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In a horrific case of mob lynching, three men, including a 70-year-old sadhu, were attacked with sticks and lynched to death on Thursday, April 16, by a mob of at least 200 people, in Gadchinchle village of Maharashtra's Palghar district. The mob had suspected them to be child kidnappers and organ harvesters.
Of the three deceased, two people identified as Kalpvrush Giri(70) and Sushil Giri(35) were sadhus, while the third person, identified as Nilesh Telgane, was the driver of the car.
The incident triggered a barrage of misinformation on social media platforms.
In that light, the names of two individuals have been doing the rounds on social media. The posts claim that Pradip Prabhu and Shiraz Balsara, associated with an organisation called Kashtakari Sangathana and are campaigning for the bail of the people arrested in relation to the lynching incident. The viral posts are shared with a picture of a couple identifying them as Pradip Prabhu and Shiraz Balsara.
The post further claimed that the two were trying to get bail for the accused in the lynching case as they were Christians and the duo head a Christian organisation.
The viral posts have three different claims:
(1) Pradip Prabhu and Shiraz Bulsara, associated with an organisation called Kashtakari Sangathana, are campaigning for the bail of the people arrested in relation to the lynching incident.
(2) The viral posts are shared with the picture of a couple falsely identifying them as Pradip Prabhu and Shiraz Bulsara.
(3) The two were trying to get bail for the accused in the lynching case as they were Christians and the duo head a Christian organisation.
The claims are false.
Speaking to The Logical Indian, Shiraz Bulsara Prabhu, an ex-activist of the Kashtakari Sanghatana debunked the fake news.
"The post is completely false. Kashtakari Sanghatana is a secular organisation and we have not been involved in trying to get bail for the accused. The village owes allegiance to the Bharatiya Janata Party and even the sarpanch is from the party. The Sanghatna has never worked in the concerned villages," Bulsara said.
She added that both she and her husband had not been active in the Sanghatana over the last few years. Further, Prabhu is completely retired and housebound.
Regarding the organization, Bulsara informed that Kashtakari Sanghatana is a Left political organisation which focuses on issues of tribal land, forest, wages, human rights, ration, pension, health, education. She added that the organization has been at the forefront of the struggle of the Forest Rights Act and Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 (PESA).
The former professor of TISS, Bulsara said that because of the deliberate communalisation of the Palghar incident, and efforts by certain forces to make political capital out of the tragic deaths of the sadhus, the police machinery has been forced into overdrive, resulting in the arrest of a large number of Adivasis not involved in the killing.
Clarifying that her husband Pradip Prabhu was an ex-Jesuit priest, she said that he was expelled in 1981 because of his involvement in political activities. She added that he changed his name from Peter to Pradip as he wanted to make a clean break from his missionary past.
The image accompanying the posts are of award-winning filmmakers, Prof. Monteiro and Prof. Jayasankar.
In an email correspondence with The Logical Indian, the professors said that they were appalled by the misuse of their image, which is totally unconnected with the malicious content of the post(s).
"A friend stumbled upon a Facebook post with our image on Saturday afternoon, April 25, soon after it was first posted. She alerted us about this fake news and illegal use of our photograph, in which we have been misidentified as Pradip Prabhu and Shiraz Balsara, affiliated with Kashtakari Sanghatana. The post(s) make sweeping allegations without any substantiation and incite hatred," the Professors at the School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, said.
Stating that they have received many calls and messages of support from friends, students and colleagues, who were shocked at this turn of events, they, however, said that the false posts, which have been shared on Facebook and Twitter, have elicited angry and inappropriate responses directed at the persons mentioned in the post and associated with our photograph.
"We reported the posts to Facebook, and they have acted on many of them using our images. The original post was taken down and the profile has been deactivated for violating Facebook's community standards. They also informed us that the shared posts will also be taken down. We have received overwhelming support from our friends and students in terms of identifying and reporting the proliferation of this post. We were also able to connect to people working in Facebook through friends, which ensured a relatively quick redressal of our complaint," they said.
"As regards Twitter, many friends have been reporting and responding to fake Tweets and we have been doing so too. We await some concrete action on our complaint from Twitter itself. Twitter has not been as responsive as Facebook in either identifying the false Tweets or taking down reported ones. It is strange to us that we live in a post-truth world in which the onus is on us to prove that we are the people in the image and that this constitutes harassment," they added.
They further said that they have submitted a letter of complaint to the Mumbai police's cyber cell, along with evidence of the objectionable posts/Tweets.
"We await their response/action," they said.
Talking about the dangers of rumours and fake news and the networks that proliferate these messages, making the lives of many citizens precarious and difficult, the professors opined that the Palghar lynching, which was horrific and condemnable, was itself a product of fake news and rumours.
"We hope that those tweeting and posting understand that they are circulating false information, which is a violation of the law, and themselves take it down. As a society, we need to do more to combat false information, whatever the source," they added.
Therefore, all three claims are false.
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