Recently, a video went viral where it was alleged an old Sikh man was waking up his Muslim neighbours in Jammu & Kashmir for Sehri (last food in the morning after which fasting begins for the day in the month of Ramzan) by beating up a drum. This ‘feel good’ video was widely shared on social media.
In fact, Press Trust of India (PTI) did a story about the video, which was picked up by many large news outlets and the video went viral beyond Jammu and Kashmir. May claimed it as true image of ‘Kashmiriyat’.
While such videos and photos regularly go viral on social media, when it comes to the reporting it as news, agencies are expected to be extremely careful and are also expected to do basic fact-checking. Especially an agency like the Press Trust of India, whose copies are circulated by the big media without fact-check, and who have been found to err many times earlier.
And it appears that PTI has now helped spread a ‘fake news’. Tejinder Singh Sodhi, a journalist with Republic TV has claimed that the video was actually of a Punjabi Muslim from Pakistan and not of a Sikh man from Kashmir as claimed. He also lamented that PTI had not done its due diligence before publishing the story.
Really unfortunate that @PTI_News did this story without any fact check, this not a Sikh man from Kashmir but a Punjabi Muslim in Pakistan with a shaved mustache. @AjayKaulPTI @sumirkaulhttps://t.co/637o8CKwkf
— Tejinder Singh Sodhi (@TejinderSsodhi) 29 May 2018
The PTI reporter did not dispute the claims by Sodhi, and admitted that his story was based on a video that was ‘shared more than 2000 times on Facebook’.
The PTI reporter, Inayat Jehangir, was reminded that it is a journalist’s job to check the veracity of a story before publishing a story, especially owing to the nature of the internet. However, he continued to justify his story saying that it was about a viral video, and not about the information claimed therein.
Rahul Pandita, another journalist and an author who writes on Kashmir widely, called out Inayat Jehangir and recalled that Jehangir was a habitual offender and had earlier filed a fake story a few months ago of a Kashmiri Pandit being cremated by his Muslim neighbours.
Really sad state. This is the same reporter who filed a fake story few years ago of a Kashmiri Pandit being cremated by his Muslim neighbours. No checks, no accountability. https://t.co/Oc64TLvO74
— Rahul Pandita (@rahulpandita) 29 May 2018
It is indeed shocking that a journalist would assume that it is okay to help circulate unverifiable claims just because it was already trending on social media. Unfortunate, such ‘fake news’ is not called out by many as it helps spread a narrative that is supposed to make people feel good about ‘secularism’.
Drummers going around in the morning waking up fasting Muslims during Ramzan for Sehari is a rather old tradition in Pakistan. Shortly before Fajr prayers, the drummers, also known as Seharkhwaan, walk about in the streets beating the drums and shouting and calling the people to wake up and prepare for a fast. Many of them wear turbans and one can indeed mistake them as Sikh in an unclear video. A clearer picture of such a drummer is below, who is from Pakistan.
There has been no apology or retraction, or proof of claims in the video being genuine, from the PTI or the journalist until the time this story was published.