The brutal rape of an 8-year old in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh in June 2018 is being given a brazenly communal spin on social media. Thousands of users are sharing a message, according to which members of the Muslim community rallied on the streets of Mandsaur demanding that the perpetrator of the crime be released because the Quran sanctions rape of non-Muslim women. The message has spread like wildfire on Facebook and Twitter.
The message has been accompanied by a link to an article on a website www.indiaflare.com. The title of the article is ‘क़ुरान में दूसरे धर्म की लड़कियों से बलात्कार जायज़, इरफ़ान खान को रिहा करो’ (Rape of non-Muslim girls valid according to Quran, release Irfan Khan- translation) and is probably the source of this message which is circulating widely. In the article, there is a photograph which shows Muslim men marching on a street holding placards that say, ‘इरफ़ान को रिहा करो’ (Release Irfan). The article, published on July 1, has been shared over 16000 times till now.
The article is a compendium of falsehood. There are a number of claims and allegations which are outrightly untrue.
1. The picture is photoshopped
The photograph posted above which shows Muslim men marching in support of the accused is photoshopped. Alt News did a Google reverse image search and found that while the march did indeed take place in Mandsaur, it was in support of the victim and against the accused. The original photograph is posted below.
As can be seen, the text on the placard was tampered with. The original text says, ‘नहीं सहेंगे बेटी पर वार , बंद करो ये अत्याचार ‘ (Wont tolerate attacks on daughters, stop this brutality- translation). In the photoshopped image, this was deviously changed to ‘इरफ़ान को रिहा करो’ (Release Irfan). Not only the first placard, but also the text of the placard held by the person marching behind has been tampered with. ‘दरिंदे को फांसी दो ‘ (Hang the beast) has been changed to ‘रिहा करो ‘ (release him).
2. Muslims have not taken out rally against the accused
The article goes on to claim that no Muslim has descended the streets to ask for capital punishment for the accused, but have rallied in his favour, citing the Quran. It goes on to warn readers to not believe reports to the contrary which they may encounter on social media as they are untrue.
This claim is totally false. Firstpost has reported that Muslim groups in the region have strongly condemned the incident and demanded harsh penalty for the accused. Some groups have demanded death penalty for the alleged perpetrator and appealed to not allow his body to be lowered in any graveyard in Mandsaur or Neemuch.
3. Congress leaders have defended the rape accused
The article further claims that Congress leaders have spoken out in defence of the accused. The website has also published an article which claims that Congress leader from MP Jyotiraditya Scindia has said the two accused in the case are innocent and that a CBI inquiry be conducted. This too is false, but is being shared widely on social media.
चांदी की थाली में चाटने वाला मंदशोर कांड की सीबीआई जाँच की मांग कर रहा है जबकि मामला स्पष्ट है
Scindia has tweeted a photograph of him attending a rally demanding capital punishment for the Mandsaur rape accused.
#मंदसौर की बेटी के साथ हैवानियत झकझोरने वाली है। इस बर्बरतापूर्ण कृत्य की फाँसी के सिवाय कोई सज़ा हो ही नहीं सकती| सरकार की ज़िम्मेदारी बनती है की मामला फ़ास्ट ट्रैक कोर्ट में चलाये और 15 दिन के भीतर सज़ा हो ये सुनिश्चित करें|#JusticeForMandsaurGirl pic.twitter.com/wqnbwVrZ5h
— Jyotiraditya Scindia (@JM_Scindia) July 2, 2018
About the website Indiaflare
Alt News found that the website www.indiaflare.com was registered only last month, on June 22, 2018. Skimming through the website, one finds that it is full of dubious ‘news’ reports.
Moreover, its Twitter account @indiaflarecom too was created in June 2018 and so far, there have been less than 10 tweets from this account.
This article not only targets the Muslim community in the most reprehensible manner but seeks to exploit a heinous crime through the use of fake imagery and misinformation, drawing a false equivalence with the Kathua rape case wherein some groups had led a protest march in support of the accused. Alt News has observed that a number of dubious websites have propped up in recent times which claim to be news portals. These websites post articles with sensationalist headlines and blatantly disseminate misinformation which is often communal in nature. Readers are advised to be circumspect with regard to these portals.