How the BJP IT Cell Head Amit Malviya Weaponises Misinformation
On 15 January, Amit Malviya, national in charge of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) IT cell, shared a video of a random group of persons insinuating that the women of Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh are protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) for money.
His allegation was found baseless by a collaborative Alt News-Newslaundry investigation. But this hardly discouraged Malviya.
Two days hence, he shared a photograph of an elderly man eating biryani at Shaheen Bagh. In a bizarre tweet, Malviya wrote, “Proof of Biryani being distributed at Shaheen Bagh!”
Was the BJP leader alluding that the act of eating food at a protest site is an offence or morally incorrect? Should the protesters be participating on empty stomachs? Only he can answer.
Malviya’s misleading tweets are not limited to Shaheen Bagh.
Alt News has been monitoring his social media presence for a while now and has found that he repeatedly uses misinformation to discredit individuals, communities, opposition parties, leaders and movements.
With him being the official ringleader of BJP’s online propaganda machinery, the misinformation promoted by Malviya has a dangerous ripple effect.
His false claims are echoed by party members and supporters of the BJP, thus giving rise to large-scale misinformation campaigns.
Misinformation Targeting Anti-CAA Protests
1. Falsely claimed that anti-CAA protesters in Lucknow chanted ‘Pakistan Zindabad’
On 28 December 2019, Malviya tweeted a video of an anti-CAA protest at Lucknow’s Clock Tower and claimed that ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans were raised in the rally.
Alt News found that the claim was false.
The protesters did not raise pro-Pakistan slogans but said ‘Kashif saab zindabad’.
Kashif saab aka Kashif Ahmad is the Lucknow AIMIM chief. In a conversation with Alt News, AIMIM UP President Haji Shaukat Ali informed that Kashif Ahmad was leading the 13 December protest.
2. Falsely claimed AMU students chanted ‘Hinduon ki kabr khudegi’
A video of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) students protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act was circulated on social media with the claim that they raised slogans against Hindus. Among those who shared it was Malviya.
The students were actually raising slogans against Hindutva, Savarkar, BJP, Brahminism and casteism.
They said, “हिंदुत्व की कब्र खुदेगी, AMU की छाती पर, सावरकर की कब्र खुदेगी, AMU की छाती पर, ये बीजेपी की कब्र खुदेगी, AMU की छाती पर, ब्राह्मणवाद की कब्र खुदेगी, AMU की छाती पर, ये जातीवाद की कब्र” (Grave of Hindutva will be dug on the chest of AMU, grave of Savarkar will be dug on the chest of AMU, this BJP’s grave will be dug on the chest of AMU, Brahminism’s grave will be dug on the chest of AMU, Casteism’s grave will be dug).
3. Journalist Arfa Khanum’s speech on CAA shared with distorted interpretation
“The Islamists want CAA protests to be ‘inclusive’ only till the time you, the non-Muslims, start accepting their religious identity, beliefs and supremacist slogans as gospel,” tweeted BJP IT Cell Head Amit Malviya while sharing a video of journalist Arfa Khanum.
The speech delivered by Arfa Khanum at Aligarh Muslim University was clipped and misrepresented.
They claimed that the journalist was promoting the establishment of Islamic society and urging protesters to maintain a pretence of support to non-Muslims until such a society is created.
However, Khanum was stating the complete opposite. She urged protesters to not use religious slogans to maintain the secular character of the movement.
Misinformation Targeting Congress, Rahul Gandhi
1. Attempted to portray Nehru as an immoral man
In 2017, the BJP leader had shared a collage of images of first Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, with women. Most of the photographs were of the former PM with his sister or niece.
Malviya later took down his tweet but this hardly stopped others from sharing the collage.
2. Shared mischievously clipped video of Manmohan Singh
Amit Malviya tweeted a video of Dr Manmohan Singh on 27 November 2018, where the former PM can be heard saying, “The governments of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were very good.” This clip seemed to suggest that Singh was appreciating the BJP state governments.
As it turned out, Malviya shared a mischievously clipped video of the former PM’s speech made the previous day. The former PM’s exact words were, “My relationships with the government of Madhya Pradesh, the government of Chhattisgarh were very good. We never discriminated against BJP-ruled states.”
3. Falsely claimed that Rahul Gandhi signed the Somnath temple register as a non-Hindu
Congress is one of the favourite targets of Malviya. In another tweet from 2017, he had claimed that then party president Rahul Gandhi had signed the register at Somnath temple as a ‘non-Hindu’.
However, handwriting analysis showed that the handwriting in the register did not match with Gandhi’s publically available handwritten notes.
4. The infamous potato-gold machine claim
In 2017, a video of Rahul Gandhi saying, “ऐसी मशीन लगाऊंगा इस साइड से आलू घुसेगा उस साइड से सोना निकलेगा…” (Will install such a machine that if a potato is inserted from one end, gold will come out from the other end) was shared by the BJP IT Cell head.
This was a clipped video of a much longer speech where Rahul Gandhi was actually taking a dig at PM Modi during an address in Gujarat’s Patan on 12 November 2017.
The complete video was uploaded on the Congress president’s YouTube channel where at 17:50 minutes he can be heard saying, “कुछ महीने पहले यहाँ बाढ़ आयी ५०० करोड़ रुपये दूंगा, (पीएम मोदी ने) एक भी रूपया नहीं दिया. आलू के किसानो को कहा ऐसी मशीन लगाऊंगा इस साइड से आलू घुसेगा उस साइड से सोना निकलेगा…मेरे शब्द नहीं है नरेंद्र मोदीजी के शब्द है” (A few months ago there was a flood here and he (PM Modi) said he will give Rs 500 crore but not even a rupee was given. He told potato farmers, will install such a machine that if a potato is inserted from one end, gold will come out from the other end… these are not my words but Narendra Modiji’s words).
5. Falsely claimed Rahul Gandhi visited Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s Dera Sacha Sauda
In an August 2017 tweet, Amit Malviya claimed, “Rahul Gandhi visited Dera Sacha Sauda as recently as January 2017 to seek support. Congress rules Punjab. What quid pro quo did they promise?” He later deleted the tweet.
The screenshot of the article that Malviya posted is originally an Indian Express article dated 29 January 2017.
The article states, “With just a week to go for the Punjab Assembly elections, AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi Saturday visited Dera Sach Khand Ballan in Jalandhar, the biggest and the most influential among the Dalit Ravidassia community.” Gandhi did not visit Dera Sacha Sauda but Dera Sach Khand Ballan, whose head is Sant Niranjan Dass and not Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
Misinformation During Election Time
1. Misinformation ahead of 2019 Delhi elections
A video of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was shared by Amit Malviya ahead of 2019 Delhi elections. He claimed that a man was lynched at a Kejriwal roadshow.
Malviya did not tweet the complete picture. Other clips from the video show that Kejriwal was slapped by a person who was then thrashed by the CM’s supporters. Contrary to social media claims, the man was not lynched. However, he was brutally beaten.
2. Misinformation ahead of polling in West Bengal during 2019 Lok Sabha elections
Ahead of the Lok Sabha 2019 elections, Malviya tweeted an alleged ‘first-person’ account of a student of Vidyasagar College about the violence that erupted in the campus during BJP leader Amit Shah’s rally. The ‘student’ blamed the Trinamool Congress (TMC) for vandalising the bust of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar inside the varsity campus.
Incidentally, the same message was shared by numerous other individuals in the first person. The circulation of the identical message was also noticed by Twitter users. One of them sarcastically wrote, “Today, entire Facebook is ‘I am a Vidyasagar student’.”
Alt News published an investigative report after analysing visuals of the violence and speaking with faculty members and students of the college. We found that the allegations raised in the post shared by Malviya were misleading.
3. Misinformation shared after 2018 Telangana polls
In the aftermath of the Telangana assembly elections in 2018, in which the BJP suffered a setback, Malviya tweeted that the party, despite having a seven percent vote share in Telangana managed to win just one seat, whereas the Owaisi led AIMIM with a vote share of merely 2.7 percent bagged seven seats in the election.
While the numbers cited by Malviya were correct, the claim was misleading. This is because while the AIMIM had a vote share of 2.7 percent, the party had contested on merely eight seats, of which it won seven.
On the other hand, BJP had contested 118 out of 119 seats in the state Assembly. AIMIM thus has a far superior strike rate of 87.5 percent (seven out of eight) in comparison to the BJP’s dismal strike rate of 0.85 percent (one out of 118). The complete details are available on the website of the Election Commission.
Misinformation in Support of PM Modi
1. Falsely claimed PM Modi is the first ‘head of the state’ to visit Kumbh
Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a holy dip in the Ganges in the Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh on 24 January 2019. Soon after, Malviya tweeted that PM Modi is the“first head of state to visit Kumbh in all these years”.
Malviya’s claim was incorrect on two accounts. First, the prime minister is not the head of the state. S/he is the leader of the cabinet of ministers and the head of the executive branch of the government.
The President of India is the head of the state. Based on this, the first head of the state to visit Kumbh was the first Indian president Rajendra Prasad. Second, PM Modi is not the first prime minister to visit Kumbh. The first prime minister of the country, Jawaharlal Nehru, visited Kumbh in 1954.
2. Attempted to use Nobel winner’s name to endorse demonetisation
The BJP IT cell head claimed that Richard Thaler, the winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Economics, praised demonetisation.
“Really? Damn.”, tweeted Thaler when he was told about the introduction of Rs 2,000 note in place of the discontinued Rs 500 and 1,000 notes. Malviya’s tweet did not include this bit.
Thaler’s statement on demonetisation was, in fact, as follows: “The concept was good as a move to a cashless society to impede corruption but the rollout was deeply flawed and the introduction of the Rs 2,000 note makes the motivation for the entire exercise puzzling.”
Misinformation Targeting Individuals
1. Targets Yogendra Yadav via edited video clip after TV debate face-off
In a TV debate, Amit Malviya had accused Yogendra Yadav of playing caste politics. In response, Yadav challenged Malviya saying he would withdraw from public life if Malviya was able to produce any evidence to back his claim.
Malviya posted a video of Yogendra Yadav where he Yadav is seen and heard speaking to a crowd in Muslim dominated Mewat about his Muslim identity. “I usually don’t carry TV debates to social media but making an exception to expose Yogendra Yadav’s Janus face,” tweeted Malviya attaching a short video clip. The clip ended with the question, “When are you withdrawing from public life?”
In trying to ‘expose’ Yogendra Yadav for using his Muslim identity for votes, Malviya used an edited clip which was not even a part of an election rally.
2. Tried to malign Ravish Kumar by sharing a mischievously edited video clip
Below is a tweet posted by Malviya after the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh. In video, Kumar makes the following statement, “Jab tak yeh vyakti mafi nahin mangega aur mein apne party ke logo se kehta hoon ki yeh nationalist hindutva, nationalist nahin hai”.
However, if one hears the complete speech, the statement that Kumar made was, “cheen aur burma se jab woh laute to pehla kaam yehi kare ki woh dadhichi ko unfollow kare aur woh bataye ki unse kahe ki hamse galti hui hai. Jab tak yeh vyakti mafi nahin mangega aur mein party ke logo se kehta hoon ki yeh nationalist hindutva, nationalist nahin hai, yeh hum sab ko ek nagrik ki taur par pradhan mantri se maang karni chahiye.” Here, “woh” refers to PM Modi and Ravish Kumar is urging the prime minister to speak to his own party workers and tell them that people like Dadhichi are not true nationalists.
BJP IT Cell head Amit Malviya while managing the party’s social media activities has shared a deluge of misinformation mainly targetting the opposition. In most of the above examples, he has not taken down his tweets despite fact-check stories debunking false claims. This not only shows a blatant disregard for the truth but also an intent to mislead.
(This story was first published on Alt News and has been republished with permission.)
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