‘BJP IT Cell Provides Content,’ Says Serial Fake News Peddler
“I believe my posts reach to an audience of more than 1 crore people every day,” claims Vikrama Sharma.
Earlier this week, China blocked India’s bid to designate Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) Chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist on a proposal in the UN Security Council to ban him following the Pulwama terror attack.
Even as the External Affairs Ministry said it was “disappointed by this outcome”, fake news based on the development are doing rounds.
A post put up by Facebook page NAMO claims that China, at the United Nations (UN), argued that they are not in a position to recognise Masood Azhar as a terrorist, as the Opposition in India does not do so.
TRUE OR FALSE
The claim is false. The Quint could establish that China has not issued any such statement.
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
The post had been shared on more than 9,000 occasions till this article was written.
Soon after China blocked the bid to ban Azhar, senior journalist Aditya Raj Kaul tweeted a “copy of the note sent by UNSC 1267 Committee Secretariat to all its members on China placing a ‘technical hold’”. The note suggests nothing remotely related to the claim.
The 1267 Committee or the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee was established on 15 October 1999 pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1267.
Further, an excerpt from Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang's press conference on 14 March reveals China’s rationale behind blocking the bid. When asked why China “resorted to such a move”, Kang said:
The 1267 Committee of the UN Security Council has clear criteria for the procedures to list terrorist organisations or individuals. China is conducting a comprehensive and (an) in-depth review on the listing request put forth by the relevant countries. We still need more time and that is why we decided to put a technical hold on it. It complies with the rules of procedure of the 1267 Committee. We hope that relevant actions taken by the 1267 Committee will help countries concerned to settle their issues through dialogue and consultation and avoid adding more complex factors to regional peace and stability. China will continue its communication and coordination with all relevant parties in a constructive and responsible way to properly settle this issue.Lu Kang, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson
The Face Behind ‘NAMO’
The post in reckoning also includes a message asking people to consider their decision before voting for the Opposition in the upcoming elections. The post is then, signed off by a certain ‘Vikrama Sharma’, who is also tagged in the post.
Sharma’s Facebook profile suggests that he is the ‘Co-Admin cum Editor’ of the NAMO page. More importantly, or rather alarmingly, this is not the first occasion where The Quint has found the page peddling fake news.
In one of the posts (now deleted), he refers to a snapshot from a viral video which claimed that 200 dead bodies were shifted from Balakot in Pakistan – the site of recent air strikes by the Indian Air Force.
However, it has now been found out that the video is an old and unrelated one.
Earlier, the page had put up another post claiming that the RSS-affiliated student union ABVP had won by a ‘huge margin’ at a Kerala University student body election.
But as it turned out, the claim was fake.
Vikrama Sharma’s BJP Link
Speaking to The Quint, Vikrama said the content for his posts are provided by the BJP’s IT cell. “I was made a content writer for the PMO India page two months ago, after the party took notice of the reach of my posts. Now, the IT cell provides me content which I disseminate through Facebook and WhatsApp.”
“I believe my posts reach to an audience of more than 1 crore people every day,” boasts Sharma, adding that he handles six Facebook pages and is active on more than 30 WhatsApp groups and 10-15 Facebook groups.
He has however, deactivated his Twitter and Instagram accounts, which he says give him a ‘headache’.
He also said that he gave up BJP’s party membership as he was more inclined towards “writing – a knack that gets nurtured in his role as a content producer for the party”.
As Vikrama rose through the ranks of BJP’s social media network, he rubbed shoulders with those higher up in the party. Sharma’s Facebook profile shows him hugging one Kamal Sharma, who is in turn, the former state president for BJP in Punjab.
“Vikrama is one of our more active social media warriors,” attested Kamal Sharma, while speaking to The Quint.
Moreover, the Twitter handle of PMO India: Report Card is followed by BJP IT Cell Head Amit Malviya and Karnataka MLA KJ George.
Going into the election season, Vikrama says the objective is to bring Narendra Modi back in power. “Kaho Dil Se, Modi Phir Se,” he says, signing off with the promise of forwarding content for the PMO India page, to this reporter, on WhatsApp.
(Editor’s note: This story was updated on 5 April at 4:47 pm to replace the deleted posts with screenshots where possible.)
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