sections of Article 370 were abrogated in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). On that day, a video was shared on social media with the message, “A Kashmiri Muslim child has just been tortured to death by RSS Hindutva Nazi goons. My question to western leaders: would you allow this to happen to your children & silently spectate? Can any sane mind justify this? #100DaysOfKashmirSiege.” The video shows a boy pinned to the ground and beaten up mercilessly.

The video is not from Kashmir. It was fact-checked by Alt News in October 2019, in the article ‘Murder-accused brutally beaten in Bihar; police deny communal angle.’ The incident took place in Kaimur’s Bhabua Nagar, a district in Bihar on October 2, 2019.

2. False claim: Eid-e-Milad celebrated at Hazratbal with same fervour as previous years

On November 9-10, Eid Milad-un-Nabi was celebrated in Kashmir’s Hazratbal shrine to observe the birth of Prophet Muhammed. While The Hindu and PTI along with local news outlets reported that restrictions had been imposed to prevent a large gathering, a section of the media including Times Now and Doordarshan, along with prominent journalists claimed that thousands of people had gathered for the occasion, and that there were no restrictions on assembly.

It is noteworthy that prominent media outlets and journalists claimed that disinformation was spread that the prayers were not allowed. However, this is untrue. News organisations that carried reports on Eid Milad wrote that prayers were “restricted”, not banned. If one were to compare publicly available photographs from November 10, 2019, with those of celebrations in Hazratbal in past years, the massive difference in the strength of the gathering is evident. In the collage below, the first image depicts recent celebrations, the second is from 2016; third, 2011 and the fourth, 2014. Alt News’s fact-check may be read here.

3. Old image from Gaza showing bullet-ridden building shared as Kashmir

इस कश्मीरी मकान की तस्वीर देखकर कश्मीर के हालात का अंदाजा लगाईये । (Take a look at this Kashmiri building and think of the plight of Kashmir- translation). 

The above message was viral on social media along with a photograph which shows a building whose walls are riddled with gunfire.

इस कश्मीरी मकान की तस्वीर देखकर कश्मीर के हालात का अंदाजा लगाईये ।

Posted by रख्शन्दा खान on Thursday, October 31, 2019

The image is not from Kashmir, but Gaza. Alt News reverse-searched the image on Yandex, and found a report on a website www.radikal.com published on January 3, 2010. The description posted along with the photo states that nothing had changed in Gaza a year after Israeli forces had bombed the region on December 27, 2009, and that children were affected the most by the Israeli assault.

COMMUNAL MISINFORMATION

1. False claim: Bomb blast inside mosque in Bihar’s Sasaram, 100 bombs found

In early November, a blast took place near a mosque in Sasaram, Bihar. Soon after, a claim widely circulated on social media that the explosion took place inside a mosque where a hundred other bombs were also recovered. The message which was circulated was “आज सासाराम में मोची टोला मोहल्ला मस्जिद में बम बनाते ब्लास्ट हुआ 100 की संख्या में बम बारूद गिरफ्तार हुआ इस तरह का लगभग मस्जिद में काम काम चल रहा है सासाराम रोहतास बिहार।”

Alt News contacted SDO Sasaram, Raj Kumar Gupta, who informed that the claims floating on social media are “just rumours.” The officer said that the blast did not occur inside the mosque but on a campus outside the place of worship. “There was a single blast where a labourer was wounded. We did not recover any other explosives,” he said while adding that the police are still investigating the matter.

2. Old image of Rohingya refugee girl falsely shared as girl collecting oil in Ayodhya

Soon after the Deepotsav event in Ayodhya wherein over 5 lakh lamps or diyas were lit, a video began circulating widely on social media showing a young girl collecting oil from the lamps. This was followed by some sections on social media claiming that the girl was a Rohingya muslim. The message circulated was “इस अवैध रोहींगया लड़की को वाम और सेकुलर गैंग ने एक षड़यंत्र के तहत अयोध्या पहुंचाया ज़िससे एक झूठा प्रोपेगैंडा फैलाय़ा जा सके , अरे बेशर्मो तुम्हारा प्लान फेल हो गया (Left and secular gang brought this illegal Rohingya girl to Ayodhya through a conspiracy so that a false propaganda can be spread.)” along with another photo showing a young girl with the narrative that this is the same girl who was seen in Ayodhya.

Alt News found that the image on top was clicked two years ago in Bangladesh and shows a Rohingya refugee girl who fled from Myanmar on September 6, 2017. Also, a comparison of the facial features of this girl and the one in Ayodhya evidently proves that the two are different people. They have distinct features – eye colour, nose, lips.

3. Video of Islamic flags hoisted in Punjab shared as Pakistani flags

A video of flags hoisted on the terrace of several buildings in Jalandhar, Punjab was shared on social media with a claim that these were Pakistani national flags. In the video, a man can be heard calling the territory “mini Pakistan”. Twitter handle @noconversion posted the video with the message, “Pakistani flags … in Jalandhar Punjab, this area Vijay Colony is infested with Christian Missionaries”.

With the help of a keyword search on Google, we found a news report published by Dainik Bhaskar on November 4, 2019. On November 4, the police reached Jalandhar’s Vijay Colony along with a local Shiv Sena leader who informed that the Muslim community was allegedly raising Pakistani flags. According to the report, the flags were removed by the residents, however, a protest was later staged. The Muslim community argued that the flags were “Islamic religious flags”, not Pakistani flags. After the outrage, the police realised their misunderstanding and the flags were reinstated under the police’s direction.

In the comparison below, one can observe a clear distinction between the two flags.

4. Images of UP Imam injured by robber falsely shared as attack by ‘Sanghis’

A set of images of an injured man was shared on the social media with the narrative that an Imam of a mosque in Lucknow was attacked by “Sanghis-Bajrangis.” The photographs show a man whose head and the right hand is bandaged. He is sitting wearing a blood-soaked undervest. “नफ़रतों की इन्तिहा हो गई कायर संघियों। 11 बजे रात में लखनऊ में जेल रोड पर बनी मस्जिद के इमाम हाफ़िज़ अदनान साहब पर नीच, कायर संघियों-बजरंगियों ने तलवार से जानलेवा हमला किया। (Coward Sanghis have exceeded the limits of hatred. At 11 PM, Imam Hafiz Adnan at Lucknow’s Jail Road mosque was fatally attacked by coward Sanghis-Bajrangis with a sword. -translated)”, was the message circulated along with the photos.

The social media claim is false. The incident was a case of a failed robbery attempt. Alt News’s fact-check may be read here.

5. False claim: Muslim parties want to declare Belgium an Islamic state after recent elections

A news clip of Russian television RT was viral on social media with the claim that Muslim parties in Belgium are demanding to establish the country as an Islamic state after winning elections. Founder of fake news website Postcard News Mahesh Vikram Hegde tweeted the video writing, “After winning elections, Muslim parties demanding to declare Belgium as Islamic country. Huge protests have already started. This is what going to happen soon in india also. All the best to my beloved so called “SECULAR” brothers and sisters.

Alt News found the video clip dates back to 2012. A newly-established ‘Islam Party’ in 2012 had won two seats in the municipal elections in Belgium and vowed to implement Sharia law, according to a 2012 report by RTThe party had won two seats in the capital Brussels – Molenbeek and Anderlecht. However, it lost both the seats in 2018.

MISCELLANEOUS

1. False claim: Bal Thackeray’s sister is Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule’s mother-in-law

Soon after the formation of the Sena-NCP-Congress alliance in Maharashtra, a message viral on social media claimed that Supriya Sule is the daughter-in-law of Bal Thackeray’s sister. “Balasaheb Thackeray’s sister is Sudha Bhalachandra Sule who is the mother of Sadanand Sule who is the husband of Supriya Sule whao is the daughter of Sharad Pawar You will now Understand Politics”, read the viral message which was shared on WhatsApp. Supriya Sule is the Nationalist Congress Party MP from Maharashtra’s Baramati constituency.

The same was reported by sections of the media.

The claim that NCP leader Supriya Sule’s mother-in-law is the sister of Bal Thackeray is false. The name of Supriya Sule’s mother-in-law is Anne Sule and not Sudha Sule as claimed on social media. Alt News’s detailed fact-check may be read here.

2. No, Gautam Gambhir did not say cricket commentary is more important than pollution meet

Recently, there was a backlash on social media against former cricketer and BJP MP Gautam Gambhir with the narrative that he had missed a crucial meeting scheduled by the Parliamentary standing committee, Ministry of Urban Development on the deteriorating air quality in Delhi, because he would rather do cricket commentary for the India vs Bangladesh test series.

In the eight-second video tweeted by social media users, a reporter from ANI questions, “Why didn’t you turn up for the meeting?” to which Gambhir responds Is the meeting important or my work important? In the past five mo..” 

The video in question shows eight-seconds from a 90-second interview given to ANI on November 18. Additionally, the video was misrepresented because the phrase ‘my work’ was portrayed as Gambhir’s personal work. The narrative on social media aimed to show that Gambhir has said his personal work or business contract is more important than his duties as an MP. Read the Alt News fact-check here.

3. Media misreport: Aatish Taseer moved Supreme Court to challenge OCI cancellation

The home ministry had recently revoked the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card status held by Aatish Taseer, the journalist who had penned a TIME magazine cover story on prime minister Narendra Modi ahead of Lok Sabha polls. In a recent development, mainstream media outlets – Zee News, Republic TV, OneIndia – reported that Taseer has moved the Supreme Court against the government’s action. Republic TV’s report is no longer available.

Aatish Taseer quote-tweeted the report by Zee News and termed the story “fake news”. Speaking with Alt News, the journalist and author said, “We have not filed a petition at the Supreme Court. We are still in the process of preparing our legal strategy.”

4. BJP falsely claims TMC MP Mahua Moitra violated Model Code of Conduct

BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya tweeted a copy of a complaint filed by the party’s West Bengal unit with the election commission against an alleged violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) by the TMC. The complaint was with regard to the by-polls in the state scheduled to be held on November 25. The BJP alleged that the officer-in-charge of Thanapara police station, Sumit Kumar Ghosh, has been regularly participating in door-to-door campaigning by TMC MP Mahua Moitra in Nadia district.

The claim turned out to be false, because the image in question dates back to August 18, 2019. It was shared by Mahua Moitra on her Facebook page. According to PRS, “The MCC is operational from the date that the election schedule is announced till the date that results are announced.” The election dates for the November by-polls in West Bengal were announced on October 25.

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