Last week, ‘The Print’, a media venture by Shekhar Gupta, who also happens to be the President of the Editors Guild of India, published an egregiously atrocious article, unabashedly urging opposition parties and liberals in India to deploy fake news to stop the BJP juggernaut. The article used a paper written by Christopher Paul and Miriam Matthews for RAND Corporation, an American think-tank, to rationalise harnessing fake news to counter the BJP government at the centre.
The Print argued, “Across the world, fire-hosing of falsehood is becoming a powerful propaganda tool. Those who want to defeat such propaganda may have to do their fire-hosing of falsehood.” It made a clarion call for the liberals and the opposition parties to leverage lies and use it to prevail over PM Modi, who has emerged near-invincible in the Indian political arena since his election to the post of PM in 2014.
Another nefarious contention made in the article was regarding the persecution of supporters of PM Modi in states where the opposition is in power such as Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. The author of the article proposed that the opposition parties “attack the opponent’s supply chain of lies. If opposition-ruled states are not cracking down on fake news and communal hate-mongers in their states, for example, they’re making a huge mistake.” What this statement by the author essentially means is that the opposition governments in their ruled states should stamp out dissenting voices with impunity so that PM Modi’s growing popularity can be curbed and criticism of the opposition government can be stopped in its bud.
While the liberal intelligentsia and their ecosystem did not need a push to lie against the government, considering an overwhelming number of them already routinely and shamelessly spread falsehoods against PM Modi and the BJP, the overt call to spread lies in the article only served to remove the compunction that is attached to lying and encouraged them into continuing their unscrupulous activities.
After the article published in The Print endorsed leveraging lies and using them as an instrument to undermine the BJP government, many left-leaning media organisations and opposition parties who harbour pathological hatred for PM Modi followed the advice and launched an aggressive smear campaign to malign the central government.
Here’s the list some instances when the opposition parties and leftist organisations who followed The Print’s advice in full earnest and peddled falsehoods against the BJP government:-
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala shares a fake picture
Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala recently heeded to the clarion call made by ‘The Print’ article of filling the discourse against the BJP with lies by passing off an image from Nepal as that of India to play politics over the unfortunate misery of the migrant workers.
Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala shared the image of a woman, carrying a toddler on her back on Twitter. In the picture, the poor woman is also seen carrying a heavy sack on the pillion seat of the bicycle.
Surjewala’s tweet was accompanied by a politically motivated caption that read, “New India ka Saach!“. The loose translation of the tweet goes as, “This is the truth of new India.” The Congress leader from Harayana wanted to suggest that the condition of people in the ‘New India’, the India that is not ruled by his party anymore, is miserable.
However, Surjewala’s skullduggery was quickly exposed as social media users pointed out that the picture shared by him was not from India but instead belonged to Nepal.
Congress’ list of buses for migrant workers included autos, two-wheelers and trucks
Recently, a huge controversy broke out after Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi’s attempt to exploit political mileage out of the hardships faced by migrant workers boomeranged.
Gandhi had reportedly written to the UP government seeking approval for about 1000 buses for ferrying migrant workers to their native places that were waiting at the Uttar Pradesh border. The UP government promptly accepted Priyanka Gandhi’s offer and asked the Congress party to submit the requisite details.
However, after scrutinising the list of buses provided by the Congress party, the UP government found out that 170 out of the list of 1049 vehicles were not registered as buses. Two-wheelers, auto-rickshaws, ambulances, school buses and trucks were included in the list.
Also, the preliminary inspection of 492 vehicles provided in the list of buses sent by the Congress party revealed that fitness validity of 59 vehicles had expired, while insurance of 29 vehicles had lapsed. Apart from this, the inspection of the data disclosed that three vehicles with registration numbers- HR 55 A 4949 (Goods carrier), RJ 02 PA 1238 (Motor cab) and UP 83 T 1006 (auto-rickshaw) did not belong in the bus category.
An FIR was lodged at Hazratganj police station in Lucknow against Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi’s secretary Sandeep Singh and Uttar Pradesh Congress President Ajay Kumar Lallu for cheating and forgery in connection with the list of buses that the Congress party had submitted with the UP govt to carry migrants to the state.
Congress posted an old video to claim they help the poor more than the BJP
A day after the article in ‘The Print’ urged opposition parties to openly peddle lies favouring their propaganda, the Congress followed the advice and shared an outdated video to claim that their party is more concerned for the well-being of the poor while the BJP is apathetic to the pains endured by the poor.
On May 16, Congress shared a set of two videos on Twitter with a Hindi caption as: “फर्क- मानवता का। भाजपा ने कोरोना संकट के दौरान खाने के लिए तरसते गरीब देशवासियों से मुँह मोड़ लिया, जबकि कांग्रेस ने संकट की इस घड़ी में देशवासियों के लिए अपने कार्यालयों को “रसोई” बना दिया” which roughly means: “The difference of Humanity. BJP turned its back on poor countrymen yearning for food during Corona crisis but Congress converted its headquarters into kitchens for countrymen during these trying times”.
While the heart-rending video of a man, eating leftovers thrown on the railway track, shared on the left-hand side of the post reads in Hindi: “भाजपा: गरीबों को दाने दाने के लिए तरसाती है” roughly translated as (BJP: Makes poor people yearn for a single grain of food), another video of Congress workers providing food to the needy shared on the right-hand side read in Hindi: “कांग्रेस: गरीबों को खाना खिलाती है”, meaning (Congress: Feeds the poor).
फर्क- मानवता का।— Congress (@INCIndia) May 16, 2020
भाजपा ने कोरोना संकट के दौरान खाने के लिए तरसते गरीब देशवासियों से मुँह मोड़ लिया, जबकि कांग्रेस ने संकट की इस घड़ी में देशवासियों के लिए अपने कार्यालयों को “रसोई” बना दिया। pic.twitter.com/w2OuKvZW8D
However, the video on the left side which showed a man scavenging leftovers thrown on the railway track was from August 2019 which the Congress attempted to portray as belonging to the coronavirus lockdown period. The video was uploaded on YouTube channel O.M.G Page 2 on August 21 last year with a caption ‘Please don’t waste your food’. At 0.21 seconds into the video, one can see the same clip of the man scrounging for food among the leftovers on the railway tracks.
NDTV passes off buses from Kumbh as buses arranged by Congress
Another habitual fake news peddler, NDTV, recently shared a misleading picture of buses from Kumbh to project that they were the buses arranged by the Congress party for ferrying the migrant workers to their respective native places.
NDTV India journalist UmaShankar Singh today took to Twitter to share a picture of a long parade of buses where he implied that these were the buses arranged by the Congress party to get back migrant from Uttar Pradesh. Sharing the picture on Twitter the NDTV journalist said that UP Government had given permission for the buses sent by Congress to ply back with the migrants.
The reality, however, was in stark contrast to what was asserted by the NDTV journalist. The image depicting the parade of 500 buses was from February 2019 when the Yogi government arranged a large fleet of buses for people travelling to Kumbh.
The Hindu published a “factually incorrect” report on Delhi riots
On May 16, 2020, left-leaning media organisation, ‘The Hindu’, published an article titled ‘Rescripting north-east Delhi riots – and the question of justice’ to assert that the Delhi Police had been partial and prejudicial in treating the Delhi riot victims.
The report said that the Delhi Police had been particularly biased in dispensing its duties in the matters concerning the Delhi riots. The report accused the police of stonewalling the justice in the north-east riots cases, selectively and aggressively pursuing a few FIRs and attempting to project the riots as a premeditated conspiracy.
Citing the Muslim casualties of the Delhi riots, which stood at 38 of the total 53, the article asserted that Delhi Police is taking action against anti-CAA protesters because they are Muslims. Alleging the Delhi Police of communal bias, the report states that the Delhi Police had let off Hindu aggressors while they have come down particularly hard against the Muslims, including “illegal detentions of Muslims” and refusing to cooperate with Muslims for filing FIR reports.
However, Delhi Police promptly rebutted the article, calling it a piece of either “pure indolence” or “crass communalism”. Rubbishing the article, the Delhi Police released an official statement that said the PUDR report which the article bases its premise upon had cited the FIRs selectively to project that the Delhi Police had been prejudicial against a particular community. The statement said that the police action in the cases of riots are guided by the twin principle of providing relief to the victims and ensuring legal actions against the perpetrators, adding that the arrests made by the Delhi Police were based on scientific and technical evidence.
Congress publishes old photo to make perverse claim about PM Modi
On 28 May 2020, the Congress party shared an old image of Narendra Modi from a few years ago to make a misleading claim during the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic. The claim was made as part of its #SpeakUpIndia campaign.
The Congress party used a photograph of Prime Minister Modi in which measurements were being taken for his statue at the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. The scene depicted in the photograph is from 2016 but the Congress party attempted to portray that it was captured in recent times when the country is suffering a grave crisis in the wake of the economic crisis unleashed by the Coronavirus. The Congress party shared the image with the caption, “Aysho aaram ke zindagi me mast hai” which roughly translates to “busy enjoying a life of luxury”.
Although the Congress party deleted the tweet with the photograph, a video they posted was still present on their timeline, which uses the same photograph of PM Modi with a female employee of Madame Tussauds to claim that the prime minister was busy leading a luxurious life during the lockdown.
Congress leaders use old photographs to as photos of migrants during the lockdown
As large numbers of migrants decided to go back to their native states on their own, or later using buses and trains arranged by govts and non govt organisations, pictures of them flooded media and social media. But in this, Congress leaders chose to share many old photos, some of which are from outside India, to claim that they are recent photographs.
Several Congress leaders seem to have taken then advice of Shekhar Gupta and sharing fake news against the Modi government.
Unrelated photographs shared claiming massive wildfire in Uttarakhand
In the last week of May, Twitter was abuzz with news of massive wildfire that is supposed to be raging in Uttarakhand. A large number of people, including Congress leaders had shared photographs showing devastating fire in forests, claiming them to be recent images from Uttarakhand. But it was found that most of the photographs are old photographs from different countries across the globe, and although some of them are from Uttarakhand, they are old, like from 2016 and 2018.
The Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Singh Rawat himself called out many such fake tweets, including one by Congress leader Jitin Prasada. Although there are wildfire in the state, they are nowhere near the scale as depicted in pictures. The Uttarakhand forest department also clarified that fires in the state’s forests are mostly limited to grasses and bushes, and big trees never catch fire in the state as shown in the photographs.
As on 28 May 2020, wildfire in the state has affected 111 hectares of land, causing loss of Rs 3 Lakhs. Therefore, it is not a grave crisis as some Congress leaders and left-liberal journalists are claiming on social media.
Note: This article has been updated with additional information