A tale of two ‘fake’ videos on Twitter and very different reactions by media and the police

The double standards are glaring as the Government and the police appear blind to some posts on social media while some blatantly fake posts are ignored

A tale of two ‘fake’ videos on Twitter and very different reactions by media and the police

Yusuf uz Zaman

Both the videos were shared in the first week of June. The first prompted Uttar Pradesh Police to register an FIR against media outlets, journalists and Twitter for allegedly spreading fake news with communal content. The other video was ignored.

Indeed, the timing of both, barely seven months before the UP election, could not be worse. Attacks on Muslims have increased in Uttar Pradesh in recent weeks, designed to provoke and polarise communal sentiments.

In the first video, which prompted police action, a 72-yearold Abdul Samad Saifi complained that he was waylaid on his way to offer prayers, taken to an isolated spot in Loni, where he was beaten up and forced to chant Jai Shri Ram and Vande Mataram and his beard was cut. He filed an FIR on June 6.

The Ghaziabad Police arrested three persons for the incident but claimed that the victim knew the assailants and that he was beaten up because of a dispute over amulets. The old man sold amulets, police claimed, and because one of the customers disputed the effectiveness of the amulet, there was an altercation and he was beaten up. Police accused media outlets and journalists of promoting enmity between two communities. The fact that one of the arrested persons was a Muslim, police claimed, also proved that it was not a communal incident.

The victim’s family members were quick to rebut the police version. Theirs was a family of carpenters and they had nothing to do with amulets, they said. The Muslim youngster arrested by the police had actually gone to rescue the old man. They also alleged that the FIR omitted significant parts contained in the written complaint.

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad cited this incident as proof that Twitter had not exercised due diligence which is why, he said, the platform had lost its immunity against litigation. Ironically, his ministry wrongly spread the fake news that Twitter had lost its intermediary status, which was contradicted by Prasad himself on TV. So much for due diligence.

Around the same time, an IPS officer R. Sharma shared a video of “the bravest man living…37th marriage in front of 28 wives, 135 children and 126 grandchildren”. Not surprisingly, the video also went viral and was picked up by media outlets like Zee, Times Now, DNA, News18 and OneIndia.

No Islamic country, not even Saudi Arabia, however allows 37 marriages. The original video had been edited and shortened and efforts were made to hide the source and the date. But persistent search revealed that the video had been uploaded by some Pakistani media outlets in March 2020.

The story they carried was from January 2016 and spoke of a 75-year-old Arab’s two existing wives gifting him a younger wife. A further search revealed a report in Arab News, a leading newspaper, which carried the headline, ‘Two wives present younger wife to hubby’. Doctored and distorted, the video fitted the popular narrative of the polygamous Muslims breeding like rabbits and stoked the misplaced fear that Muslims would outnumber Hindus.

Polygamy has been reported to prevail in various communities including tribals, Buddhists, Jains and Hindus. And in absolute terms there are more polygamous Hindus than Muslims. The World Population Data of 2016 also put the birth rate among Indian Muslims at 2.4, just ahead of the national average of 2.3.

So, which was the more mischievous video? Which was doctored and fake? Which merited police action? Answers are blowing in the wind

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