A video of a group of women clad in burqa on a bus engaged in an altercation with a woman in a saree is viral with the claim that the Muslim women were forcing their religion on a Hindu woman. American journalist Amy Mek tweeted the video and wrote “Sharia Patrols in India!”. “Islamic woman harassed a Hindu woman for daring to ride a bus in Kerala without a sharia covering. The enraged Muslims demanded she wear a burqa. Muslims do not want Hindus to ride on public transportation without adhering to their Sharia demands – Allahu Akbar!”, her tweet read. (Archive)

Verified Right Wing influencer @MeghUpdates tweeted the video and said that the Muslim women in Kerala (seen in burqa) in the video were forcing the Hindu woman (seen in a saree) to wear the burqa while travelling in public transport, complying with Sharia law. (Archive)

Users like Journalist Archana Tiwari, Shashank Shekhar Jha, @Anandi_sanatani and RSS worker Sheetal Chopra also claimed the incident had happened in Kerala. The first two later deleted their tweets.

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RSS-run Panchjanya also tweeted the same video and claimed that Muslim women had pressurized the Hindu woman to wear the burqa. (Archive)

Other verified accounts which shared the video with a similar claim include @bhagwakrantee, @SaffronQueen_, @ajaychauhan41, @Sudhir_mish, @Sudanshutrivedi, @Sadhvi_prachi, @NagarJitendra, @Ateist_TV, @rose_k01, @sikka_harinder and @RadioGenoa.

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Fact Check

Although most of the conversation in the viral video is unintelligible, the reader must note that there is nothing visible in the video that suggests the women in the burqa forced the saree-clad woman to also wear a burqa.

We found several related clips in a Facebook post. In one of the videos, the women are seen stopping the bus from outside and questioning the driver why he isn’t stopping at the bus stop. “Why does the bus stop then exist if the bus doesn’t stop?”, they are heard saying.

To corroborate that the aforementioned clip and the viral video were shot at the same time and at the same location, we have compared stills from the viral video with stills from the other clip. The number on the license plate of the bus and the number seen inside the vehicle are the same. Moreover, part of the text “Shree Guruvayurappan” seen from outside the bus can also be seen in the viral video.

Taking a cue from the Facebook post, we performed a keyword search and found several Malayalam news reports on this incident. According to a Reporter article, buses would often leave without stopping at a newly constructed bus stop near Khansa Women’s College for Advanced Studies at Bhaskara Nagar on Kumbala-Mulleria KSTP road in Kerala’s Kasaragod. As a result, the students of Khansa Women’s College on October 22 stopped the bus on the road and protested.

We reached out to Kumbala SHO VV Rajeevan who refuted the viral claims of a communal angle in the incident. He informed us that the bus would not stop at the new bus stop in front of Khansa Women’s College and would only stop at the old bus stop which was also approximately half a kilometre away. The students of the college thus got agitated and decided to protest. He added that the altercation seen in the viral video took place when the saree-clad woman attempted to voice her opposition to the students’ protest. The students told her that she had failed to understand their plight.

We also found a detailed reportage of the incident on a YouTube channel called Public Kerala. In the video, the host reiterates what the girls said to the saree-clad woman. According to him, the girls said, “You are not supporting us; you are opposing us because you don’t fully comprehend our predicament. If your children were facing the same issue of buses not stopping day after day, you would stand by us as well.”

Moreover, we learnt from this video that the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) had expressed solidarity with the students’ demand. The entire incident was corroborated by DYFI leader Hairaz Kumbala in a byte. According to him, the new bus stop in front of the college is almost ready. However, the buses would not stop for the students since the students enjoyed a concession on the bus ticket. The buses would take passengers who pay full price for the tickets and stop at the other stop about 500 meters away. However, with the intervention of the DYFI, local people and the police, buses had started to take students aboard.

Marunadan TV spoke to college principal Narayanan who said that none of the buses on that route stopped in front of the new bus stop. Students would have to go half a kilometre to reach the place where the buses actually stopped. They had tried communicating with the bus driver about the situation, but the staff did not budge. The situation escalated when, on that particular day, students had been waiting for an extended period, and two to three buses passed without stopping. This led to the students becoming agitated and deciding to block the bus’s path. Even in the face of protests, the driver and conductor remained unresponsive to the students’ concerns Upon being asked if the police had been informed, Narayanan said that the police, the local MLA and the regional transport office were in the know of things.

Alt News also spoke to Basantha Pai from the Shree Guruvayurappan bus services, whose bus was involved in the controversy. Acknowledging that the incident did occur, he said it was an isolated event. Refuting any communal aspect to the incident, he said “People can portray this incident in whichever way they want. The students are generally very peaceful and cordial. I don’t know why they suddenly got agitated that day. The demand for the buses to stop at the new bus stop has been an ongoing issue and is not communal in any way”. According to him the RTO had rejected a plea for a bus stop in front of the college. He said he had no knowledge about the altercation with the saree-clad woman.

We also sourced a video of some police officials trying to reason with the bus driver and the bus conductor. The police officials are heard instructing the bus staff to stop at the bus stop and pick up the students who are waiting at the stop while the staff tries to reason with the police. It is quite clear that no communal issue is being discussed in the viral video.

Hence, it is clear that Right Wing users have given a false communal twist to the incident in Kasaragod. Some students of the Khansa Women’s College protested against buses not stopping at the bus stop near their college. A clip from the protest has gone viral with users falsely claiming that some burqa-clad women were trying to impose Sharia laws on a Hindu woman.

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About the Author

Student of Economics at Presidency University. Interested in misinformation.