Coronavirus reporting in India has taken a distinctly communal turn since news of the controversial Tablighi Jamaat gathering in New Delhi’s Nizamuddin area last month broke.
In light of this, a video from Gonikoppa in Karnataka’s Kodagu district has been shared on social media with the claim that Gonikoppa’s residents are calling for a boycott of Muslim-owned businesses and stores.
“In Madikeri, all Hindus have decided not to do any transaction with the Muslim because of their anti-nationalism activities” reads the text accompanying a video of a man addressing a crowd.
A Kannada variation of the same forwarded message and video states: ‘Gonikoppa residents have started boycotting Muslim shops’.
The same video was shared by a user on Monday, 6 April, with the same claim. The video has been viewed over 1,06,000 times since.
It must be noted that there is no direct mention of coronavirus but the video has been shared without any context.
TRUE OR FALSE?
The video has not been manipulated in any way but we could trace it back to November 2018, long before the outbreak of COVID-19. Secondly, it shows a speech delivered by a BJP leader MM Ravindra in context of a price war between traders over the price of pepper.
The video is being re-shared at the moment without any context to insinuate that people are boycotting Muslim traders.
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
After identifying the man in the video as MM Ravindra, former district president of Kodagu BJP, The Quint did a keyword search on Google and came across the same video, which had been uploaded on 22 November 2018.
In the video clip, Ravindra can be heard saying: “Today we are staging a symbolic protest here. In the coming days, let this be a serious warning. A decision has been taken today. If there is anybody opposing us, if there is anyone of the 10 percent opposing the 90 percent, I request everyone to only go to only our people for business so that the others have to shut shop and leave town in 2 months..(sic)”
Preliminary conversations with local journalists in Kodagu confirmed that the video that has been shared is not recent, and at least a year old.
Kodagu Superintendent of Police Dr Suman D Pennekar confirmed to The Quint, that the video is old and has been re-shared by some miscreants to spread fake news.
“The video has come to our attention. It is an old video related to pepper pricing between some pepper merchants in Gonikoppa. We have spoken to the speaker also, Mr Ravindra, and got video testimony from him about the context in which he had made the speech. We are tracking the fellows who have resurfaced it, going backwards to investigate how it resurfaced again. We have picked up a few people who had forwarded it and are questioning them (sic).”Dr Suman D Pennekar
It is clear that the video pre-dates the outbreak of coronavirus and is being used to stoke communal tensions by positioning the Hindu-Muslim angle with an unrelated video.
In a video statement to the police after the video went viral, Ravindra said that people should not fall for old videos and should support the government, the police and health department in their efforts to fight COVID-19.
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