Communalism

Busting Fake News: His Name Is Salim and He Is the Muslim Bus Driver Who Saved Amarnath Yatris

A leading Gujarati newspaper carried a fake report claiming that the ‘real hero’ who saved the yatris was Harsh Desai, the son of the bus owner.

fake news amarnath
“It is not about Hindus or Muslims. All lives are precious. I could have also died that night,” said Salim Shaikh while sharing his story with The Wire recently.

Salim was driving the bus attacked by terrorists in Amarnath on July 10. The religion of the yatris travelling in his bus might not have been something he considered at the time of the attack but his religion is the only thing a certain section of media seems to be able to focus on.

Uncomfortable with the idea of a Muslim man saving Hindu lives, a leading Gujarati newspaper carried a report claiming that the ‘real hero’ who saved the yatris was actually Harsh Desai, the son of the bus owner.

The newspaper, which was founded in 1923, also publishes editions in the US. The same claim was also made by another Gujarat newspaper, Diyva Bhaskar, the Gujarati imprint of the Dainik Bhaskar group, reported AltNews.in.

This fake news story, that won’t pass any journalistic standards, quickly appeared on many websites run by right wing propagandists.

While the Gujarat CM commended Salim for his bravery, a ‘pure Bhartiya newspaper whose aim is to provide secular free news to the nation’ took it upon itself  to expose ‘secular media’ scam and revealed the identity of the true hero (who is, of course, a Hindu) who saved the lives of almost 50 passengers.

In a series of bizarre stories, Dainik Bharat claimed that it was actually Harsh, the bus owner’s son, who was driving at the time of the attack. Another report claimed that Salim was actually one of the suspects, reported AltNews.in.

fake news amarnath driver
Taking their ‘investigation’ up a notch, the website also questioned why no bullets hit the windscreen of the bus. To prove their claims, they used an older photo of the bus. In fact, as Salim told The Wire, the windscreen was shattered.

Lack of people’s trust in the mainstream media has give birth to hundreds of such fake news websites. Sadly, their posts get shared by thousands on social media.

This fake news story was also carried by India.com, owned by right-leaning independent MP Subhash Chandra’s media group.

Here’s what actually happened that night, in Salim’s words:

“Suddenly, at around 8:15 pm, I heard some loud shots in the dark, closer to our vehicle. I didn’t know these were bullets fired in our direction. I thought someone had burst some fire crackers. But then I saw the windscreen in front of me break and I quickly ducked. I didn’t leave the steering wheel, though. People inside the vehicle started shouting. I heard them asking me to drive away quickly. Someone bolted the door of the vehicle. When I came back on to my seat, I didn’t check to see if I was hurt. The only thought in my mind was to drive away very quickly, and as fast as I could, before more people inside the vehicle might get hurt. There was a woman, a housewife, who was sitting on the engine bonnet to my left. She received three bullets and unfortunately did not survive her injuries.

I drove away from that spot as fast as I could. There was darkness all around  me. I wanted to reach some safe spot quickly where we could all get down and those injured could be taken to hospital. Everyone inside the vehicle was shouting but I didn’t panic and I was determined to drive fast and focus on reaching a safe spot. For about 3 kms, I kept driving till I saw a military camp where I made a halt. Then some of the army men surrounded us and came to our help. They brought us down and took the injured to the nearest hospital. They didn’t allow any other people there to come near us.”

  • Ashok Akbar Gonsalves

    Perhaps the biggest favor someone can do our country at this moment is shut down Twitter, Whatsapp and Facebook all over India for a few months. The hate-driven lies and fake news propagated via these social media sites is spreading poison through what used to be our beautiful, tolerant society.
    If people willingly sacrificed for a noble cause during demonetization, then I am sure they would do so again for the security and sanctity of our nation.

    • Anmol

      I can understand your concern, but answer for a bad book should be a good book. I would congratulate Wire for exposing and highlighting it.

      • Ashok Akbar Gonsalves

        “Concern” is an understatement, my friend – I am utterly TERRIFIED of whats going on in our beautiful, colorful, richly-varied land at this moment! I have lived through most of my productive life, so now it is my (and our) children I am scared about. What kind of country shall we bequeath to them, if this hateful bigotry and the violent actions that it spawns continues and spreads!

        The Wire is among the handful of media outlets which has the guts to question those in power and reveal the hidden truths. So kudos to them indeed, and may they keep it up. But will they be able to stop the hate filled lies and propaganda that screams around masquerading as reality on social media? The first step towards that is EXPOSING the lies, which The Wire is doing wonderfully well. But after that it is we the people who have to be receptive to these exposures and not let our personal parochial/communal biases block it out. Are we ready to do that? I am not so sure the answer is yes.

  • safee

    if we hindu and muslims have to stay peacefully then we should boycott social medias as well as television medias too. Or every fake news poster has to be punished heavily and people writing headline with question mark and exclamatory mark also has to be punished if we really care for true, informative, honest world.

  • Anmol

    Kudos to Wire for exposing design of right wing extremists who are trying to polarize society and break the nation. True face of gujarat model, distortion and deception. High time we understand the design of sangh pariwar, it is dangerous.

  • Amitabha Basu

    How bigoted can a human become, when a factual incident of a Muslim saving Hindu lives (although it should simply be seen as one human saving other humans) cannot be tolerated and has to be distorted to present the saviour as a Hindu. And that too when that person has himself said that the Muslim was driving the bus and 50 lives were saved by his action.

    • Ashok Akbar Gonsalves

      So true.
      It is indeed a tragic sign of the times we live in that the matter of a man saving lives gets twisted into a bizarre COMMUNAL discussion instead of being universally celebrated.
      There’s only one word for it: EVIL.