A video clip of police officers lathi-charging several people seemingly in front of a temple has gone viral with the claim that Kolkata policemen are beating up the Kanwar Yatra pilgrims at the command of West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee. The video has a Hindi text superimposed on it which reads “बंगाल में ममता सरकार के आदेशानुसार कांवड़ियों पर प्रेम बरसाती पुलिस”.
The Kanwar Yatra is the pilgrimage of the devotees of the Hindu deity Shiva (also known as Kanvaria) to various places sacred to them. This pilgrimage is held annually during July and August.
If this is true then life of a Hindu in Bengal is really very difficult pic.twitter.com/EmMCWPSYyr
— Dr.SushmaShallakaul🇮🇳 (@shallakaul) July 16, 2022
Another Twitter user @9_tshakti shared the same video with a caption in Hindi.
उधर #बंगाल में कांवड़ यात्रियों का ये हाल कर
रखा है ममता की पुलिस ने 😖😠
ये वीडियो नेट पर मिला है, जिसे देखते ही मूड
खराब हो गया, इसे देखकर लगता है कि हिन्दुओं
की बहुत दुर्दशा हो रही है बंगाल में ! pic.twitter.com/iCZdzIJipv
— आशीष ‘आचार्य’ (@9_tshakti) July 12, 2022
This video has also been shared multiple times on Facebook with the same claim.
On a closer examination of the video, one can hear Bengali being spoken in the background, thus suggesting that the video clip is likely from West Bengal. Taking this as a clue, we performed a keyword search on Twitter and found several posts from August 2021, claiming that the video had been filmed outside the Bhootnath Temple in Kolkata. The official Twitter handle of BJP West Bengal (@BJP4Bengal) too had shared the clip in 2021.
Upon a subsequent search on Google using relevant keywords, we found that TV9 and various media outlets had reported on this issue. According to a report by Dainik Jagran dated August 16, 2021, all the major temples in the city had opened, however, due to certain COVID-19 restrictions at the time, the Bhootnath temple remained closed. CM Mamata Banerjee had extended the COVID-related restrictions with a few relaxations until August 30, 2021. Despite this, the devotees had gathered outside the temple and were consequently lathi-charged by the police. It is important to note that none of the news reports had described the devotees as Kanwar Yatra pilgrims.
Below we have compared stills from the viral video to the images that were used in the TV9 report.
Alt News geolocated the place that is seen in the viral video. On a closer inspection, one can see a board with the text আহিরীটোলা ঘাট বাঁচাও কমিটি (Ahiritola Ghat Bachao Committee). Taking a cue from this, we looked up the street view of Ahiritola Ghat in Kolkata. Below we have compared stills from the video and the Ahiritola Ghat street view found on Google maps.
Hence, it is quite apparent that the incident took place in front of Ahiritola Ghat and not Bhootnath Temple. The two locations are not the same, although they are within close vicinity to each other (650 meters).
Upon searching keywords “Ahiritola Ghat” with a relevant time filter on Google, we found a fact check from August 2021 by the News Postmortem. The article has an image of Sanmarg‘s report on this issue. The Sanmarg report contains a statement from Mahesh Thakur, a representative of the Bhootnath temple authorities, wherein they said that the incident was being given a baseless political spin and that the incident had not occurred in front of the temple. It took place near Ahiritola Railway crossing. (The Ahiritola Ghat is 30 meters away from the Sovabazar Ahiritola railway station.)
To sum it up, an old video of policemen beating up several people outside the Ahiritola Ghat in Kolkata for defying COVID-19 restrictions was viral with a false claim that it is recent and that the police were beating up the Kanwar Yatra pilgrims at the behest of CM Mamata Banerjee.
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