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Was the fake news about ‘Panisagar mosque arson’ an attempt to grab land? New details emerge

One of the fake news stories, which gained the most traction, was the burning of a mosque in Panisagar. Even though the Tripura police had shared images of an undamaged Rowa Bazaar mosque, the usual suspects began claiming that one CRPF mosque was targeted by the VHP.

Following the protest march conducted by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) against the anti-Hindu violence in Bangladesh on October 26, fake news stories about the burning of a mosque in Panisagar began to do the rounds of the internet. Misleading videos alleging arson attacks on mosques, burning of the Quran and atrocities on Muslims went viral on social media. The misinformation was then weaponised by Islamist groups to create mayhem in several districts of Maharashtra such as Nanded, Amaravati and Malegaon.

One of the fake news stories, which gained the most traction, was the burning of a mosque in Panisagar. Even though the Tripura police had shared images of an undamaged Rowa Bazaar mosque, the usual suspects began claiming that one CRPF mosque was targeted by the VHP. The New Indian sent a team to ground zero and found that the alleged mosque was neither burnt nor had been operational for the past 15 years. The said mosque is located near the Regional College of Physical Education in the Panisagar sub-division of North Tripura.

While speaking to The New Indian, a local temple priest named Vidhubhushan Nath informed, “Earlier there was a CRPF camp here. There were 2 Muslim officers at the CRPF camp. It was 15 years ago. Now, no one comes here at this place.” He confirmed that the CRPF mosque had been non-functional after a man had allegedly died there two years ago. Another local named Debashish Dey had also denied any arson attack on the abandoned building. He added that no Muslim lived in the neighbourhood. Dey also urged The New Indian team to inspect for any charred or burnt items in the mosque premises.

“I did not even know that there was a masjid here and that it had been burnt. We know that nothing has happened here. But, there are people who are spreading ‘gujob‘ (rumours) about arson attack,” stated an e-rickshaw driver named Diban Deb Nath. He and Debashish Dey clarified that they were not associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Complainant caught off-guard when quizzed about delay in FIR

The New Indian had reached out to a Muslim man named Abdul Basit, who alleged that the CRPF mosque was burnt on October 21, 2021. However, a First Information Report (FIR) was registered only on November 11 i.e. 20 days after the alleged attack. On being confronted about the delay in reporting the matter to the police, he claimed that he tried to approach the police on October 23. This is despite the fact that the FIR contradicted his claims.

In the First Information Report, Basit Ali said that the delay was the result of consultation and forming a consensus with members of the masjid committee. He had tried to dodge several questions posed by The New Indian team but maintained that a copy of the Quran was burnt.

Accusation of land grabbing against Abdul Basit, mosque built on government land

BP Chakraborty, the senior SP (North Tripura) had informed that a mosque and a Debasthan temple was constructed by the CRPF contingent, which was stationed in Panisagar 10-15 years ago. Prior to their departure, the mosque was handed over to the local Muslims while the temple was handed over to the local Hindu community. The New Indian team unearthed that the land on which the temple and the mosque are constructed is under dispute.

Screengrab of the letter written by Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Panisagar in January 18, 2021, image via The New Indian

The Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Panisagar had written letters to several people between 2019 and 2021, highlighting that both the religious structures were unauthorised and eligible for relocation/removal. The Panisagar police are now investigating whether Basit Ali and his family fabricated stories of arson attacks to stake his claim on the land of the mosque.

Tripura police had rubbished fake news about mosque being burnt in Panisagar

Last month, the Tripura police responded to viral videos and news related to the alleged vandalism of a mosque in Panisagar during a protest march in the State. Tripura Police had categorically denied any such incident took place and said that an FIR against the viral fake posts on social media platforms.

The cops also said that certain persons are spreading fake news and rumour on Tripura by using fake social media IDs. The police added that pictures being shared of burning or damaged mosques or collections of sticks etc are all fake and are not from Tripura. Over a hundred Twitter accounts were booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for spreading misinformation regarding the violence at Panisagar. 

 

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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