Communal Disinformation Takes Centre Stage After Shraddha Walkar's Murder Case
We found at least six instances where unrelated videos/photos were given a false communal spin.
The gruesome murder of Shraddha Walkar by her live-in partner Aaftab Poonawala in New Delhi's Mehrauli has once again led to users on social media sharing unrelated videos and photographs to push the 'love jihad' narrative.
The conspiracy theory has been widely popularised by the right-wing accusing Muslim men of converting Hindu girls to Islam in the guise of love.
In the last ten days, we have seen close to 3,280 posts with the '#LoveJihad' on public pages and groups on Facebook with over 7,00,000 interactions, as per the data from CrowdTangle.
Poonawala was arrested on 12 November, however, police released the details of the murder on 14 November and the media reporting began subsequently.
The Quint's WebQoof team noticed a sharp rise after in the posts after 16 November, with close to 1,60,000 interactions only on 17 November.
Old, Previously Debunked Claims Resurface
In 2019, we had debunked a claim which stated that a Muslim boy lured a Hindu girl and was going to 'murder her'. The video showed the girl with an injury on her cheek and some people beating a man wearing a red shirt.
The same video has now resurfaced with several users sharing it on the back of the Shraddha murder case.
The video in the tweet above was viewed by over 40,000 users alone.
However, the police had dismissed the communal claim in 2019 and said that both the people were from the Hindu community. But the facts of the matter didn't dissuade people from sharing it with a communal undertone.
And this is certainly not the only instance.
Another video, which has now been clubbed with a monologue of a girl where she seems to be talking about her relationship with a Muslim man, is being shared to claim that the girl was later killed by her partner.
We had debunked this claim earlier last month and found out that both the partners belonged to the same community and there was, yet again, no communal angle to it. The incident took place at IFFCO Chowk in Gurugram, Haryana.
And if this wasn't enough, a video from Russia (again, debunked earlier) was shared to push the same narrative. No points for guessing, there is no truth to the 'love jihad' narrative here either.
While these are some of the older claims that resurfaced, we have also debunked more such claims that started doing the rounds after the Mehrauli incident.
Some of them can be read here:
Distressing Visuals, Inflammatory Captions Make Claims Go Viral
While there has certainly been an uptick in such claims being shared on the internet after the Shraddha murder case, it is not the first time that there has been an effort to legitimise terms like 'love jihad' relying on misinformation.
Most of the times, these claims are shared with inflammatory and aggressive captions, which tend to manipulate an individuals' emotions.
Take this for example: The recent incident of a murder in a Jabalpur resort was shared with a false communal angle where the accused, who has been identified as Hemant Rajendra Bhadane, was called a Muslim on social media.
Even the visuals that were shared online were disturbing. It showed a woman lying in a pool of blood, seemingly gasping for breath.
Another incident, where a young girl's dead body was found in a suitcase along the Yamuna Expressway, was also given a communal spin.
The claim, like the previous one, had a disturbing photograph of woman covered in blood lying inside a red suitcase. The text was warning 'Hindu girls to stay away from Muslim men'.
But, it's not just social media, some of the right-wing news personalities like Sudarshan News Editor-in-Chief Suresh Chavhanke shifted the focus from the case and focused on the religion of the two in the Shraddha Walkar case.
Chavhanke even tweeted details of an interfaith couple’s wedding reception invitation and linked it to the Shraddha murder case, forcing the couple to call off their function in Vasai, on the outskirts of Mumbai.
Similar misogynistic and communal debates were held on other Indian TV channels while covering the murder case. This sort of coverage, combined with jokes and memes about the case, not only dilutes a case, but also reinforces confirmation bias.
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