All the world’s a stage”, said Shakespeare, but little did the English literary genius know that the dramas staged in India can be enacted in no other place in the world.
A 72-year-old Muslim man was cornered and battered by a group of unidentified men on June 5, in Ghaziabad’s Loni in the state of Uttar Pradesh. On June 7, a local Muslim politician, Ummed Pahalwan Idrisi, conducted a “Facebook Live” session with the victim, Abdul Samad Sufi, in which he claimed that he was forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram” by the attackers. Ummed Pahalwan Idrisi belongs to a local political party from Uttar Pradesh which also forms the opposition to the reigning nationalists.
Based on this claim and a doctored video of the assault that surfaced on Twitter a week later, popular Muslim “intellectuals,” journalists, columnists at big media houses, fact-checkers, and Islamic propaganda websites in the guise of “neutral news sites” took to Twitter to share this video and accuse the Hindus of this assault. These include Mohammad Zubair of the “fact-checking” website Alt News, who has been accused under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POSCO); columnist Rana Ayyub; journalist Saba Naqvi; and political figures such as Salman Nizami. They did not limit themselves to slamming Hindus; they also dragged the revered Hindu God Ram through the mud, repeating unfounded allegations that the skull-cap sporting old man was forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram” by “Hindutva extremists.”
It took no time for this fiction to go viral on Twitter and other social media platforms. Though Abdul had never lodged a police complaint, responding to the Facebook Live session, Uttar Pradesh police approached the victim and registered a formal complaint. Weirdly enough, Abdul said nothing about being forced to chant the Hindu religious motto of “Jai Shri Ram” while filing the complaint. Abdul also asserted that he didn’t recognize his attackers.
Reality is stranger than fiction
On June 15, Gaziabad Police issued a notice on its official Twitter handle stating that it had identified the perpetrators as Arif, Aadil, Mushahid, Poli and Kallu. While Poli and Kallu are common non-religious “pet” names, Arif, Aadil, and Mushahid are Islamic names, giving away the religion of the three and debunking the “Hindutva extremist” narrative promoted by the Muslim intelligentsia. The prime accused is identified as Parvez Gujjar; Parvez is a Muslim first name, and Gujjar is a surname used by both Hindus and Muslims.
The untampered video of the assault has no mention of “Jai Shri Ram” being chanted or forced upon anyone. Those who were beating up Abdul shouted, “This is the kind of fraud you do.” Apparently, Abdul lied on his Facebook Live session with Ummed Pahalwan Idrisi.
That was not the only untrue submission by this “hapless victim.” He very well knew who these attackers were. He had sold some kind of magical amulet (tabeez) to the prime accused Parvez, to bring him prosperity. Not only did the good-luck amulet not bring any prosperity, but Parvez also complained that his family started to experience adversity after he procured the magic token. This angered Parvez, so he beat up Abdul and chopped off his beard for fooling people.
But despite the lack of any “Hindus lynching marginalized minority” angle in this episode, one can always trust the likes of Rana Ayyub to add some anti-Hindutva communal flavor to any random crime.
Uttar Pradesh takes on fake news peddlers, including Twitter
While they are investigating the matter, on Tuesday Gaziabad Police registered a First Information Report (FIR) against nine entities, including The Wire and Twitter Communications India Pvt for peddling fake news and giving a malicious communal slant to the Loni Assault Case.
The police stated, “There is no communal angle to the incident in Loni where a man was thrashed and his beard was chopped off. The following entities — The Wire, Rana Ayyub, Mohammad Zubair, Dr Shama Mohammed, Saba Naqvi, Maskoor Usmani, Salman Nizami — without checking the facts, started giving communal color to the incident on Twitter, and suddenly they started spreading messages to disrupt the peace and bring about differences between the religious communities.” They also observed that the popular micro-blogging site made no attempts to prevent the doctored video from getting viral.
Facing a police case, Mohammad Zubair of Alt News, who has been hailed as the fact-checking expert of secular India, has taken down the doctored video and followed up with a tweet, “I’ve deleted the videos that I had posted. The victim’s version of him being forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ at this point in time do not seem to add up based on my conversations with police authorities and other journalists reporting on this issue.”