On August 6, 2019 Facebook page Free Indian Occupied Kashmir posted a video of houses on fire with a message that reads, “Indian Army Burns Kashmiri People’s Houses In Bandi Pura Indian occupied Kashmir and world is sleeping”. The post has amassed over 7,100 shares so far. It is being claimed that the Indian army burnt houses of Kashmiri people in Bandipora district of J&K. This comes in the backdrop of the scrapping of J&K’s special status under Article 370.
The video has been circulating with an Urdu text in Pakistan since November 2018. ہندوستانی فوج نے بانڈی پورہ کشمیریوں کے گھروں کو آگ لگانا شروع کر دی آپ ظلم کے خلاف و مظلوم” کے حق میں آواز نہیں اٹھا سکتے تو فیس بک کا” استعمال چھوڑ دیں” (Indian army starts burning down houses of Kashmiris of Bandipora, if you cannot raise your voice against this oppression or in favour of the oppressed then quit using Facebook -translated)”
A Facebook user Abdul Rauf Siddiquie was one of the firsts to share this video with the above message. His post has been shared more than 1,34,000 times and viewed more than 1.6 million times. In the video, in the background, one can hear the noises of people in distress. The post claims that the Indian army is burning down houses of Kashmiris in Bandipora.
Many social media users in Pakistan have shared the video with similar claims.Atif Kahloon, a resident of Pakistan had also shared an image with the same video which has garnered more than 27,000 shares.
The following video shows how viral it is in Pakistan.
What is the truth?
In the video posted by Abdul Rauf Siddiquie, among the several hundreds of comments which were criticising the Indian Army for the act, we found a few comments from residents of Kashmir who claimed that this video is fake. One of the commentators stated that the video is infact not from Bandipora, but from Uri town in Kashmir.
Based on this comment, we searched Youtube for incidents of accidental fire in Uri. In our search, we came across a video with the title, “Four residential houses were gutted in a massive fire incident at Lachipora Uri“. This video was same as the one viral on social media, but rotated by ninety degress and with a higher definition.
To further confirm the veractiy of our findings, Alt News contacted Peerzada Waseem, a photo journalist from Jammu and Kashmir to check if the visuals are familiar to him. Waseem could identify the incident and visuals which we had sent to him. He informed us that he had clicked pictures of the same and which were posted on Rising Kashmir’s social media account.
In March 2018, four residential houses were destroyed in a massive fire that erupted in Lachipora (Uri) area of Baramulla district in Kashmir. The fire first broke out in a cowshed and later spread to the houses in the vicinity. An article published by Rising Kashmir on March 27, 2018, stated, “The local residents, however, said that the fire completely destroyed the houses as there is no fire service station in the area. The nearest and only fire service station is at Uri town, some 18 kilometres away from Lachipora village.”
Thus, a video of an accident in Lachipora in Kashmir was passed off as Indian army burning houses in Bandipora, Kashmir and was shared aggressively in the Pakistani social media ecosystem. We have observed a pattern in which attempts are made to malign the Indian army in the Pakistani social media ecosystem through misleading social media campaigns. In the past as well, a training video of SSG commandos from Pakistan was shared by Pakistani journalists and media houses as of Kashmiri being tortured by the Indian army.
[This article was updated on August 8, 2019.]