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.
“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.
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.”