Congress leader Shashi Tharoor had shared a story hailing Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan for his so-called efforts to tackle the coronavirus outbreak in Kerala in a portal called Britishherald.com. The title of the story read, “A masterclass in tackling COVID-19 from Kerala, India”
Tharoor’s tweet read “Kerala earns international kudos for its valiant efforts to tackle the COVID-19 crisis with efficiency”.
However, the site Britishherald.com has long been debunked as a hoax site, the Magazine brand ‘British Herald’ was acquired by a Kerala-based businessman named Ansif Ashraf in 2018, as per a report in BoomLive. Many Twitter users had pointed out the issues regarding the authenticity of the site to him.
Also, the article in the Britishherald.com is similar to an article in another website called ‘Americanbazaronline’ where an author named Ahffan Kondeth had written an article titled, “India’s Kerala State Shows How To Fight Coronavirus”.
In that article, arguments are made in favour of Kerala on the basis of that it is the only Indian state that is ruled by the Communist Party, the ruling BJP has only 1 seat in the Assembly, and all religions in Kerala exist peacefully, slyly insinuating that other Indian states do not have ‘peacefully co-existing’ religions because they are not ruled by the Communist party.
The article does not provide any factual data in terms of the number of infected patients, recovery rate, rate of successfully recovered patients or how far the state has been able to restrict infected patients from defying isolation and infecting others. It just sings praises for the Communist government and Kerala on the basis that “Kerala has been doing better than other states of India and some provinces of Europe and USA because it has a high literacy rate, is ruled by a Communist government and is ‘experienced’ to fight epidemics because it had faced a Nipah virus outbreak in 2018. No data, figures or statistics are provided.
Both the Amaricanbazaronline article and the British Herald article also write ‘how’ Kerala is handling the coronavirus outbreak. They say that a massive awareness programme is underway, individuals arriving from abroad are being screened at the airport, suspected persons are taken to local government hospital’s isolation ward for further tests, provided treatment and testing free of cost etc. But, interestingly, the same is true for every Indian state. It does not make Kerala any different and special from other states.
Both articles also claim that the people in Kerala are ‘aware’ and conscious and hence they are avoiding mass-gatherings, weddings etc. An argument now laughable because a single person fro Kasargod is now believed to have infected an unknown number of people because he hid his travel history, attended weddings, family functions, a football match and is unwilling to reveal the names of person he came in contact with because it is suspected he had smuggled gold from the gulf. As per reports, over 600 persons from Kasargod are now under observation because of that single person. A family from Patthanamitha who had evaded quarantine after their return of Italy earlier this month also finds no mention in the articles.
Shashi Tharoor, however, after being made aware of the issues, refused to delete the tweet from the alleged hoax site, claiming that the tweet has been there for over 24 hours and has been shared by over 1000 people.
It is surprising that the only argument Tharoor has for not deleting his tweet is the said tweet has been there for over 24 hours and has been ‘shared and liked by thousands of people’. It is also notable here that Tharoor’s acknowledgement tweet is not done as a reply to the original tweet sharing the article, but has been quoted separately. A separate tweet quoting his original tweet is less likely to be noticed by normal users, and by people who had replied to his original tweet. A senior Congress leader and a so-called ‘intellectual’ refusing to delete a tweet sharing questionable articles from a hoax site just because it has gone viral already is indeed surprising.
Many Twitter users have asked Tharoor to delete the previous tweet or share his acknowledgement tweet as a reply to the original or share an acknowledgement in the form of a screenshot of the deleted tweet.
sadly the corrections rarely get the eyeballs that the original tweets do and the latter keep getting retweeted. That’s why folks suggest deleting the original tweet and if you want to keep a record of it, post a screenshot with the correction.— Tanvi Madan (@tanvi_madan) March 22, 2020
It is, however not the first time that Shashi Tharoor has fallen for fake news and hoax sites. In the past, Tharoor has been found sharing fake news from an Islamist website to attack the Modi government. He had also once called a Kerala HC judgement, available on government records, as ‘fake’.