When BJP leaders spread fake news, distorted facts

From Piyush Goyal’s use of Russian street light photos to an infamous Yale ‘degree’, here’s a collection of instances when fact-checkers debunked fake news or twisted facts spread by BJP leaders

NH illustration 
NH illustration

NH Web Desk

The fake news directive by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and its subsequent withdrawal by the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday April 2, after a severe backlash from the media fraternity and main Opposition party Congress, has brought the focus back on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s own highly questionable record when it comes to propagating fake news.

There have been many instances when fact-checkers debunked misinformation and disinformation spread by BJP leaders, ministers, staff and supporters in the recent past. Here’s a small collection:

Piyush Goyal’s street lighting from Russia, with love

Minister of State for Power, Coal, Energy and Mines Piyush Goyal had tweeted a photo about a street-lighting programme by the Indian government, using a photo of a street in Russia. When this was pointed out, the minister deleted the tweet, acknowledging that "social media helps illuminate facts." He then posted an image of lighting on Indian streets.

Babul Supriyo’s newly inaugurated bus stand in Rajkot, Gujarat

Union Minister Babul Supriyo posted a misleading picture on Twitter purportedly of a newly inaugurated bus stand in Rajkot, Gujarat. “This is not an Airport. It's not in London or New York either. It's the New Bus Stand inaugurated in Rajkot, Gujarat,” he wrote. However, Twitter users were quick to point out that the image posted by Supriyo was of a 3D CAD projection of what the Rajkot bus stand would look like when eventually constructed, and not of a constructed bus stand. Eventually, Supriyo admitted that he did not cross check the image forwarded to him by a friend.

When Paresh Rawal got duped by fake news over non-existent interview given by Arundhati Roy on trip to Srinagar that never happened

Fake news about a non-existent interview Arundhati Roy supposedly gave during a trip to Srinagar that never happened, triggered a ferocious attack on the writer-activist by BJP MP and actor Paresh Rawal. In an outrageous tweet, Rawal said: “Instead of tying stone pelter on the army jeep tie Arundhati Roy!” This was in reference to the incident last year where a Kashmiri civilian was tied to an Army jeep bonnet and used as a human shield.

Subsequently, Rawal claimed that he was coerced by Twitter into deleting the controversial tweet.

When BJP leaders spread fake news, distorted facts

Amit Malviya’s botched attempt to smear journalist Ravish Kumar

A botched attempt to cast aspersions on NDTV journalist Ravish Kumar in September last year had resulted in major embarrassment for BJP IT Cell chief Amit Malviya. Many alert Twitter users promptly exposed Malviya for tweeting a cleverly edited clip of Ravish Kumar’s speech delivered at a meeting on journalist Gauri Lankesh’s murder at Press Club of India in Delhi. The video posted by Malviya on Twitter was an 11-second clip cut out from the 10-minute speech, purporting to show that Kumar belonged to a political party . On full viewing, it was amply clear that Kumar was not speaking as a member of any political party. Malviya and BJP soon became a target of public ridicule for spreading lies and rumours on social media.

Smriti Irani’s infamous Yale degree

Smriti Irani, when she was minister for human resource development, had told a journalist at an India Today Women Summit in 2014 that she had a degree from Yale. Opposition Congress spokeswoman Priyanka Chaturvedi subsequently exposed that the 'degree' Irani had boasted about was actually a certificate given to her for attending a six-day leadership program in 2013 at Yale University for a group of 11 Indian lawmakers.

When BJP’s attempt to claim Richard Thaler’s so-called praise of demonetisation fell flat

BJP IT cell and BJP ministers like Piyush Goyal and Giriraj Singh had gone to town celebrating Nobel prize-winning American economist Richard Thaler's praise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation decision, where he noted that withdrawal of ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes was a step towards a cashless economy. But they conveniently left out Thaler’s response on being alerted by a Twitter user about the introduction of the ₹2,000 notes by Prime Minister Modi. “Really? Damn” said the disappointed economist.

Vijeta Maliks’ clip from movie presented as real-life molestation

Amidst a communal flare-up in West Bengal in July 2017, BJP leader Vijeta Malik and party’s IT cell were caught spreading fake news. They shared a screenshot from a local feature film showing a woman being molested, and tried to pass it off as an image of Muslims molesting Hindu women.

Screen shot of Vijeta Malik’s controversial Facebook post
Screen shot of Vijeta Malik’s controversial Facebook post

Tarun Sengupta’s fake video alleging communal violence in Asansol

In Bengal, police arrested BJP IT cell secretary Tarun Sengupta from Asansol for posting an old YouTube video, claiming that the video shows a Muslim IPS officer brutally thrashing peaceful Hanuman devotees on Hanuman Jayanti in 2017. Altnews.in was quick to expose that the purported video was not related to Hanuman Jayanti which was celebrated on April 11, 2017. The purported video has been available on Youtube for a very long time.

Kummanom Rajasekharan’s video of people supposedly celebrating death of RSS worker, found to be of people celebrating cricket victory

Kerala BJP president Kummanom Rajasekharan shared a video featuring “people celebrating the death of RSS worker” in May. But later it was found that the picture actually people celebrating an Indian cricket team victory. Rajasekharan was eventually booked on charges of spreading false reports about the killing of an RSS worker in Payyannur.

Incidentally, the now-rescinded decision of I&B ministry had come at a time when Union Minister Ananth Kumar Hegde and BJP MP Pratap Simha besides other party leaders have been campaigning in favour of Postcard News co-founder Mahesh Vikram Hegde, who was arrested on March 29 by Karnataka Police on charges of spreading fake and communally-sensitive news.

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