The month of September saw a flurry of political activity which triggered a wave of misinformation. From Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s Kailash Mansarovar yatra to PM Narendra Modi’s outreach to the Bohra community, each of these occasions became fodder for those seeking to spread falsehood, apart from the usual tactics which routinely play out on social media.

Political mudslinging continues unabated

1. False claim on Rahul Gandhi’s mansarovar yatra

It was alleged that Gandhi has used stock photographs from Google Images and passed them off ones taken him during his yatra.On September 5, 2018, Rahul Gandhi tweeted two pictures of Lake Rakshastal stating, “The stunning beauty of lake Rakshas Tal. #KailashYatra.”

The image that could be seen on Google image search and claimed to be a generic image by multiple accounts was actually an image from Rahul Gandhi’s instagram feed which had been indexed by the Justdial account and which in turn showed up on Google images.

2. Misleading video about PM Modi’s education

(Found this video with great difficulty, it’s a 1998 interview in which sir himself is saying that I have studied till high school. But now sir has a graduation degree attained in 1979 -translated)” tweeted Divya Spandana, social media head of Congress party, with an old clipped interview of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The video was viewed more than 53,000 times from her tweet.

Spandana shared the clipped video, six months after Alt News found that it was cropped to suggest that PM himself claimed to have studied till high school. It has been circulating on social media for at least three years now and we found an instance of the clipped video dating back to November 2015. In the longer version of the same video, Modi goes on to say that he did his BA and MA through external examination. Spandana acknowledged her error.

3. False claim on Sonia Gandhi as 4th richest woman

A picture of a newspaper clip was shared widely on social media, according to which former Congress president Sonia Gandhi is the ‘fourth richest in the world’. Affixed to the clip is a caption that poses the question – “अम्बानी अदानी ने लाखों लोगो को रोजगार दिए कारखाने खोले तब अमीर बने. पर सोनिआ गाँधी कैसे अमीर बानी? (Ambani Adani became rich after giving jobs to lakhs of people and opening factories. But how did Sonia Gandhi manage to become rich?)”

Posted by I Support Modi Ji and BJP on Thursday, September 27, 2018

The rumours viral on social media were based on a six-year-old misreport that was circulated as a recent event. There is no conclusive evidence or data that proves Sonia Gandhi’s net worth is between US$ 2 billion to 19 billion as claimed by these posts.

4. Video with fake subtitles comparing Hitler to Modi

A video clip of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was circulated on social media in which he was seen addressing an audience in a speech purportedly made at the Krupp factory at Essen in Germany in 1936. The video is laced with subtitles according to which Hitler is saying, “I left everything for serving my nation. I am not here for any positions but for a responsibility. I have the responsibility for every actions taken for the future of our country. Burn me alive if I am wrong, not afraid of anyone”. post-demonetisation speechThe clip sought to draw parallels with PM Modi’s of November 2016.

Alt News fact checked this claim floating on social media and found a longer version of Adolf Hitler’s speech on YouTube. While the speech is indeed of Essen in 1936, the subtitles accompanying the viral video in which Hitler claimed “Burn me alive if I am wrong” are mischievous and false.

5. Misinformation in BJP’s video on Rahul Gandhi and China

Rahul Gandhi and China: Addiction, obsession or something else? was the title of a video that was posted by the official Twitter account of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on August 31, 2018. The first image that has been used in the video shows the Congress president along with Robert Vadra and Priyanka Vadra posing for a photograph with the Chinese ambassador to India. The photograph had been used to insinuate that Rahul Gandhi had secretly met the Chinese envoy at a time when Indian and Chinese troops were locked in a tense stand-off at Doklam in 2017.

Alt News had found that this photograph of Rahul Gandhi with the Chinese envoy had been available on the website of the Chinese embassy since April 2017 when Gandhi along with leaders from BJP, JDU and CPI had attended a Chinese food festival. The same photo had earlier been used by Republic TV and Times Now to target Gandhi.

6. Photoshopped image of PM Modi at Bohra community gathering

“जिन्हे था इंकार कभी टोपी से किसी दौर में। मस्जिद के अंदर नजर आये वो साहेब इंदौर में।” (Someone who had an issue with (skull)cap was seen inside a mosque in Indore -translated). Jignesh Mevani, an independent MLA from Gujarat, had tweeted an image of PM Narendra Modi wearing a skull cap on September 16, 2018 along with the aforementioned text.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Indore on Friday to attend Ashara Mubaraka, an event to commemorate the death anniversary of Prophet Mohammed’s grandson Imam Hussain. Mewani later deleted the tweet as it turned out that the image was photoshopped.

Communal hatemongering on social media

1. False claim on 11 crore Rohingyas/8 crore Bangladeshis

“Petrol-diesel prices have risen a little and all opposition parties are protesting. Rohingyas have increased to 11 crores but everyone is quiet,” reads a post shared by Facebook page I Support Narendra Modi. It was shared over 21,000 times. Another slightly altered post read, “The price of Diesel Petrol increased by Rs 5 and you declared Bharat bandh. But are those 8 crore Bangladeshi and Rohingyas your family members that you support them? Hypocritical congressis.”

रोहिंग्या पर सब चुप है, आखिर क्यों ?

Posted by Social Tamasha on Saturday, September 8, 2018

These claims are patently false. There are neither 11 crore Rohingya refugees in India nor 8 crore Bangladeshi immigrants, and these posts were put up and shared mainly to create a fear psychosis and hatred for immigrants.

2. Accident during Muharram portrayed as Muslim attack on Hindu boy

A claim about a Hindu boy’s throat being slit by a sword during a Muharram procession in Gauri Bazar area of Deoria district in Uttar Pradesh was circulated on social media. “In Deoria’s Gauri Bazaar, Islamic terrorists in a Muharram procession slit Hindu boy Vishal Ojha’s throat. The question is why havent the Islamic terrorists been arrested yet? (translation)” tweeted a social media user on September 21, 2018. Along with the message, he had tweeted a video of a boy bleeding profusely. The video was originally posted by Breaking Tube, a twitter handle.

The boy was injured not due to a sword attack but after a tubelight had burst on him during a Muharram procession. This was confirmed to Alt News by U.P police. The incident had also been misreported by some news organisations.

3. False claim of Naga sadhu thrashed by Muslims in Uttarakhand

A twitter handle @Imamofpeace tweeted in the morning of September 2, “Islamic Extremists in India beating up a poor and elderly Indian beggar. I truly wish this Islamist criminal is arrested soon. @narendramodi.” A video attached with this tweet showed a youth beating up an elderly man.

Alt News contacted the SHO of Patel Nagar, Dehradun who told us that the incident was being circulated with a false narrative on social media. “The man who was beaten up is not a Naga Sadhu, but a beggar. He is married and has six children. He went to a house to beg for food and molested the woman who brought him tea and biscuits.”The SHO further said that he was beaten up by the woman’s brother, who was not Muslim but belonged to a Hindu family.

Fake quotes, fake websites and parody accounts

1. Fake quote of Arvind Kejriwal on Kashmir

On social media, numerous pages and accounts had posted an image of which looked like a cropped article from a Hindi e-paper clip. The article’s title was a quote ascribed to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal –“India should concede its right on Kashmir as Kashmiris want independence.” The post was shared nearly 5,000 times.

Alt News fact checked this alleged statement and found that it is a fake e-paper clip which has been circulating on the internet since 2014.

2. Fake quote of army chief Bipin Rawat

A quote attributed to Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat was shared by a Facebook page I Support Doval which has a massive follower base of over 1.7 million. The text inscribed along with an image of Rawat stated, “Army chief Bipin Rawat said that to become a leader, it should be made mandatory to serve the country in the army for 5 years. Believe it or not, 80 % of India’s garbage will be cleared automatically. How many people agree with his statement. Share this, if you do -translated”.

Posted by I Support Doval on Sunday, September 16, 2018

The above image had been shared in the past as well and in response to this, Indian army had clarified through their social media channels on September 11, 2018, that the statement being circulated was false. The clarification was published on the official Facebook page and the Twitter handle of the Indian Army.

3. Social media foxed by tweet from unofficial HAL account

A tweet by an account @HAL_India was shared widely on social media. This tweet responded to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s recent statement that the deal for the procurement of 126 Rafale combat aircraft which was sought under the UPA regime fell through because Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) did not have the required capability to produce them.

As it turned out, social media users fell for what was an unofficial account of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), although this fact was clarified in the Bio section of the account itself. Moreover, HAL had tweeted that the account HAL_India ‘impersonates’ the official handle and that a formal complaint has been lodged with Twitter regarding the same. To this tweet, Hal_India replied, clarifying that it is not the official account of HAL.

4. Mohandas Pai falls for impostor website of BBC

“Shocking list. One Indian political party included” tweeted former Infosys director Mohandas Pai while sharing an article listing the ten most corrupt political parties in the world in 2018. The list was published in July 2018 and featured the Indian National Congress among other parties from different parts of the world. According to this list, INC ranks 2nd among the most corrupt political parties of the world.

Mohandas Pai had tweeted an article from a website masquerading as the website of BBC News. Alt News found that the website, the link to which was tweeted by Pai, was dubious and had routinely published such fake ‘lists’ about politicians and political parties.

5. Madhu Kishwar tweets fake quote from parody account

“Whatever happened between me and nun, it is not rape. It is the Holi Ritual of enlightenment to feel the Magical Existence of Holi Jesus at the end of the act”. Madhu Kishwar tweeted an image comprising of the aforementioned text along an image of rape accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal. The image also has the logo of ANI.

Alt News did a Twitter search using the keywords, “Holi Ritual of enlightenment” and found the original source of this information. Unpaid Times was the first to tweet the screenshot of the claim and attributed to the Bishop. The Twitter biography of Unpaid Times clearly states that it is an “Indian Satirical News Website”. However, as it happens every so often, many people fell for such satire and circulated the information believing it to be true.

There are a few other prominent instances of misinformation in September apart from those represented so far in the article.

1. False claim on Nehru thrashed by mob after 1962 war

Recently, an image of Jawaharlal Nehru was shared by a few users on social media, suggesting that the first Prime Minister of India was thrashed by a mob after “failure on China war” in 1962. Alt News found that this image had been shared on social media over the past few years.

Alt News fact-checked this claim and found that while the photograph indeed was of 1962, it was taken before the war and thus, was not related to the debacle of 1962.

2. Pak journalists share fake video of Kashmiri tortured in India

Hamid Mir, a prominent Pakistani journalist and news anchor has shared a gruesome video of a Kashmiri being purportedly tortured in India. He tweeted, “Look at this torture in Kashmir and see who is making this torture?One can understand that why India is not ready for talks with Pakistan?Yes Pakistan will definitely ask about this torture.” Hamid Mir’s tweet was shared widely.

Alt News’ fact-check found that this claim is false, and the video is not of the Indian army torturing a Kashmiri as claimed. In fact, the video pertained to training of Pakistani army commandos.

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About the Author

Arjun Sidharth is a writer with Alt News. He has previously worked in the television news industry, where he managed news bulletins and breaking news scenarios, apart from scripting numerous prime time television stories. He has also been actively involved with various freelance projects. Sidharth has studied economics, political science, international relations and journalism. He has a keen interest in books, movies, music, sports, politics, foreign policy, history and economics. His hobbies include reading, watching movies and indoor gaming.