Fake news, old images widely shared on social media

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Kolkata: Only hours after Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress registered a landslide victory in West Bengal polls, reports of party-versus-party violence that left at least 12 people dead so far, poured in.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also spoke to West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, expressing anguish over the reports of violence, and an alarmingly worrisome law and order situation.

What we know so far?

The violence allegedly spread across the state, with BJP and all other major political parties calling the TMC as major perpetrators. BJP alleged that at least six of its workers and supporters were killed in attacks and claimed one of its offices was torched.

Modi’s call was followed by party president JP Nadda’s visit to the state. He later met families of several BJP workers who were allegedly targeted in the violence.

The BJP has also called for a nationwide protest on Wednesday against the violence in West Bengal.

TMC too alleged that its workers had been attacked and killed by members of the BJP. Accusing BJP of “growing desperate for President’s rule” and instigating the post poll “communal clashes” that have also claimed five TMC workers and one from the ISF, Mamata Banerjee vowed to “tackle the situation” after taking oath on Wednesday.

Denying charges posed against TMC, Banerjee had asked people to show restraint and not be involved in any form of violence.

Union home ministry on Tuesday sought a factual report from the state government on the incidents of attack.

Authenticity check of viral images, news

That being said, Twitter and other social media platforms are flooded with images of post-poll violence in West Bengal. From burned vehicles and shops, to goons attacking, unrelated images are being used to showcase the violence.

Several fact-checks run by Alt News, Boom, Quint and others revealed that old incidents of violence, some of them as old as 2015 and 2016, are widely in circulation now.

One such post showed a mob gathered in front of a building in flames.

Alt News’ fact check showed that the image in question is from the clash between supporters of the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) and the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) at Vidyasagar College in May 2019, during a road show by union home minister Amit Shah.

Another Twitter user shared a picture of mob violence with the hashtag #BengalBurning. She wrote that the image shows the “condition of Hindus” in Bengal. BJP Tamil Nadu IT and social media head Nirmal Kumar shared the picture too and used the hashtag #PresidentRuleInBengal.

Alt News’ reverse-image search led to a report in Hindustan Times from March 30, 2018. “A police patrol party in Raniganj, Burdwan, where clashes and incidents of arson were reported following a Ram Navami procession,” reads its description. The image has been credited to PTI.

The same organization’s another fact check revealed that a mob attacking police in Odisha was shared as post-poll violence in West Bengal.

In another incident that is widely being shared are reports of two female BJP polling booth agents who were gang-raped and killed by TMC goons. Following the reports, West Bengal Police has denied the report of BJP woman being raped and termed it fake. 

Screenshot of West Bengal police’s tweet terming the report as ‘fake’.

Birbhum SP, NN Tripathi too on Tuesday said that the allegations of rape are false.