Last month, Sudarshan News broadcasted a bulletin replete with misinformation to falsely propagate that Muslim candidates are favoured in the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examinations. Alt News published a fact-check report debunking various false claims made through the length of the show.

Ever since media reported that Soyeb Aftab secured the first rank in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), several Twitter users revived claims of “Muslim infiltration” in national exams and netizens satirically remarked why #NEETJihad isn’t trending.

A satirical tweet said that ranks one to five in NEET were secured by Muslim candidates. The names chronologically listed are — Shoaib Aftab, Zeeshan Ashraf, Yasir Hameed, Sajid Mehmood and Sana Mir. This post has been shared in Hindi and English on Twitter.

Twitter user @Asmaparveen77 wrote, “शुऐब आफताब के साथ साथ टॉपर मे शामिल 5 मुस्लिम स्टूडेंट्स के नाम है [followed by Rank and names] वो जले हुए पकोड़े जेसी शक्ल वाला चवन्नी धारी गैंडा कोन सी गुफा मे छुपा बेठा है @Troll_Ziddi”. (archived link)

A Twitter user also shared the five names with Sudarshan News editor in chief Suresh Chavhanke’s image. (archived link)

The video below shows the virality of the post.

Satire believed to be true

As per NEET’s official website, the top five ranking students in the unreserved category are — Soyeb Aftab, Akanksha Singh, Tummala Snikitha, Vineet Sharma and Amrisha Khaitan.

The four other names circulating on social media are fictitious. No candidates by those names have been listed in the press release by NEET 2020.

In fact, three of them are Pakistani cricketers while Sajid Mahmood is a UK-based cricketer. However, many were unable to spot the humour and congratulated the ‘candidates’ for securing top ranks in NEET.

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Context to NEET controversy

Several social media users, including Shefali Vaidya and Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri, had questioned Akanksha Singh’s second rank despite the candidate securing the same percentile score as first rank holder Soyeb Aftab. Vaidya and Agnihotri’s tweet gained close to 20,000 retweets cumulatively.

The screenshot from NEET’s results shows that among the top 20 qualifiers, there are three sets of scores tied between multiple students but none of them was awarded the same rank.

The Hindu reported Aftab secured the first rank because of a tie-breaking policy that favours older students. Agnihotri and BJP member Priti Gandhi tweeted that the protocol was unfair.

However, the National Testing Agency’s 2020 NEET Information Bulletin (view pdf) states that other factors are also considered for breaking a tie.

Moreover, NEET is not the only exam where the age of the candidate is considered to settle a tie. The Union Public Service Commission exam (view PDF from the official website) and Joint Engineering Exam (JEE, view PDF page 12) also consider the age of the candidates among other merits.

Therefore, what started as a satirical criticism of earlier claims branding UPSC as biased toward Muslims was picked up by many others who believed that the top five qualifiers of NEET 2020 are Muslims. Furthermore, the controversy over Soyeb Aftab’s first rank despite Akanksha Singh securing equal marks is unfounded because age is considered a factor for tie-breakers in many national tests.

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About the Author

Archit is a graduate in English Literature from The MS University of Baroda. He also holds a post-graduation diploma in journalism from the Asian College of Journalism. Since then he has worked at Essel Group's English news channel at WION as a trainee journalist, at S3IDF as a fundraising & communications officer and at The Hindu as a reporter. At Alt News, he works as a fact-checking journalist.