West Bengal has emerged as a politically crucial state ahead of the 2019 election. With 42 seats to the Lok Sabha, the state will be key to the fortunes of the BJP which is looking to make handsome inroads, and the TMC which aims to retain its stranglehold. Alongside the parties’ campaigns, social media has witnessed a surge in misinformation related to the state. Alt News has put together a list of such instances.

1. Doctored video by Bengal BJP targeting Mamata Banerjee

“The impact of MODI TSUNAMI – Mamata Banerjee appeals everyone to vote for BJP!” – the official twitter handle of BJP Bengal declared in a tweet that the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Bannerji, appealed to vote for BJP in a rally. Accompanying the tweet was a short 18-second video in which her words – “BJP shorkar ke vote diye” – were played in a loop. The English translation of the statement is – “vote for BJP”.

BJP Bengal had tweeted a doctored video, which was clipped and played in a loop to give a misleading impression. Mamata Banerjee had addressed a rally in Khanakul, West Bengal on April 23. While ending her speech, Banerjee asked the people to vote out BJP, with a sarcastic tone to her words. Banerjee’s words “6 May aasche din, ekhane bhalo kore gonotontroye BJP Sarkar ke vote diye bhalo kore kobor din, bhalo kore kobor din, bhalo kore kobor din“, can be approximately translated as follows:

On May 6, cast your vote for BJP government and give them a proper burial, give them a proper burial, give them a proper burial”.

The part where Banerjee says “bhalo kore kobor din“, which literally translates to “put them in the grave“, was clipped out by BJP Bengal. Instead, the part where Banerjee sarcastically says “vote for BJP” was retained and played in a loop.

2. 2017 Gujarat video viral as “Rohingyas and Bangladeshi mistreat BJP workers in Bengal”

In April 2019, a video went viral on social media with the claim that it depicts “Rohingyas and Bangladeshi refugees” mistreating BJP workers when they passed by their settlements in West Bengal. “If you don’t vote for the BJP, this will happen in the entire country very soon,” read a warning shared along with the clip.

2019 के लोकसभा चुनाव में अगर भारतीय जनता पार्टी का समर्थन नहीं दिया तो यह घटना पूरे भारत में जल्दी देखने को मिलेगा

पश्चिम बंगाल मे रोहिंग्या और बांग्लादेशी रिफ्यूजी के बस्तियों से जब भाजपा कार्यकर्ता गुजर रहे थे तब वहां के रहने वाले रोहिंग्या मुसलमान और बांग्लादेशी उनके साथ ऐसा सलूक कर रहे थे

Posted by पंडित राम शर्मा – भट्ट ब्राह्मण on Thursday, April 25, 2019

Alt News had fact-checked the claim and found that the video pertained not to West Bengal but Gujarat. It was shot in 2017, when a scuffle had broken out among BJP workers in Surat ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally.

3. Man dressed as Hanuman claimed to be West Bengal BJP candidate

A TMC supporter tweeted photographs of a man dressed as Hanuman and said that he was “Jagannath Sarkar, BJP MP candidate from Ranaghat” in West Bengal (archive). The claim was circulated widely on Facebook and Twitter.

The photographs viral on social media depicted the BJP’s rally in West Bengal’s Ranaghat constituency. Dilip Ghosh, president of the BJP WB unit, had shared the images on April 22 with the caption – “রানাঘাট লোকসভা কেন্দ্রে প্রার্থী জগন্নাথ সরকারকে নিয়ে রোড শো (Roadshow with Ranaghat Lok Sabha constituency candidate Jagannath Sarkar).” Ghosh had uploaded several photographs, including the ones where a man dressed as Hanuman can be seen seated atop a jeep. He was not Jagannath Sarkar, the BJP candidate.

4. BJP, Congress falsely targeted with alleged booth capturing video from West Bengal

A video clip viral on social media was shared as a case of booth capturing in the ongoing Lok Sabha polls by “BJP MP Brijesh Singh”. The caption used to circulate the video was – “BJP MP Brijesh Singh going with each voter to ensure vote for BJP. What reply does Modi have for this? This video has to go viral so that maximum people know what is happening.”

The video was also circulated with a similar caption attacking the BJP. “BJP विधायक अनिल उपाध्याय की इस हरकत पर क्या कहेगे MODI जी, इस video को इतना वायरल करो की ये पूरा हिन्दुस्तान देख सके (Modi ji, what is your comment on BJP MLA Anil Upadhyay’s act? Make this video so viral that the whole of India watches it.)” The video had also been attributed to the TMC.

BJP MP Brijesh Singh Going With Each Voter To _ensure_ Vote For bjp. What Reply Does modi Have For This?
This _Video_ Has To Go Viral So That Maximum People Know What Is _Happening_…..

Posted by Dheeman Das on Monday, May 6, 2019

Alt News found that this video was circulating with false claims on social media, although the incident had indeed taken place in West Bengal. Moreover, the names of the MP/MLA which were used in the viral messages- Brijesh Singh and Anil Upadhyay- are fictitious.

5. BJP Bengal candidate tweets incident from Bihar as “TMC goons attack BJP worker”

BJP’s Krishnanagar candidate Kalyan Chaubey, a former Indian football player, tweeted a video of two men assaulting a woman and subsequently hacking another man with a sickle. He claimed that the perpetrators were “TMC goons” and the man who was ruthlessly attacked was “BJP worker Sagar Roy” from West Bengal. Chaubey later deleted his tweet but not before it received nearly 30,000 views in less than two hours.

Several users had pointed out in the comments that the video was not from West Bengal but from Bhagalpur, Bihar. Alt News corroborated this information with local media reports. The video depicted an incident that took place on April 16. A father, along with his younger son, hacked his elder son to death with a sickle, reported Prabhat Khabar.

6. False claim of a Brahmin beaten up by Muslims

A video of a crowd of people thrashing a man dressed in white was circulated on social media with the claim that a Brahmin was attacked by Muslims in West Bengal.

“Muslims beating one Brahman in WB in front of his daughter. During Pooja in his house, the bell sound should not be heard by anybody. This is common in West Bengal in Muslim dominated areas. No media is covering the atrocities on Hindus. Whereas human rights wings are crying for shelter of Rohangya [Rohingya] Muslims in India,” is the caption used to share the video. On Twitter, the same incident recorded from a different angle and a different spot is in circulation.

The claim that a Brahmin was beaten by Muslims to stop him from praying is false. The same message was debunked by the Kolkata police in a series of tweets when it was viral in 2017. According to the police’s statement, the man was a Hindu priest who allegedly molested a woman and was manhandled by her family as a consequence.

7. False claim of ISKCON devotees harassed by West Bengal police

In May 2019, a video circulated on social media platforms claimed that devotees of the Krishna cult, ISKCON were prevented by West Bengal police from distributing copies of the Bhagwad Gita. The video showed men in saffron robes being manhandled by men in khaki uniform.

Violent attack on ISKCON members by West Bengal Police. Their crime was they were selling Bhagwad Geeta.

Posted by Sharma Seema on Monday, May 6, 2019

Alt News found that the video has been online since at least 2008. According to an article, the said incident had taken place in Goa, wherein a group of Russian members of the Hare Rama Hare Krishna sect had clashed with the police after the latter tried to stop them following complaints by the locals.

8. Fake newspaper clip with fake quote of Mamata Banerjee

A purported newspaper clipping of popular Bengali daily বর্তমান (Bartaman) was shared on social media with its headline reading, “৪২টা আসন দিন হিন্দু কীভাবে কাঁদা তে হয় দেখিয়ে দেব: মমতা (Give me 42 seats & I’ll show you how to make the Hindus cry: Mamata)” The image had also circulated on WhatsApp.

Alt News found that the image was photoshopped. A careful glance at the clipping was sufficient to reveal that the image has been morphed. The font, size and colour of the words “হিন্দু (Hindu)” and “কাঁদা তে (cry)” do not match the words in the rest of the sentence. They are not in perfect alignment, are larger than the other words and are in a deeper shade of black. Moreover, some words were replaced from the original image.

9. Mike in hands of TMC leader claimed to be gun

A video clip posted by Twitter user Chowkidar Piyush (@piyushsinghk) was shared with the claim that it depicts a TMC leader pulling out a gun during a live debate. Piyush is followed by railway minister Piyush Goyal and BJP Delhi spokesperson Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga.

Several people commented on Piyush’s tweet that the TMC leader had picked up a mike and not pulled out a gun. A careful analysis of the video revealed that this was indeed true. The live debate was organised by Zee News in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar. The TMC leader who lost his cool and picked up a mike was state minister Rabindra Nath Ghosh. He did not brandish a gun, as claimed.

Several constituencies of West Bengal will vote in the final two phases of the election, on May 12 and May 19. It is thus no surprise that the misinformation machinery has kicked in right on the eve of polling, in a bid to polarize the electorate. These instances are merely illustrative and by no means exhaustive. More such examples are likely to crop up as the polling date draws near.

Update: The article has been updated to include more instances.

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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.