Bharat Bandh protests by Dalit organisations saw intense violence in parts of UP, Rajasthan and Punjab. In Madhya Pradesh, the army had to be called in Morena and Gwalior to calm the crowd.
While most are appalled, disturbed and are condemning the violence that erupted over the Supreme Court’s dilution of the SC/ST Atrocities Act, various right-wing social media groups are trying to stoke the fire. The repertoire of such groups is making viral posts filled with distorted truth and even outright lies legitimized by not-so-subtle use of religious or political imagery.
Thousands of people are liking, sharing and commenting on these posts, believing them to be true. This vicious circle of blaming and counter-blaming is leading to further polarisation in our society. The barrage of fake news is such that even the most rational among us inadvertently get swayed by these emotionally-charged lies.
On Tuesday, one such social media group, with a rather on-the-nose name of “Kattar Hindu Bagwa Sena“ displayed a post comprising three images with the caption, “This Dalit has brutally killed Mahendra Chaudhary, Sub-Inspector, Jodhpur District. Was this Bharat Band? Share it as much as you can.”
The post is shared by more than 67,000 people.
जोधपुर जिले में सब -इंस्पेक्टर महेन्द्र चौधरी जी को इस दलित ने बेरहमी से पिट पिट कर मौत के घाट उतार दिया! यह था भारत बंद ??इसे ज्यादा से ज्यादा शेयर करें ।।
The same set of images was posted on the same day in other groups called “We Support Republic” and “Modi Sena” with the caption, “The Dalits, who were crushed by atrocities for 5,000 years, commit the atrocities now.”
The posts intended to show Dalits as anti-national agitators taking on the law and the lawful.
One glance at the comment section will show that the ones who wanted to spread hate were successful.
But there were also a few who called out the fake news and posted the original link to the incident, yet the posts were not taken down by admins of the so-called nationalist pages.
The truth: photos are actually of an unrelated incident from June 2017
A mob in Kanpur, UP turned violent after a 16-year-old girl alleged that a ward boy in city’s Jagriti hospital raped her while she was admitted there. A large number of demonstrators gathered outside, pelting stones and demanding the closure of the hospital. The police tried to pacify and disperse the crowd but the angry mob retaliated brutally after an order of lathi charge was given.
Some people also shared what they claimed to be an image of the policeman attacked.
But these are two different incidents, two different policemen. The image of the officer being attacked is from June 2017 and the one whose image is being shared is Sub-inspector Mahendra Chaudhary who died during the recent protests in Jodhpur.
The Logical Indian spoke to a person on-ground in Jodhpur who told us that the sub-inspector was not beaten. Police was ordered to lathi-charge the crowd as they resorted to stone pelting. During the altercation, Mahendra Chaudhary suffered a heart attack and was taken to a nearby hospital. As the hospital in Jodhpur could not provide the needed treatment, he was being transferred to a hospital in Ahmedabad. On the way, he suffered five more recurring heart attacks.
Amandeep Singh Kapoor, DCP (east), Jodhpur told The Logical Indian that the officer died at 7 pm yesterday, prima facie due to heart attack.
This is the video of the Sub-inspector Mahendra Chaudhary being attended to as he suffered the first heart attack:
NDTV reported the death of the policeman as: “A policeman who was critically injured during Monday’s protests by Dalit groups in Jodhpur has died.” The media outlet further said, “Mr Chaudhary was posted at the Paota circle when he was injured as a mob threw stones at the police.” However, NDTV has not provided any pictures of the officer with the apparent injuries, nor has it given any comments of the local police.
Images of sub-inspector Chaudhary obtained by The Logical Indian do not show any signs of injury. All evidence currently suggests that he wasn’t injured in stone pelting and passed away solely due to heart attacks.
How could I have checked if the images were fake or not?
The recent Dalit protest against the Supreme Court’s verdict claimed the lives of at least nine people. Reports suggest that the agitation was marred by perpetrators with ulterior motives.
At a time when the country is reeling with violence due to hate, the sole responsibility of every citizen is to try and calm the situation and not add fuel to fire.
With a humongous number of fake news doing rounds on social media, it is possible that some of us fall for it. But there are ways to check the credibility of a certain piece of information.
- A simple Google search would help. For checking the authenticity of an image, just right-click on it and select the option – ‘Search Google for image’
2. Click on ‘All Sizes’
3. Had we clicked on the first image and visited the website, we’d have found the original source of the image
4. The image being circulated is from June 2017
The Logical Indian take
The sheer multitude of hate spreading groups and the number of members they have are mind-boggling. The two posts in question are shared by lakhs of people but the cumulative setback to the society is perhaps much more. The combined membership of the three above mentioned groups is more than 40 lakh people.
The groups are filled with widely shared socially divisive posts in favour of a religion or a particular party while advocating directly or indirectly hatred for the rest. Any educated or coherent discussion on real issues is waylaid by abuses, blame-game and ‘whataboutery’. This is hardly surprising as our elected leaders echo similar rhetoric, delays and time-wasting in the Parliament.
As national elections draw near and political parties try to re-strategize and reorganize their vote banks, the Dalit card is being played like the earlier religion card. Opposition parties in UP are already trying to unite under a common banner thus challenging the ruling party while upcoming elections in Karnataka further politicize the Dalit issue. Ultimately, it’s the nation which suffers when political parties and their affiliated groups bring to surface regressive tendencies and play one section of the populace against the other for mere transitory power.
Creating or sharing fake news is never justified. We have a responsibility to verify everything that we post on the internet. To ensure that our national debate is healthy and well-informed, each and every one of us has a responsibility of treating what we read with a pinch of salt, a spoonful of doubt, and a flood of research.