Real Report, a ‘news platform’ linked closely to the Congress party, posted a tweet on Thursday claiming that ‘thousands’ of devotees had gathered across temples in West Bengal on the occasion of Ram Navami. However, suspiciously enough, it deleted the tweet from its handle and re-posted the same claim made in the first tweet with a vastly different choice of words.
In the now-deleted tweet, Real Report had claimed, “Thousands of devotees have gathered in temples in various parts of West Bengal on occasion of #RamNavami defying lockdown imposed across country due to #coronavirusoutbreak.” “Police has asked them to return home immediately,” the tweet said.
Real Report appeared to repeat the claims made by PTI in an earlier tweet. Conspicuously, that tweet too has been deleted. The tweet by Real Report was basically a word-to-word copy of the tweet by PTI with slight changes in punctuation and presentation. No explanation has been provided by PTI for the deletion of its tweet.
Real Report is closely linked to the Congress party. Times Now in a report dated January 28, 2019 had stated that the description of the Real Report’s Twitter account earlier mentioned ‘a news platform by INC Congress’ with Congress’ official Twitter handle tagged in it, however, later it was changed to ‘a platform for unbiased news coverage’. It isn’t known now who exactly operates the account but Times Now mentioned in the said report that the content of the said report leaned heavily towards the Congress party.
Curiously, Real Report has again posted a tweet making a similar claim. However, instead of ‘thousands of devotees’, the tweet now only says ‘devotees’. The image used in the tweet is also different from the one used in the earlier tweet. The wording, otherwise, has remained the same.
As it turns out, the image used by Real Report in its first tweet which has now been deleted was from 2017 and not 2020 as the impression it gave. People pointed out on social media that Real Report was using an old image in order to make spurious claims. Furthermore, the picture used by Real Report in its new tweet showed only a handful of people and not ‘thousands’ as initially alleged.
Conspicuously, the same image has been used in a PTI report reproduced by The Hindu. The title of the report reads, “Defying lockdown, devotees in Bengal assemble at temples on Ram Navami”. The report states, “Amid chants of ‘Jai Sri Ram’, hundreds of devotees assembled in temples in various parts of West Bengal on the occasion of Ram Navami on Thursday, giving a thumbs down to social distancing norms prescribed by the government during the ongoing nationwide lockdown period.”
If there were indeed ‘hundreds’ or ‘thousands’ of devotees, they are certainly not visible in the pictures provided as evidence for the claims. Furthermore, it also does not explain why PTI took down its tweet making the claim. Also, PTI’s tweet claimed ‘thousands of devotees’ had gathered while its report says it was ‘hundreds of devotees’. From ‘thousands’ to ‘hundreds’ is indeed a significant climbdown. Before long, the said number might even drop to a ‘handful’ in its report. It is important to note that the claims made by the PTI might indeed be correct but no evidence has been provided for the same and the conduct of the mainstream media hasn’t been appropriate enough for anyone to take their word for it.
Most importantly, the image posted by both shows a banner hanging in front of the temple which says that as per directions of the Indian government to combat coronavirus, devotees are completely prohibited from visiting the temple. It also says that although the rituals of Ram Navami will be carried out in the temple, visitors will not be allowed to take part in that. The image also shows that the gates of the temple are locked. This shows that the temple has completely banned presence of people in its premises, and only a few people, maybe neighbours, came to the temple on the occasion of Ram Navami and offered prayers in front of locked gates.
Furthermore, an entire section of the website of Real report dedicates itself to a eulogy of the Congress party. At the end of it, the eulogy says, “Disclaimer: Arnob Gauswamy people are not Fools. Everytime BJP blunders you cant fool people by digging into the past Files of Congress and allegedly attempting to protect BJP through your allegedly sinister designs of Defaming Congress. We have had enough of your Dirty Games that even we, the common citizens, have begun to see through it”.
It is important to note that the news of devotees defying lockdown on Ram Navami comes at a time when Islamic missionary organization Tablighi Jamaat has landed itself in trouble after defying lockdown orders issued by the government in order to curb the spread of the Wuhan Coronavirus. Hundreds of its members have tested for the virus after attending an Islamic event at Markaz Nizamuddin. Under such circumstances, the news of ‘thousands’ of devotees, or ‘hundreds’, may well be an attempt to deflect attention from the Tablighi Jamaat. The fact that the Real Report, a ‘news platform’ linked closely to the Congress party, made the claim of ‘thousands of devotees’ first before backtracking to only ‘devotees’ does raise suspicions about the entire series of events.