Election season is usually marked by a spike in disinformation. The month of November witnessed an onslaught on social media, from exaggerated development claims to polarisation tactics, to use of manipulated videos and unrelated photographs.
DISINFORMATION PEAKS AHEAD OF POLLS
1. Fake BBC opinion poll predicting BJP win in Rajasthan
An ‘opinion poll’ was widely circulated on social media, according to which the BJP is set to win 135 seats and retain power in Rajasthan. The home page of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was shared along with these numbers by many social media users, attributing this purported opinion poll to the channel.
These numbers are bogus. No opinion poll has been conducted by the BBC. Alt News spoke to a BBC spokesperson who informed that no such opinion poll has been published by the news organisation. Moreover, BBC does not commission pre-election surveys in India.
2. Photoshopped image of MP CM Shivraj Chouhan consuming meat
A photograph showing Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan eating meat was shared widely by numerous Facebook and Twitter users, along with the words “Have some shame Shivraj Chouhan, you eat meat while pretend to be a hardcore hindu in front of the public. Leaked photo of Shivraj -translated)”.
The above image has been photoshopped. In the original image, there is no meat in the plate. Alt News reverse searched the image on Google and found that the original photo had been published by The Tribune.
3. False claim of Ashok Gehlot waving Pakistani flag at Congress rally
A video of former Rajasthan CM and Congress leader Ashok Gehlot went viral on social media. In the video, Gehlot can be seen waving a green coloured flag. A Facebook user posted this video with the claim that Gehlot is waving the national flag of Pakistan. Postcard News founder Mahesh Vikram Hegde had also posted this video on his Twitter timeline.
The green coloured flag seen in the video is NOT the flag of Pakistan. It is a banner which is popular among the Muslims of the subcontinent, and is used as a religious and cultural symbol. Moreover, it looks nothing like the Pakistani flag.
4. Old video of Congress worker shown as BJP candidate thrashed
“राजस्थान बांदीकुई दौसा से बीजेपी प्रत्याशी रामकिशोर सैनी की जोरदार कुटाई”जो जनता परेशान होकर कुटाई करने पर उतर आई है जरा सोचिए वोटिंग वाले दिन क्या करने वाली है। (BJP candidate Ramkishore Saini from Bandikui, Dausa was thrashed severely. If the upset public has resorted to violence, just think what will happen on election day -translated)” A video purportedly of a BJP candidate, Ramkishore Saini being thrashed by a group was shared on social media and viewed thousands of times.
The claim was false. India Today had reported that the man thrashed in the video is not BJP candidate Ramkishore Saini but a late Congress worker, Vishwanath Saini from Bandikui in Dausa district of Rajasthan. Saini passed away recently in November 2018, whereas the video is of a scuffle that had taken place in 2015.
5. Old video of Ex-BJP MLA shared as Congress MLA praising demonetisation
A video purportedly of a Congress MLA praising Modi government on demonetization and surgical strike had gone viral on social media along with the message “कांग्रेसी विधायक राकेश मेघवाल मोदी जी की तारीफ कर रहा था तो उसका माइक छीनने लगे कांग्रेसी” (Congress MLA Rakesh Meghwal was praising Modiji then Congressmen started snatching the microphone -translated). The video was shared in numerous groups on Facebook.
Alt News fact checked this claim. A Google search of Rakesh Meghwal showed several news reports on the incident which had taken place in 2016. According to a report, Rakesh Meghwal is a former BJP MLA who was speaking at an event organized by the Bahujan Sangarsh Dal in Nagaur district. Speaking to the media, he said that he was invited as a community leader in the gathering. It also must be noted that he was associated with BJP when made the statement in November, 2016.
MISINFORMATION BY POLITICAL LEADERS
1. Sambit Patra ascribes fake quote to Jawaharlal Nehru
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, in more than one television programme, referred to a statement which has been attributed to India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru is widely believed to have said, “I am English by education, Muslim by culture and Hindu by accident of birth”.
#Hallabol, @sambitswaraj: राहुलजी ने अपनी नानीमां का गोत्र ले लिया, बेहतर है अपनी मां का गोत्र ले लेते! ये तो हिंदू धर्म में गोत्र घोटाला है
Live: Live: https://t.co/fOz5QPkk43 pic.twitter.com/23w49NloVZ
— आज तक (@aajtak) November 27, 2018
Alt News has established how it was not Jawaharlal Nehru, but a leader of the Hindu Mahasabha who had first referred to these words. N B Khare, Hindu Mahasabha leader and staunch critic of Nehru had claimed that the latter had described himself thus in his autobiography. However, Jawaharlal Nehru’s autobiography has no reference to this statement.
2. Amit Malviya tweets mischievously clipped video of Manmohan Singh
In-charge of BJP’s national Information & Technology Amit Malviya tweeted a video of Dr Manmohan Singh on November 27 where the former PM can be heard saying, “The Governments of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were very good.” This clip where Singh seems to appreciate the BJP state governments was captioned as, “Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh contradicted Rahul Gandhi, says governments of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh were ‘very good’… Waters down everything Congress President has been saying over the last few days!”
Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh contradicts Rahul Gandhi, says governments of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh were ‘very good’… Waters down everything Congress President has been saying over the last few days! pic.twitter.com/cLqCL0al7q
— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) November 27, 2018
As it turns out, Malviya shared a mischievously clipped video of the former PM’s speech made on November 26. Dr. Singh was a panelist in a discussion organised for the book release function of former Union Minister Manish Tewari’s new book ‘Fables of Fractured Times’. The former PM’s exact words were, “My relationships with the government of Madhya Pradesh, the government of Chhattisgarh were very good. We never discriminated against BJP-ruled states.”
3. Randeep Surjewala targets Vasundhara Raje based on incomplete video
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, in a programme on the Hindi news channel Aaj Tak, claimed that Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje has urged BJP workers to divert the attention of the people so that they do not ask about issues like roads, water and electricity.
वसुंधराजी की ने अपने कार्यकर्ताओं को कहा कि सबको इतना उलझा दो की कोई यह नहीं कहे की सड़के क्यों नहीं बनी,पानी क्यों नहीं है,नौकरी क्यों नहीं है,लोग पिट क्यों रहें हैं,किसान लाचार-क्यों है,-इतना उलझा कर सबको भ्रमित कर लेंगे।जब प्रदेश की CM ये कह रही है,तो उन्हें हार स्वीकार है! pic.twitter.com/0eFQeAJ3zD
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) November 29, 2018
The video referred to by Surjewala, according to which the Rajasthan CM is ostensibly exhorting her workers to distract the electorate, is a truncated version of a larger video. Vasundhara Raje has indeed said these words but with reference to the Congress party. Raje had alleged that the Congress party has always sought to hoodwink the people by raking up non-issues.
4. Yogi Adityanath targets Congress with fabricated ‘Biryani for terrorists’ claim
Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath took a jibe at the erstwhile Congress led UPA regime for going too soft on the terrorist convicted in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. At an election rally in Makrana, Adityanath said, “Congress has always played divisive politics. It is the result of the division and divisive politics that terrorism was on the rise in the country. Today you can see that the terrorists which were fed Biryani by Congress are now fed bullets by us”.
In March 2015, Ujjwal Nikam, the public prosecutor who argued on behalf of the state in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack case had disclosed that he had fabricated the story of Ajmal Kasab being fed biryani in jail to counter an emotional wave created in Kasab’s favour. Speaking to the media, Nikam had said, “Kasab neither asked for biryani nor it was served by the government. I concocted it just to break an emotional atmosphere which was taking shape in favour of Kasab during the trial of the case”.
1. Glitzy photo from Mecca presented as Kumbh Mela arrangement
In January 2019, the Kumbh Mela will be held at Prayagraj (Allahabad) in Uttar Pradesh. A photograph was shared widely on social media with the claim that it is a picture of the preparation which is currently underway. The fake news website Postcard News was at the forefront, posting the photograph on November 16 with the words, “Yes this is Heaven. This is how Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj is getting ready for Kumbh Mela.” The post was later deleted.
Alt News reverse searched the image and found that it is from Saudi Arabia. The photograph was clicked at Mina city near Mecca, which serves accommodation for Hajj pilgrims.
2. Indonesian road portrayed as PM Modi’s infrastructure push
Twitter user Pawan Durani tweeted in the morning of November 29 images of a road and claimed that it was newly constructed in a village, courtesy Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In the photographs, children can be seen playing on the road barefoot. Durani, who is followed by PM Modi, later deleted his tweet.
Alt News reverse-searched the images and found that they were of an Indonesian village where the residents had seen an asphalt road for the first time in their lives. In an article published on October 15, 2018, website The Quebec Times shared the photographs.
3. Ahmedabad mayor passes off photo from Seoul as Sabarmati riverfront
In a major embarrassment for Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, the Mayor of the city has tweeted a picture from Seoul as Sabarmati riverfront. On November 6, Ahmedabad Mayor Bijal Patel tweeted an image purportedly of Ahmedabad Riverfront with a message, “It’s not Singapore , Malaysia, Dubai….. , It’s our Amdavad city.
#MaruAmdavad #RiverFront night areal view. #WorldHeritageCity @AmdavadAMC @vnehra”.
Alt News did a Google reverse image search and found a similar picture on the travel website Trip Advisor. The vantage point from which the photograph was shot is the restaurant ‘Walking on the Cloud’ located near the banks of Han river, South Korea.
4. AAP passes off bridge in Netherlands as Signature bridge in Delhi
On November 4, the Signature bridge was inaugurated by the Delhi government amid ruckus. The 675 metre long bridge, constructed across the Yamuna river connecting Wazirabad to the inner city, has been touted as a stellar achievement of the Delhi government. The Aam Aadmi Party on November 3 had posted pictures of the bridge, purportedly shot at night, on its official Twitter account.
The above photo which was posted by AAP along with three other pictures, is actually of the Erasmus bridge at Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
MISREPORTING BY MEDIA ORGANISATIONS
1. Times Now and Republic TV misreport Congress manifesto for Telangana as Muslim-centric
“Telangana election: SHOCKING Congress manifesto vows ‘Muslim-only schools, govt contracts’ – DETAILS” screamed the title of a news report published by Times Now on November 27, 2018. According to the report, the Congress party has promised seven ‘Muslim-only’ schemes to woo the minority community voter base ahead of the Telangana assembly elections. Republic TV too reported on the same narrative that the manifesto of the Congress party has promised seven benefits exclusively for Muslims and other minority sections in Telangana. The headline of the report read, “Congress On Appeasement Overdrive In Telangana: ‘Muslim Only’ Schools & Hospitals, Free Power For Mosques Promised”.
— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) November 27, 2018
What was reported by Times Now and Republic TV was at best a half-truth, as both networks conveniently ignored the other provisions of the manifesto which had promised benefits to other religious communities as well.
2. Deccan Chronicle attributes false, previously debunked quote to Jawaharlal Nehru
“By education I’am an Englishman, by views an internationalist, by culture a Muslim and Hindu only by accident of birth- Jawaharlal Nehru”. This quotation attributed to India’s first Prime Minister was printed by the Deccan Chronicle in its Hyderabad edition on November 19, 2018.
Alt News had established how this quote attributed to Nehru is false. These words first made their appearance in an article titled ‘The Angry Aristocrat’, written by N B Khare in 1959, a Hindu Mahasabha leader and staunch critic of Jawaharlal Nehru. Deccan Chronicle later regretted the error.
3. Navika Kumar wrongly claims P.V. Narasimha Rao was the first non-Gandhi PM of India
Was P V Narasimha Rao the first Prime Minister from the Congress party who did not belong to the Gandhi family? Apparently so, according to Navika Kumar, managing editor with Times Now and anchor of the prime time show The Newshour. Kumar was speaking live on November 16, 2018 ahead of her prime time show.
Navika Kumar on #ModiChaiwalaDare
Posted by TIMES NOW on Friday, November 16, 2018
Navika Kumar’s statement that P V Narasimha Rao, who became the Prime Minister in 1991, was the first PM of the Congress party who did not belong to the Gandhi family, is false. The list of politicians who have served as Prime Minister of India is available on the website of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Nehru was succeeded by Gulzarilal Nanda for a 13-day interim period in 1964 before Lal Bahadur Shastri became the PM. Both Nanda and Shastri were from the Congress party.
4. RSS-affiliated org reported as “Muslim women” supporting Ram Mandir in Ayodhya
Numerous media organisations recently reported that ‘Muslim women’ had strongly come out in support of the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. These included Amar Ujala, News18, CatchNews and OpIndia, among others.
It emerged that the women who had ‘spearheaded’ this ‘movement’ were actually members of Muslim Rashtriya Manch and Rashtriya Ekta Mission, organisations which are affiliated to the RSS.
Apart from the above categorisation, there were some other prominent instances of misinformation.
1. Fake news of Shehla Rashid pocketing money crowdfunded for Kathua rape victim
Social media was recently brimming with allegations that JNU student leader Shehla Rashid embezzled the money crowdfunded for the family of the Kathua rape victim. The accusations reached to the extent that lawyer Vibhor Anand appealed to those who felt “cheated” by Rashid that he is planning to take legal action against her. Several accusations of an identical nature were directed at Rashid even after the organisers of the crowdfunding, Crowdnewsing, tweeted that the money has reached the family
In a detailed fact-check, Alt News established that the claims relating to Rashid siphoning off funds meant for the rape victim are patently false. Alt News found that all the funds had been transferred to the victim and that there was no embezzlement.
2. Image of 2010 Congo fuel blast circulated as Hindus killed in Godhra train burning
Before voting for Congress, Hindu brothers, remember the Godhra massacre where Congress Muslims in the Congress government had poured oil on Hindus in two [train] compartments and burned them. If you love Hindus even a little bit, rid India of Congress, our loving Hindu brothers.” This message was viral on social media with an accompanying picture of charred bodies, suggesting that the image pertains to the 2002 Godhra train burning. The photos were also circulated widely on WhatsApp.
Alt News reverse searched the image of charred bodies on Google and found a 2017 fact-check by India Today. The same photograph was viral last year as “Rohingya people burned alive”. However, it actually pertains to a 2010 incident that took place in the Democratic Republic of Congo and is available on a website called documentingreality.com.
3. Video of an accidental fire circulates in Pakistan as Indian army burning houses in Kashmir
Indian army starts burning down houses of Kashmiris of Bandipora, if you cannot raise your voice against this oppression or in favour of the oppressed then quit using Facebook -translated” A video of houses on fire has gone viral in Pakistan with the aforementioned message. A Facebook user Abdul Rauf Siddiquie was one of the first to share this video with the above message. His post has been shared more than 1,34,000 times and viewed more than 1.6 million times. The post claims that the Indian army is burning down houses of Kashmiris in Bandipora.
Alt News fact-checked this claim and found that the video was of an accidental fire that had gutted houses at Lachipora Uri in Baramulla district of Kashmir. An article published by Rising Kashmir on March 27, 2018 stated, “The local residents however said that the fire completely destroyed the houses as there is no fire service station in the area. The nearest and only fire service station is at Uri town, some 18 kilometres away from Lachipora village.”
4. Unrelated images used to show ‘sea of devotees’ at Ayodhya gathering
On November 25, a ‘dharm sabha’ was organised at Ayodhya by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad which saw a large gathering. That day itself, social media was buzzing with video and images, purportedly of the gathering. The Facebook page I support BJP for Bengal posted a 15-second video with the message, “অযোধ্যা রাম মন্দির জমায়েত বিশ্বহিন্দু পরিষদ” (Sea of support for Ram Mandir by VHP- translated). Apart from the video, some photographs too were shared, ostensibly depicting the gathering at Ayodhya.
অযোধ্যা রাম মন্দির জমায়েত বিশ্বহিন্দু পরিষদ
Posted by I Support BJP for Bengal on Sunday, November 25, 2018
Alt News found that the videos and photographs used to show the immensity of the gathering at Ayodhya were taken from different contexts and were not in any way related to the ‘dharm sabha’. One of the videos was of the march in favour of reservation for Marathas, while one of the photos was of a Karni sena protest.
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