From Saffron Sea To Temple Demolition; Fake News Menace In Time Of Elections
Voting concluded in Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday and is scheduled for December 7 in Rajasthan. As elections and related campaigning continue so does the fake news on social media.
Pictures of a sea of saffron-clad men and women in Ayodhya (demanding the construction of Lord Ram temple), an internal RSS survey about Madhya Pradesh polls and temples being demolished supposedly during Congress rule, all have made to way to our social media feeds and in a sense to our thoughts as well.
Saffron Sea in Ayodhya
Thousands of men and women, including saints and right-wing activists, reached Ayodhya on November 25 to demand the construction of Ram temple. The event was heavily publicised on media and social media. Many right-wing social media pages claimed that hundreds of thousands will reach the city demanding for the same. A day after the event, social media was flooded with pictures from Ayodhya, showing a huge gathering of saffron-clad people in different parts of the city. But our investigation has found that many of these pictures are fake.
This picture is from Maratha Kranti Morcha in August 2017. Hundreds of thousands of Marathas had marched from Byculla Zoo to Azad Maidan in Mumbai to demand reservation and social justice for their caste group. The protest had ended after talks with the government. Recently Maharashtra government announced reservation for the Maratha community.
Another picture which was widely floated as that to be from the “sabha” at Ayodhya is actually from a Bajrang Dal event in Karnataka. The local Kannada language is clearly seen on the posters and banners held by people.
The real picture
Although several thousand people attended the Ayodhya event it was not as grand as claimed on social media. There was a heavy security presence. A BBC report from the ground show empty spaces in the pandal.
This issue has been a bone of contention among communities for a very long time. While Hindus regard the place to be a religious site were Lord Ram took birth, the Muslim community say that they have worshipped there for generations.
Tensions between the two communities came to a violent head in 1992 when a Hindu Kar Sevaks demolished the Babri mosque.
Nearly 2,000 people were killed in subsequent riots across the country. But now, after various attempts to claim ownership over the land by both religious groups, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been scaling up efforts to build a Hindu temple there ahead of the crucial state elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and in the run up the 2019 general elections.
Temple Demolition under Congress Rule
Above is a well-recognised image of Jain Mandir demolition in Lahore in 1992. But came 2018 and same is used to flaring up communal feelings in India.
This image is widely shared on WhatsApp and other social media platforms. In a viral message shared across many right-wing pages and WhatsApp groups, the text along the image reads, “Muslims hate BJP and do not vote for it because BJP demolished Babri Mosque. Congress demolished several hundred temples in Kashmir, Kerala and West Bengal but Hindu forgot it and Still votes for Congress ”
This image was sent to Ekta Newsroom by someone in Tonk and asking us to verify the claims.
When we investigated the image further we found that same was shared in several closed groups on facebook as well. Some pro-Hindutva pages were also sharing the image.
The original picture is actually from Lahore in Pakistan where an ancient Jain Mandir was demolished in retaliation to the demolition of Babri Mosque in Ayodhya.
It is clear that the same image is now being used to further divide the voters into communal lines.
Fake RSS survey claims BJP trailing in MP
This image of a letter addressed to Madhya Pradesh BJP chief and MP from Jabalpur Rakesh Singh supposedly written by RSS functionary Pramod Namdev claims to mention an internal secret survey conducted by RSS in Madhya Pradesh.
The letter warns that Congress is in a strong position and may win 142 seats in 230 member assembly.
The letter also claims that public meetings of BJP president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are also negatively impacting the elections.
RSS offices in Bhopal and Delhi issued public statements clarifying that the survey is completely fake and issued to create misunderstandings among the voters. RSS further clarified that there is no Pramod Namdev in the organisation.
Despite that, the image was widely shared on social media, particularly WhatsApp and bewildered many including RSS officials.
This article is written in collaboration with Ekta News Coalition. If you come across any image, video or news article which seems fake you can WhatsApp Ekta newsroom on +918929023625 or click here- https://bbc.in/2R5OUZN and send the pieces of information.