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The BJP Seems to Have a Fake News Problem

BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s use of a Gujarat riot photo when talking about West Bengal tells us the party is beyond caring about truth and authenticity.

Why have these BJP worthies fallen for such obvious faleshoods and why did they not get their researchers to do basic due diligence? (L-R) Prathap Simha, Nupur Sharma and Paresh Rawal. Credit: Twitter/PTI

Why have these BJP worthies fallen for obvious faleshoods and why did they not get their researchers to do basic due diligence? (L-R) Prathap Simha, Nupur Sharma and Paresh Rawal. Credit: Twitter/PTI

It requires a particularly perverse mind to pass off a photograph of the Gujarat killings of 2002 as one taken in West Bengal, parts of which have been facing violence in the last few days. Muslim groups erupted after a nasty Facebook post and as the government tries to calm things down, the BJP has waded in with a concerted campaign to show how bad the situation is.

There is enough coming out of the place to prove that point, but instead, Nupur Sharma, a BJP spokesperson, used a photograph of a burning vehicle that was taken in Gujarat 15 years ago. Online fakery is hardly new and the saffron army is among its finest practitioners, but even by the low standards of the past, this example is particularly egregious.

The Sangh parivar – members and and fellow travellers – has refused to acknowledge the brutality of the pogrom in 2002 in which an estimated 1,200 people are said to have been killed. The images that came out of there during the three-day danse macabre told the world another story. To share a photo from Gujarat to indicate the mayhem in Basirhat and hashtagging it #saveBengal displays low-level cynicism. At the same time, there is an inherent irony in drawing upon an image from a state where the riots happened under Narendra Modi’s watch and where the hashtag #didnotsaveGujarat might have been more appropriate; that may have escaped Sharma, or worse, she did not care about it.

This particular tweet is not the only example of hate being spread online with the aid of fake or distorted material. BJP MP Prathap Simha on Sunday tweeted an image purportedly showing a headline in the Times of India that said “Hindu girl stabbed to death by Muslim man”. No such headline ever appeared in the Times or any other newspaper – it was undoubtedly created by some photoshop wizard. Simha did not bother to check its veracity but because it fit in well with his – and his party’s – sensibilities, went ahead and tweeted it, though he deleted it subsequently.

Credit: altnews.in

A few days ago, actor and MP Paresh Rawal, always on the lookout to take a swipe at his party’s ideological enemies, tweeted a quote in Hindi by ex-president Abdul Kalam claiming he had been approached by Pakistan to work for them, but he did not because he was a patriot. “Strictly for pseudo liberal,” said Rawal, though the connection between what Kalam allegedly said and pseudo-liberalism remains tenuous. Here again, it was a fake quote. Sambit Patra, the BJP’s irrepressible television face, tweeted a phoney story from Times of Islamabad that claimed to quote an NDTV story, declaring, with glee, “Hmmm…Agenda.” Only, it was an article written by P Chidambaram for the Indian Express.

Why have these worthies fallen for such obvious faleshoods and why did they not get their researchers to do basic due diligence? One possible answer is that they get the material from the party and simply forward it. Alternatively, they are in such a hurry to hit out at the party’s ‘enemies’ – sickulars, libtards, presstitutes and Congi slaves – that they grab every opportunity; to them, the veracity of what they post does not matter, only its contents do. Plain lies has become an important weapon in the BJP’s armoury.

There is also a third, more sinister possibility: that they – and this includes not just the average bhakt but also the influencers – are fully aware that they are circulating lies, but they want it to have an impact before they withdraw or delete it (without any apology). The idea is to reach the maximum number of fervid believers who swallow all kinds of rubbish claims as long as these conform with their prejudices – if the message comes from someone high enough, like an MP, it carries even more weight. It then gets further circulated and amplified via WhatsApp and word of mouth, maximising its impact.

Thus, old style rumour mongering has been given an extra edge by technology. The question of whether the information is real or fake becomes redundant in these circumstances. In fact, as the fakery-busting site Alt-news has shown, there is an entire cottage industry of fake news coming out of Basirhat.

The persona of individuals and organisations is defined by a few words. Mention ‘dynasty’ and we immediately think of the Congress, say the word corruption and the UPA comes to mind. The BJP is beginning to own the word ‘fake’. At one time, it was low-level supporters or bots from troll factories that were putting out these obviously false messages. Now the party’s own important functionaries have begun doing it. This cannot be a coincidence. Nupur Sharma’s tweet indicates that the party is now beyond caring about truth and authenticity in its messaging. The stakes are now higher and the political opponent has to be attacked by any means possible. Truth and fact-checking, in the circumstances, are a needless luxury.

  • Ashok Akbar Gonsalves

    If ever proof was needed that the “sabka saath sabka vikas” slogan from 2014 has lost its meaning EVEN FOR THE BJP, then the output from its flourishing fake news factory is that proof.

    If ever proof was needed that the BJP’s ONLY agenda for our beautiful country is Hindutva by hook or by crook (mostly by crook), then Bengal is that proof.

    If ever proof was needed that the BJP KNOWS it cannot stay in power unless it keeps the communal pot boiling, then the last few days are proof of their desperation (though there have been earlier instances as well).

    Are we gullible fools? Is THIS what we deserve, as a nation and as a people, that our very own government thinks nothing of cooking up disgraceful fake news with the EVIL intention of dividing us instead of doing its “Raj Dharma” and preserving our fragile unity?

    “Raj Dharma” was called into question 15 years ago in Gujarat.
    Shakespeare said “What’s past is prologue”, and if ever proof was needed that he was right, India today is that proof.

  • S.N.Iyer

    This is a deliberate strategy of the BJP to circulate lies or pictures to create a false position re the opposition. During the 2002 riots one newspaper in both its English and Gujarati editions posted a morphed photo of a Muslim killing a Hindu. This was detected by the delegation of the Editors Guild and is in their report. These false pictures incited the mobs and over a 1000 Muslims were attacked and killed. This is the standard followed by Amit Shah and his party. The Muzzafurnagar incident of a video was a similar instance.
    That this Govt right from the top and all the way down use falsehoods consistently is known and yet no media or opposition party seem to do anything about it

  • kujur bachchan

    Only a person (or persons) of sick and twisted mind/minds could have conceived this perverse idea of creating a fake image of Violence in West Bengal by using a 2002’s Gujarat riot photo. I have no doubt that – what Mr Sidharth Bhatia terms the third more sinister possibility – the Hindutva groups including the average bhakt and the influencers are fully aware that they are circulating lies, but they want it to have an impact before they withdraw or delete it.

    Is this the way to govern a country where millions of citizens are born in poverty, live in poverty and die in poverty; where millions of youth are jobless; millions of children do not go to school; where child mortality rate is one of the highest in the world?

  • alok asthana

    Good to bring out these perversities of BJP. Though, by now, everyone knows the crookery and evil ways of BJP and RSS, it still helps to expose them one more.