Amidst Rumours of Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan donating money for the rehabilitation of illegal settlements brought down by the anti-encroachment drive, propaganda website Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair was seen celebrating to have collected Rs 1 crore in his crowdfunding for the same. During the campaign, there were rumours of Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan participating in it, which were later found to be untrue. The alleged fact-checker, however, missed an opportunity to do a check on the fake news that would in turn sabotage the influence of his pet project.
One Crore in 24 hours! Thanks to everyone for coming together for this cause. To everyone who donated, To everyone who amplified, to everyone who shared it among your family and friends on whatsapp. ❤️🙏 pic.twitter.com/ddtIvOUpet— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) April 23, 2022
On April 20, Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair announced to start a fundraising campaign to help people whose buildings and shops were demolished. Recently, anti-encroachment drives have geared up in certain states of India, where illegal houses of criminals are being brought down with bulldozers. Zubair also asked for local volunteer help to document the details of the ‘victims’, who had built illegal properties. The fundraiser was set up for the rehabilitation of settlements in Khargone, Jahangirpuri, and other locations on Ketto, hosted by controversial NGO Miles2Smile.
Please share above link to you family and friends on whatsapp who wound want to donate to Khargone, Karauli, Sendhwa, Jahangirpuri & Roorkee.— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) April 22, 2022
A fundraising campaign was started after various states including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and the New Delhi Municipal Corporation authorities in the national capital, had razed down buildings belonging to encroachers. It was now time for Alt News co-founder to put out a tweet to support the fundraiser, including several other left-liberal ‘journalists’.
Soon, a Twitter user AminaaKausar claimed that actor Hrithik Roshan donated Rs 1 Lakh for the rehabilitation of illegal encroachers by posting screenshots which had the name Hrithik Roshan as the top donor. After several Twitter users questioned the validity of the actor’s identity, the handle Amina claimed that she had validated it. When OpIndia checked the fundraiser to get more information, the name Hrithik Roshan does not appear in the list of top donors. It is to be noted that, on Ketto, you can put any name while registering the account or making the donation and it will show that name. It does not matter if it matches your real name or the name on the card or account that you have used.
The provision by Ketto to go anonymous while doing a contribution makes the whole claim even more suspicious. Had it been Hrithik Roushan contributing to it, there would have been PR agencies working to get the message to be spread across. Or else, the actor would have himself confirmed it. Last year, when Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharam ran crowdfunding for covid relief in India, they released a video that was attached to the raiser on the Ketto website. While there is no confirmation from Hrithik Roshan so far, the self-styled ‘fact-checkers’ who promoted the campaign, did everything to ignore the attempts of attaching Hrithik Roshan’s name to the fundraiser.
The ecosystem, especially the ‘fact-checkers’ which sought money to help the ‘victims’ of action against encroachments, conveniently let the rumour of Hrithik Roshan contributing the money do rounds on social media. In this way, the actor was made an illegitimate ambassador of the campaign, which could have influenced people to donate money to the campaign. When the news of Roshan’s false identity in the contribution broke, the hosts did not attempt to verify the fake news to spread on the internet. The possibility of this being an intended motive cannot be denied, since Ketto allows any name to be associated with the donated money.
The so-called ‘fact-checkers’ chose to not fact-check the dubious claim that Hrithik Roshan had donated to the fund they were actively promoting. This cast aspersions in many people’s minds that the fundraiser may also be dubious and the money collected may be misappropriated the way others have been accused of doing it in recent past.
Rana Ayyub’s dubious fundraiser
Washington Post columnist Rana Ayyub is facing an investigation after the ED attached assets worth Rs 1.77 crores with an allegation of stifling funds from three campaigns run by her on the crowdfunding platform Ketto. Starting from April 2020, Ayyub made false claims about helping families in need in the time of Covid-19, while it was found that she had collected substantial amounts of money through three fundraising campaigns on Ketto from she failed to utilise most of the funds. This money was lying unutilised in her personal bank accounts, for which she had to pay a substantial amount as income tax.
Rana Ayyub accepted that out of Rs 2.69 crore she had collected through Ketto, she could utilise only Rs 40 lakh. The three campaigns that Ayyub had run on Ketto were Funds for slum dwellers and farmers from April to May 2020, Relief work for Assam, Bihar and Maharashtra from June to Sept 2020, and Help for Covid-19 impacted people in India from May to June 2021. However, she has not yet given a break up of the amount spent citing that the money was collected through three different fundraising campaigns.