How Fake News Triggered Republic TV, TV18, BJP MP’s Attacks on Arundhati Roy

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The actor Paresh Rawal and his supporters in the BJP and on social media say he was reacting to Arundhati Roy’s recent comments on Kashmir. But she never even made them in the first place.

New Delhi: Fake news about a non-existent interview Arundhati Roy supposedly gave during a recent trip to Srinagar that never happened is responsible for BJP MP and actor Paresh Rawal’s outrageous tweet against the author, which ignited a Twitter war between his supporters and those who denounced him for advocating violence.

In his tweet, the actor and BJP MP said, “Instead of tying stone pelter on the army jeep tie Arundhati Roy!” –  a thinly veiled reference to the April 9 incident where a Kashmiri civilian was tied to an army jeep and used as a human shield. Rawal’s tweet prompted many others on Twitter to endorse his call for Roy to be abducted and held hostage, with some adding their own threats and suggestions – that the writer be physically assaulted, burnt and shot.

In a live debate on CNN-IBN on Monday night, the anchor Bhupendra Chaubey said Rawal’s tweet had been provoked by an interview Roy gave and flashed the Facebook page that Rawal had tweeted when he began what would be a series of rants against Roy.

“It’s crap,” Roy told The Wire. “Have not been to Srinagar recently. Have not made any statements about Kashmir except what I wrote in Outlook last year.”

Rawal’s tweet linked to a post on the Facebook page of ‘The Nationalist’, “70 lakh Indian Army cannot defeat Azadi gang in Kashmir: Arundati Roy gives statement to Pakistani newspaper!”

The ‘source’ of this Facebook post was a right-wing fake news site, postcard.news, which ran a story with the same headline on May 17. The story was bylined  ‘Aishwarya S.’:

This lady who calls herself a journalist and Human Rights Activist has been standing for terrorists since decades. Recently she has given an interview to Pakistan newspaper The Times of Islamabad, blasting the government of India for taking action against terrorists.

She said “India cannot achieve its objective in the occupied valley even if its army deployment raises from 7 lakh to 70 lakh, further adding that Kashmiris have remained committed with their anti-India sentiments from many years.”

Though postcard.news gave no link to the source, the identical story was published on the same day under the byline ‘Anand’ on another Hindutva-oriented fake news site, satyavijayi.com, and under the byline ‘Ankita K.’ in a third Hindutva fake news site, theindianvoice.com. Other fake news sites that ran the identical story were  theresurgentindia.com, revoltpress.com, virathindurashtra.com, while a fifth fake news site, internethindu.in, ran a slightly different version but, helpfully, provided a link to the Times of Islamabad source.

Right-wing fake news sites with the identical Arundhati Roy story

The Times of Islamabad, which is a nationalist Pakistani site and not a newspaper, ran a story on May 16 with a Srinagar dateline, ‘Even 70 lakh Indian Army cannot defeat Kashmiris: Arundhati Rai’. The source of the story is simply ‘News Desk’, which asserts that Roy had made these remarks during a recent visit to Srinagar:

Speaking during her visit to Srinagar, she said India cannot achieve its objective in the occupied valley even if its army deployment raises from 7 lakh to 70 lakh, further adding that Kashmiris have remained committed with their anti-India sentiments from many years. Taking a jibe at the Indian government she said that pity on the government which stops its authors from expressing their thoughts and put in jail those who raise their voice against injustices, however, sets free corrupt, rapists and other criminals.

Radio Pakistan ran a story, also on May 16, with the headline, ‘Arundhati Roy terms Indian aggression in Occupied Kashmir as shameful.’ Neither Radio Pakistan nor Times of Islamabad identified a source for Roy’s comments but a similar news story on the Pakistan-based Geo TV site attributed her quotes to ‘Kashmir Media Service’. According to Kashmiri journalists, the Kashmir Media Service is not a media organisation but the propaganda arm of a Kashmiri militant organisation in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. It maintains a website but the news about an Arundhati Roy interview is not archived there.

Subsequently, Pakistan’s ARY channel also quoted Roy, and this became the source for an angry article by Mayank Singh on a US site called Fair Observer, in which he attacked the writer for her comments. This article was subsequently republished by NewsLaundry. In the CNN-IBN debate, BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Mittal used the Fair Observer article as a source for the comments attributed to Arundhati Roy, with the anchor, Bhupendra Chaubey, saying he was right in doing so. Mittal held up a print-out when challenged by another panel member about the veracity of Roy’s alleged comments, and asked, “Is this wrong? This article on Fair Observer, is this wrong which quotes her?”. Chaubey replied: “That article is right.”

The only problem with all of this frenzied reporting on both sides of the border is that Arundhati Roy had not visited Srinagar recently and had given no interview there or anywhere else where the words attributed to her were said.

The news, in other words, was completely fake.

Roy has long been a critic of the Indian government’s policies in Jammu and Kashmir.  In 2010, her comment that  Kashmir was not “an integral part of India” led the government to consider charging her with sedition before saner counsel prevailedIn her article in Outlook last year after the Burhan Wani upheaval, she urged an end to violence in the state and called for dialogue for peace.

The fact that Arundhati Roy gave no interview on Kashmir and did not even visit Srinagar any time in the recent past makes the controversy around the remarks attributed to her a textbook case of the relationship between the creation and circulation of fake news and the underlying political agenda of those involved.

Arnab Goswami used a fake story from the website of Pakistani news channel Geo TV to denounce Arundhati Roy

One of the purveyors of this fake news was Arnab Goswami, nightly anchor of NDA politician and MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s new channel, Republic TV, who attacked Roy as a ‘one-book whiner wonder’ who had “visited Kashmir in the second week of May”:

“they called the Indian Army names, they all came together, especially the Lutyens media, and the fake pseudo-liberal crowd, they came together to abuse our army, and then in rhythm and almost in a pre-planned way, one-book whiner wonders like Arundhati Roy came crawling out of the woodwork to once again attack the Indian Army.”

What makes this instance especially interesting is how the same fake news item was used to serve diverse political aims – ‘jihadi’ and Hindutva. In Pakistan, the fabricated interview was used to attack the Indian government’s Kashmir policies, while for the pro-Hindutva fake news sites in India, the concocted comments were used to whip up nationalist sentiment against anybody critical of the way the Modi government has handled the Kashmir situation.

The nation needs to know what to read and believe. But that won’t happen until the media realise it needs to verify the news before whipping up hysteria around it.

Update: Both Fair Observer and NewsLaundry have since withdrawn the article by Mayank Singh and apologised to their readers.

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  • Rohini

    Arundathi is a big girl, she would be the first one, in my opinion, to agree that Rawal has the right to freedom of expression. After all, she enjoys it enough to be able to spew venom about the Father of the Nation…so am certain she is quite calm and doesn’t need all this hand wringing from knights in shining armour over a ridiculous tweet that Shehla rashid had already made about Gautam Gambhir.

    But on the fake news bit….tell me, is this fake news something like the news items about donkeys in UP, or the one about the EVMs that spat out BJP slips or about the one where stone pelters pelted stones at Ummer Fayaz’s funeral…THAT type of fake news?

    • rantman

      The Father of the Nation is long dead – one can not physically hurt him, only his memory. Arundathi OTOH, is very much alive and hence susceptible to physical violence. Thankfully, Twitter has a better understanding of the limits and implications of freedom of expression than you! They are not concerned with protecting Arundathi Roy or liberals or psuedo seculars or sparing any ones feelings. They are only trying to protect their brand, by curbing speech which transgresses their general notion of criminality. If someone were to attack AR subsequent to those tweets going up, Twitter would be liable in civil and possibly criminal terms, regardless of causality.

      • Rohini

        OK……so you agree that it’s nothing to do with freedom of expression but to do with corporate liability. Twitter cares a difdum for FoE but of course care a lot about it’s profitability.
        I can swallow that – it’s more honest than this baloney about upholding FoE.

        As for dead vs alive..yeah..ok..so, what about Shehla Rashid’s 3 tweets asking for 3 different individuals, all alive and kicking, to be tied to that jeep. It’s a joke, isn’t it? She even made a parody photo of Gambhir tied to the jeep.
        What of that?
        And finally, this article is holier-than-thou about fake news.What’s your opinion on the selective filter the Wire has used to talk about fake news? I have given recent instances…which are so bizarre…

  • Krishna Baalu

    Mr Wire this entire article is fake, unprofessionally written one. Pl publish a rejoinder
    for readers pl read this news https://timesofislamabad.com/even-70-lakh-indian-army-cannot-defeat-kashmiris-arundhati-rai/2017/05/16/

    • The Wire

      Did you not read the story Mr Baalu? We have urselves given the timesofislamabad.com link so there is no need for you to post it. The point is that the story on the Pakistani site is unsourced, fake news.

  • Yash Pal

    ‘in India, the concocted comments were used to whip up nationalist sentiment’
    Please change to

    ‘in India, the concocted comments were used to whip up nationalist (as currently defined) sentiment’

  • Yash Pal

    I hope the general public understands how they are being brainwashed.

  • Prateek Chandra Jha

    Well I’d like to clarify that NewsLaundry hasn’t uploaded any such apology on the article’s page which is were content was primarily displayed while it was online. This is the link — https://www.newslaundry.com/2017/05/22/arundhati-roy-please-do-not-support-pakistans-jihad-in-kashmir — If they’ve apologised elsewhere, never mind but to strip the link of the article and displaying a null page is no where near the standards they expect every other media house to covet. It’s a shame, puppy shame!

  • Raghav Ananthram

    https://timesofislamabad.com/even-70-lakh-indian-army-cannot-defeat-kashmiris-arundhati-rai/2017/05/16/ this is the website where you can find the link.. of the story … well the thing is why didn’t you guys make a hue and cry like you are doing now for the fake news that is being carried by the right wing … I would like to see how you guys take this issue now with the times of Islamabad …

    it would also be wonderful if you guys stated which side of the spectrum you were on …. and it is indeed in your privy to write or lean on which ever side of the spectrum .. either or the left or the right … but please do mention it .. like the above mentioned websites have .. then it would be easier for the laymen like myself to get a complete picture……


    • Scribina

      “Times of islamabad” is mentioned THRICE in the story. didnt you read it?

      and even if TIMES OF ISLAMABAD is the source, what is the SOURCE for the times of islamabad story? or are you saying that we should accept it whatever the pakistan website says?

      “Radio Pakistan ran a story, also on May 16, with the headline, ‘Arundhati Roy terms Indian aggression in Occupied Kashmir as shameful.’ Neither Radio Pakistan nor Times of Islamabad identified a source for Roy’s comments but a similar news story on the Pakistan-based Geo TV site attributed her quotes to ‘Kashmir Media Service’. According to Kashmiri journalists, the Kashmir Media Service is not a media organisation but the propaganda arm of a Kashmiri militant organisation in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. It maintains a website but the news about an Arundhati Roy interview is not archived there.”

      and that’s the whole point, you cannot have articles by saying that someone said something, without mentioning when and where that person said it and with PROOF. The burden of proof of the sourcing is with the organisation who wrote the articles!

  • Kabir

    Please take action against Indian news channels for fanning fake news .

  • Chirag

    Do you guys have any proof apart from a statement by Arundhati? How should we believe that she is saying the truth? And if she is not saying the truth then how can you say that the news was fake? I do not associate myself with any of the two sides/three sides but I am really curious what you guys have to say.

  • Kam

    sab chor hain, sab ke sab chor hai. aur 90s ke young Brahmin middle class ke background ke adhikansh log jo ab 40s mein hain, unse deshbhakti ki ummed mat kijiye, unka mind/brain reservation, mandal kamandal se imprinted hai aur ve sabhi anti-dalit, anti-OBC, anti-tribal etc hain and naturally pro BJP hain. Same is true of the non-brahmin middle class youngsters of 90s.
    The problem in India is that first you dont accept that there is a disease. Then you dont accept any treatment and instead blame the person who wants to treat it or who cites that there is a disease.
    Castesism in India is a disease propagted by Brahmanism. Those who cite it, those who say that there is caste basd discriminatioon, they are typed as fringe element or anti-national. Those who seek a treatment, a short term treatment to include the “alternative voice”, to increase representation by Reservation.. these are again typed as “divisive” and anti-national.
    And the irony is that those who are “national” who call themselves as patriot, they dont have any alternate treatment.
    This is the issue in India.
    Arnab Goswami will never visit the Adivasi land, he will never go to Chattisgarh to see on ground how men in uniform or their supporters behave. I am not saying that 100% all men in uniform are bad, but at least some are.. and they should be punished to show that we dont support such behavior. Arbnab goswami should visit Chattisgarh and see how the businessmen, big businessmen give money to naxals (Extortion).. to keep running their business and then ask them whether they are “anti-national”?
    If a businessmen gives money to naxals to run his own business, he is seen with a sympathetic tone, but if a poor adivasi to preserve his life, to live at least, provides any kind of support to naxals under pressure, he is seen as “anti-national”, why?
    Same is true in Kashmir. Many local citizens may be supporting terrorists only to save their own life…..but Indian officials and psedonationalist like Arab goswami type them as “anti-national” while Mr Modi who has forged collaboration with Mufti just to run a state govt is in no way typed anti-national. I want to ask why BJP collaborated with PDP??????And if they can then why cant others? Circumstances, if compel India army to put a human shield, circumstances if compel BJP to support PDP, then circumstances of the life saving nature also compel many citizens to take stones in their hand. This is a very simple thing. To understand this you need not need to understand rocket science.
    India is clearly divided into two kinds of intellectuals. One who think that they are the masters of this land, this land is their property.. and others who think that the real masters of this land are the “locals”, the black skins, the adivasis, the kashmiris, the nagas, the tamilians, the andhrites, the maharastrians, etc etc. And the right to protest is a fundamental right. Protesting against the govt doesnt mean anti-nationalism. Nations is made by citizens not by rules like Modi and his white skin supporters.

  • Vinu Thekkethl

    If this is fake news claimed by arundhati roy then let her sue these media outlets. Why is she silent? Doesn’t she have merit to do this? Isn’t this defamation?

  • Sudip Gayen

    In your column, there is nothing to prove that Arundati Roy didn’t make such outrageous and malevolent comment or didn’t visit Kashmir recently and your logic to disprove the accusation against Arundati Roy is also inconsistent- Anti Indian outfits did not find anyone but choose to make scapegoat a person who is already notorious for her Separatistic biasness-

  • Saravanan V

    This is a commendable article from The Wire. Arundhati Roy is an eminent public intellectual and an internationally renowned author. Paresh Rawal, The Fair Observer and the Media Watchdog, Newslaundry owes her an apology. Before hurrying into writing an article with fanciful & crowd-pleasing perspective to woo the reader, the online magazines must bring out multiple perspectives on a story with a balance of opinions and views. At the end of the day, it is for the readers to take a stand. We don’t need politicians and journalists to thrust upon us half-baked stories with no credible sources. Amidst disgusting and suffocating news space, The Wire offers fresh breathe and a sigh of relief.

  • Sumanta Banerjee

    In a `Gandhigari’ fashion – let us come out in a peaceful demonstration, and offer the hysterical TV anchors of the likes of Arnab Goswami and Bhupen Chaubey. a packet of `band-aids’ (to be used to cover their mouths from spreading the foul-smelling venom that they are vomiting every day, which is hazardous for social health), and at the same time approach Bollywood performers like Paresh Rawal, Somi Nigam and Abhijit Bhattacharay, and offer them a package of muffs. Muffs cover all your fingers into one single fat glove to keep you warm in cold weather, but they do not allow you to operate your fingers in different ways – like pressing a button on your computer to sent a hate message as a knee-jerk reaction, that may cause communal tension. But this humorous note apart, there is a serious dimension to this ugly episode. The entire fake news-based ugly propaganda through the TV channels and newspapers needs to be thoroughly probed, and the TV anchors and press reporters who spread the false propaganda will have to be made accountable to monitoring agencies like the Press Council of India. I’d urge upon my journalistic colleagues to approach the appropriate monitoring agencies in both the fields of the audio-visual and the print media, to compel these irresponsible journalists (do they deserve that term, given their total abdication of professional ethics and abject surrender to the political commands of the ruling party as their pimps ?) to face investigation into their sources of news – how far dictated by police bosses, and how far counter-checked from their victims ?

  • santykr

    Media generally used a word “our Sources” to spread fake as well real news.You use a word in your article “Pro-Hindutava websites ”
    it indicates that you are pseudo liberals who always highlights anti national issues.A lot of news channels and news papers funded by congress but u never highlights.This is a tendency that every media house picked up story from other website as well as unknown source so this is not a new things why u are bothered .In Print media you never record statement so any one can deny. So request to you don’t spread hates and come out from any modi mentality as it will not work.

    People have issue as government dont talk to separatist and support ARMY.
    One more thing you will only publish mostly those comment who support you .

  • Jameel Ali

    This combination of Arnab Gooswami and Rajeev Chandrasekar,reminds me of that urdu couplet–Khoob Guzregi jo mil baithengey deewaney do.

  • santykr

    So finally its clear that you are pseudo liberals who only support lefties and have anti modi mindset like your boss.
    You always talk about FOE but only support them who follow or suit your ideology.You did not published my comment which it indicate that you are doing journalism to malign government image .You don’t have guts to published everyone comment and talk about FOE.you published what suit to you.is it journalism?

  • Rohini

    What we need are real journalists whose jobs depend on not publishing rubbish…and who lose their jobs and readership when they make ‘news’ about ‘donkeys in UP’.
    Or when people like Srinivasan of NDTV come on national TV and show % growth graphs and say the growth has fallen by 200% – he is supposedly a senior journalist but doesn’t even know 10 grade maths or how to interpret % growth numbers and presumes to interpret numbers on national TV? In any company, the man would have been laughed out of his job, but in journalism, it looks like they can get away with low IQ but high propaganda.

    Or when they just pretend like Ulhasnagar never happened and Roy is whom they need to ‘fight for’..like the Wire is silent about the stripping and shaving of 2 underage lads in Ulhasnagar and yet claims to talk for the mute and weak in the country. Oh the utter SHAM of it all.

    The fake news that print and TV media give out is more dangerous than the internet for obvious reasons..the internet has very low penetration in India. MSM is trusted, read and watched by millions. Those journalists have a duty…which they are failing in.

  • Aditya Singh

    Triggered fake #deshbhakts….keep doing same for these shameless ppl who don’t even apologize on TV for telecasting fake news n spreading wrong message among the audience

  • Rohini

    Read my comment again. My stand is very clear. badgering me like a 5 year old, Matty, will not make me change my mind.
    All that axe grinding you do..must be tiring. Go take a rest, infant.

  • Lordwillsave

    Every news organization may not have their own journalists in every Indian city, village and thus they re-create stories based on news agency inputs, expert’s opinion and other stories available on the internet. It may happen that such news stories pass from under editor’s eyes as the site has quoted its source, a renowned Pakistani news site.

  • Rohini

    sorry, I don’t pay anyone to build their business and make profits. Or earn a living.

  • Rohini

    the blind issue was long ago refuted. Please research..rely g on one newspaper is the worst mistake.

  • Rohini

    look up my answer above. And if that doesnt help, my comments above that.
    Can’t help it of your mental development helps you to only understand single syllable yes /no answers that one year olds do…

  • Rohini

    umer fayaz was on personal leave attending a wedding. If you think his death was the fault of the army, I can’t say anything really to convince you otherwise..i choose not to.

    donkeys ..i am NOT referring to the tasteless election ads issued by Yadav and co. Please look up the controversy around the reporting of ‘ donkeys in UP’ by major media outlets AFTER the election..about a month ago.