Ravi Shankar Prasad cites misleading video shared by media as proof of Balakot casualties

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad addressed a press conference at BJP headquarters on March 14. Accusing Congress President Rahul Gandhi of not supporting the government post-Balakot airstrike, the Law Minister said that media channels have provided sufficient evidence of a successful retaliation by the Indian Air Force. He said, “the BJP is proud of television channels,” while citing an alleged video where Pakistanis themselves admit to the killings of 200 people. “I heard and saw a video where Pakistani army personnel are consoling people who were crying.” The Union Minister’s statements can be heard at around 13:30 minutes into the speech.

The full transcript of his statement can be found here – “…राहुल गाँधी जी आपको क्या हो गया है?आप सिर्फ दो दिन सरकार के साथ खड़े रहे, दो दिन। बाद में आपने एयर स्ट्राइक पर सवाल उठाये, फिर आपके नेता सबूत मांग रहे थे तो आप सबूत पर भी खामोश रहे मतलब आप भी उनके स्वर में स्वर मिला रहे है। तीसरा, इतना एविडेंस आज पब्लिक डोमेन में है और आज मैं पार्टी के मन से टीवी चैनल्स का अभिनन्दन करना चाहता हूँ। उन्होंने देश के सामने पुरे एविडेंस को रखा है, वी आर वैरी प्राउड ऑफ़ आल टेलीविज़न चैनल्स। अब हमे तो ये भी सुनने में आया है, देखा हमने की चल रहा है एक वीडियो जिसममें पाकिस्तान के ही लोगो ने दिखाया है की किस तरह से 200 लोग मरे है, रो रहे है और पाकिस्तान के सेना के प्रधान उनको कंसोल करने की कोशिश कर रहे है। (…Rahul Gandhi, what’s wrong with you? You were standing with the government for only two days. Later, you started questioning the airstrike. Then, when your ministers started demanding evidence, you were silent, which means that you agreed with them. Thirdly, there is so much evidence today in the public domain. On behalf of the party, I want to thank TV channels that they kept the full evidence in front of the country. We are very proud of all television channels. Now we are hearing, we also saw a video where the people of Pakistan themselves showed how 200 people had died. They are crying and Pakistan army personnel are trying to console them.)

RS Prasad thanks media while quoting fake news

The alleged video that the Union Minister was talking about does not pertain to Balakot. This misinformation, circulated on social media and subsequently popularised by mainstream media, was debunked by Alt News here.

Multiple media organisations had posted a video shared by a US-based Gilgit activist who claimed that the video represented a Pakistani army officer admitting to the martyrdom of 200 militants. Ironically, the activist had also stated to ANI that he does not vouch for the video’s authenticity.

Alt News carefully listened to the audio of the clip and found that Pakistani army men and others in the video were not talking about the martyrdom of 200 militants, but the death of only one man.

Here’s what the audio says – “ये रुतबा अल्लाह के कुछ ख़ास बन्दों को नसीब होता है. आपको पता है की कुछ 200 बन्दे ऊपर गए थे? इसके नसीब में लिखा हुआ था शहादत. हम रोज़ाना चढ़ते है, जाते है, आते है. तो ये अल्लाह के ख़ास बन्दे, जिसपे करम होता है, जिसपे उनकी ख़ास नज़र-ओ-करम होती है, उसको ये नसीब होता है…परेशान नहीं होना तुम्हारा वालिद मरा नहीं है, ज़िंदा है. मरा हुआ नहीं बोलते. (This is a privilege received by only a few men special to God. Did you know some 200 men went up? Martyrdom was in his destiny. We climb every day, we go and come back. So he is special to God, who had God’s mercy, and was destined for this. Don’t get worried, your father is not dead, he is alive. You shouldn’t say he is dead.)”

While talking to the child, who can be seen sitting on the lap of a Pakistani army officer, someone from behind the camera says that he should not cry over his father’s death. Some 200 men had gone up (the mountains or hills) but only the child’s father did not return.

Alt News also discovered the video of the man’s burial rites, where scenes from the viral video are visible as well.

احسان اللہ شہید جنازے کا ایک خوبصورت منظر ۔

Posted by ‎شینگاڑہ درہ نیوز‎ on Saturday, 2 March 2019

There are several other hints in the video that suggest it does not represent the aftermath of Balakot airstrike. For instance, the presence of thick snow in the background while ground reports from Balakot show no signs of the same.

Alt News also reached out to sources in the Pakistani media who informed that the man who died was a civilian porter, Ehsanullah. He suffered a heart attack on February 28 while assisting an army unit. Ehsanullah’s funeral rites took place on March 1 in Singhara Darora, Upper Dir district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan. We checked on Google maps that Balakot is at least 300 km away from the said location.

Alt News’s detailed investigative report can be read here.

Since the Pulwama attack and India’s February 26 airstrike in Balakot, not only social media but mainstream media has also been a prominent contributor to the fake news cycle. Furthermore, we have observed that politicians too have not shied away from indulging in circulating misinformation. Not only did Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad cite the misleading video in a public address but Union Minister Shandilya Giriraj Singh shared it on Twitter.

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