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FactCheck: How reliable are reports about Kar Sevaks converting to Islam to atone for Babri demolition

On 6th December, the nation marked the 25th anniversary of Babri Masjid’s demolition. To mark the occasion, DNA published an article titled, “Responsible for razing Babri Masjid, 3 guilt-ridden karsevaks have embraced Islam”. This article was incidentally written by a journalist named Srawan Shukla.

Shukla had attained notoriety in August after he had tried to portray Dr. Kafeel Khan, the doctor on duty when 33 children died due to disruption of oxygen supply in Gorakhpur’s Baba Raghav Das Medical College, as some sort of a hero.

Within a few hours of Shukla’s report, it was reported that the “hero” had been sacked from his post. An FIR was lodged under various sections of the  IPC, Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Medical Council Act. Meanwhile social media users had also dug up tales of his murky past.

Shukla though didn’t give up and filed a new report on 25th November by declaring the same doctor as “Not a villain”, by claiming that the charges against Khan were dropped. Even though the title tried to make Khan some some sort of a phoenix rising from the ashes, the truth of the matter was that he continued to be charged under the sections for criminal conspiracy, attempt to commit culpable homicide and criminal breach of trust by public servant, which some might say is barely heroic.

DNA too later acknowledged this mistake after we pointed out this chicanery, and changed the title to portray the true nature of events.

When Shukla, who clearly doesn’t seem to regard journalistic ethics too highly, wrote an article about converted Karsevaks, we decided to investigate.

The report focuses on three major characters named, Balbir Singh, Yogendra Pal and Shive Prasad who converted to Islam after demolishing the Babri Masjid. Reporter Shukla proceeds to tell colourful stories about how Balbir Singh a former Shiv Sena leader after demolishing the Masjid, had gone to assassinate a Muslim cleric in Deoband. But after listening to his sermons, rather than killing him, Balbir took refuge in him and converted. After turning into Mohammed Aamir he and his colleague Yogendra Pal (who too converted to Islam), vowed to construct and renovate 100 mosques as a ‘repentance’.

In the same report, reporter Shukla them claims how a Bajrang Dal leader named Shive Prasad had gone into depression and suffered bouts of hallucination for his contribution towards this demolition. As per Shukla, he visited psychiatrists, tantriks and saints but he didn’t find mental piece and finally in 1999 embraced Islam in Sharjah where he had gone to seek employment. He though might still not have been able to find mental peace as according to Shukla, the RSS has threatened to kill him if he ever returns to India.

The way the DNA report was written, it appeared that Shukla had not talked in person to any of these ‘kar sevaks’ and his report could entirely be based on secondary sources.

So what are these “sources”, we tried to dig out.

When it comes to Shive Prasad, only relevant sources that Google throws (apart from the DNA report) are of obscure Islamic websites and a forum called Hindustan.in where one user had posted Shive’s story to enquire about its authenticity (it was met with amused reactions):

google search results for kar sevaks converting
Was an Islamic conversion propaganda picked by DNA?

It might be a bit strange that even after 18 years of his purported conversion, no prominent media outlet has chronicled his story, even though it has the potential to discredit the efforts of the Hindutva groups. Did the DNA reporter just pick up random claims from Islamic websites and his report was published without due diligence by the editorial team? Given Shukla’s past records, DNA editors should have been careful.

Coming to the other two characters namely Yogendra Pal and Balbir Singh. In the case of Yogendra Pal, the search simply threw the links about Balbir Singh, the 3rd guy who seemingly converted:

Google search about kar sevaks converting
Two characters are part of the same story, which is not of atonement.

Only after searching for Balbir Singh did we find some a 2006 report by a semi-mainstream media outlet from called Greater Kashmir — which on occasions has acted as Islamic propaganda website too — which contains a similar account. The report was rehashed and republished on other Islamic websites, and most of them say that the original report has been taken from “internet“. One such “report” claimed that Balbir Singh was a Sikh, not a Hindu.

Apart from such rather unreliable reports, there were a couple of videos [1][2] of this Balbir Singh, now known as Mohammed Aamir explaining how he converted to Islam. Such videos too have been uploaded by Islamic channels and users, and there is no way to ascertain authenticity of the video or the claims.

However, assuming that the person in videos is not any impersonator making up false claims about being an ex-karsevak who converted to Islam, listen to the reasons he (Balbir Singh alias Mohammed Aamir) gives about his conversion (relevant portions have been uploaded in a new video on YouTube by us):

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5R7suJE8Om8]

In the first video, Balbir is seen talking to an Urdu channel (the screenshot of this video seems to have been used as a featured image in the DNA article). In this video, Balbir is seen claiming that after the demolition he was paranoid with the fear that Muslims won’t spare him for his act. He even claimed that he was so scared that even the cries of his children while playing made him feel as if a Muslim mob has come to attack and kill his family.

The second video also sees him explain his fear about Muslims killing him to take revenge for him taking part in Babri demolition. He claims that he was felicitated publicly after coming back from demolition, and thus people knew about his role. Things became so bad that his family members even proclaimed him as a madman as he was always scared that Muslims will kill him.

He later also claimed that another person in his village named Yogendra Pal Singh (possibly the same Yogendra Pal referred to in the DNA article) had participated in this demolition. He as per Balbir suffered a far worse bout of paranoia, and was later as a last resort was taken to a local Maulvi for treatment.

Most probably the DNA reporter Shukla watched such unverified videos and came up with his report. However, the experience recounted by Balbir in these videos doesn’t match the DNA narrative, which claims that these Karsewaks converted out of an immense feeling of guilt. Going by the videos, Balbir and the rest appear to have converted after convincing themselves that was their only resort to stay safe and not be killed in a revenge attack.

Considering the precariously low and vague information available around this whole affair, one hopes that DNA comes up with a detailed ground report, which will only add credibility to their claims.

As of now, it appears that a reporter with questionable track record has filed yet another questionable news report, which somehow passed the editorial checks of DNA. One just hopes that this reporter Srawan Shukla doesn’t file his next report about MS Dhoni accepting Islam, just because something on “internet” reported so:

Islamic propaganda
Next report by Srawan Shukla in DNA?

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