A video of a cleric molesting a woman in the garb of performing a ritual has been shared widely on social media. The video captures an elderly man, allegedly a cleric, on camera drugging the woman and molesting her while she is unconscious. Later in the video, the woman claims to have been referred to the cleric by a neighbor for treatment of infertility. The men behind the camera whisper concerns over the elderly man’s actions before confronting him. The video has been posted by verified Twitter handles of news portals and journalists.

BJP member and lawyer @ippatel, who has a history of putting out misinformation, shared the video. The tweet, translated to English reads, “People visit shrines to seek recourse from ailments. Watch what happens there”.

The video has been shared by @Santosh_Stv of Sudarshan TV with a similar line of thought, suggesting that Muslim places of worship are dubious places.

The same video has been pinned on Twitter by Anchal Yadhav, a senior correspondent at @HindiKhabar. The caption in Hindi translated to English reads, “Look at how women seeking medical attention at shrines and mosques are treated by men of God…”

User Arun Pudur, who has over 89,000 followers on Twitter, shared the video claiming it was an exposé by ‘Hindu activists’.

User @YatiBaba2 shared the video (archive link) voicing concerns over the plight of Hindu women who seek help from Muslim clerics. He laments that Hindus have abandoned their 33 crore deities and gone to ‘jihadis’. Finally, he calls upon Hindus to wake up.

Fact check

A keyword search on Facebook led to a public group named after BJP leader and leader of the opposition in West Bengal assembly Suvendu Adhikari. The group shared an 11:52-minute-long video of the same incident. Translated to English, the caption reads “A Maulana drugs women who go to him seeking counsel over fertility issues, drags them into a room and rapes them. Watch the complete report”. At 11.50 minutes, the video ends with the explicit disclaimer, “Everything in this video is imaginary. Imaginary because the reality is too bitter to be told or shown. Events shown in this are not real compared to what has been happening in countries like ours”. This disclaimer, however, has been conveniently ignored in the write-up leading to the post.

Most of the users like journalist Anchal Yadhav, @Santosh_Stv, and news channels like News Times 24, and Hindustan Live News (archive link) shared the shorter version of the clip without the disclaimer and presented it across social media as a news report.

If we look at the video in itself, given the distance from where it is being shot, it seems highly unlikely that the cleric was unaware of people recording him or catching him in the act. There is no way to confirm from the video if the person was indeed a Muslim or the woman a Hindu or if the room is inside a mosque or not.

The man playing a cleric in the widely-shared video has played various roles in other scripted videos as well. The running theme of two such videos on Youtube (1, 2) which features the same man is that an elderly man marries a teenager and is later ‘called out’ by socially responsible men. One of the videos comes with a disclaimer that it is meant for purposes of entertainment alone. We came across similar prank videos on Youtube and on the Facebook page AbcPrank starring the same actor playing a cleric. A fact-checking report on BOOM corroborates some of our findings.

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We can safely say that what is evidently a fictional piece of work has been shared on social media as an actual event, in the tone of a news report. This is not the first time that Alt News has debunked scripted videos. The phenomenon of scripted videos has been thoroughly documented by Alt News. Readers interested in reading the reports can do so by clicking on this link.

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