Manipur Video: RW Handles Try and Find Muslim Angle, News Agency Apologises For Misleading Tweet

As pointed out by Alt News's Mohammed Zubair, Manipur police had tweeted that one Abdul Hilim had been arrested by Imphal East police. News agency ANI had tweeted that he had been arrested in connection with the harrowing Thoubal crime, caught on video.

New Delhi: Several rightwing commentators on social media shared the news of the arrest of one Abdul Hilim in Manipur, with either the implicit or explicit claim that he was one of the accused in the harrowing video showing the sexual assault of two Manipur women. Manipur police had tweeted that Hilim had been arrested for a separate crime. Some rightwing Twitter participants even modified Hilim’s name to ‘Abdul Khan’ in their tweets.

The news agency ANI, meanwhile, has issued a retraction and apology for tweeting that Hilim was arrested over the video’s crimes.

ANI’s tweet was released at 9.47 pm on July 20, the day the video showing two women being paraded naked and sexually assaulted led to nationwide outrage, and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi breaking his silence on ethnic violence in Manipur after 79 days. The incident took place in Thoubal district of Manipur.

By 11 pm, ANI’s tweet, the misinformation in it and the points where it mislead readers were pointed out through a tweet with screenshot proofs by AltNews fact-checker Mohammed Zubair. This article uses the screenshots Zubair posted in his tweet.

ANI’s tweet said:

“Manipur viral video case | One cadre of People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) Pro namely Md Ibungo alias Abdul Hilim (38) of Imphal East was arrested by Imphal East District Police. A total of three main accused of the heinous crime of abduction and gangrape under Nongpok Sekmai PS, Thoubal District have been arrested today: Manipur Police.”

The tweet placed two sentences of the police’s release one after the other, which can cause a reader unfamiliar with the districts of Manipur to be left with the impression that Abdul Hilim was part of the “three main accused” who have been arrested for the Thoubal crime. The use of the slug of “Manipur viral video case” further consolidates the misinformation that Hilim and two others were arrested today for the crimes seen in the video.

However, in its tweets, Manipur Police announced these two arrests separately. It announced the arrest of four men in the video case at 9.39 pm.

The arrest of PREPAK Pro cadre Mohammad Ibungo alias Abdul Hilim was tweeted at 9.41 pm.

In both the above tweets, the district is clearly mentioned.

In the Manipur Police’s press note too, it is evident that these two are separate instances. The arrest of three main accused in Thoubal district, over the video, has been entered as point number 2. Imphal East District Police’s arrest of Hilim is entered as point 4. Separating them is point 3 where police notes the recovery of arms and ammunitions

ANI deleted its tweet and issued an apology over 12 hours later, at 10.29 am today. In the apology it said it had been confused by Manipur Police’s tweets.

“Note on Story retraction and APOLOGY: Yesterday evening, inadvertently a tweet was posted by ANI regarding arrests undertaken by the Manipur Police. This was based on an erroneous reading of tweets posted by the Manipur police as it was confused with an earlier tweet regarding other arrests made by it in relation to the incidents shown in the viral video. Shortly afterwards, within a few minutes, on realising the error the tweet was promptly deleted and a corrected version was immediately put out. Error regretted.”

Zubair and many others on social media have from time to time mentioned ANI’s proclivity towards mentioning the names of accused in crimes in their tweets only when they are Muslim.

Zubair has also tweeted how Twitter handles of people who support the Bharatiya Janata Party or act as Hindutva commentators were quick to capitalise on the unrelated arrest of a man with a Muslim name and sought to peddle it as related to the crimes in the video.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Tajinder Bagga and rightwing commentator Rishi Bagree, as pointed out by Zubair, released identical tweets, calling the arrested accused “Abdul Khan,” forsaking even “Abdul Hilim” for a more conventionally Muslim-sounding name.