A video of a heavily decorated bus with lights, flowers, and a green Islamic flag is being shared on social media to claim that the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra has started a new bus service in Osmanabad.
The claim states that the bus – which is decorated in the name of Nabi (prophet) and carries Pakistan’s flag – is an act of appeasement by the Maharashtra government.
However, we found that the claim is misleading.
The bus was decorated to celebrate an event called Urs, which is an annual event to mark the death anniversary of a Sufi saint.
The flag on the bus is an Islamic flag and not Pakistan's flag.
Speaking to The Quint, Osmanabad Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP), Navneet Kawat, said that the custom has been followed for many years and has nothing to do with any political party or leader.
We also accessed older pictures from the event, which prove that it isn't a recent practice started by the current government.
The message along with the video states that the Maharashtra government has started this new bus service to 'appease the Muslim population of Osmanabad'.
It also states that the bus is decorated with 'Pakistan flag and people are singing the praise of Allah'.
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
We carefully watched the video and saw the words ‘Gazi Express’ and ‘Osmanabad Division’ on the bus.
(Note: Swipe right to see the image.)
The words ‘Gazi Express’ are visible on the word.
(Source: Altered by The Quint)
The bus carries text reading ‘Osmanabad Division’ on its windshield.
(Source: Altered by The Quint)
Here, we also noticed that the flag that was referred to as the 'Pakistan flag' in the claim, was an Islamic flag.
OLD VISUALS PROVE THAT IT'S NOT A NEW 'INITIATIVE' BY MVA
Next, we used relevant keywords to look for related information on social media, and came across a Facebook post from 2017 by one 'Nagesh Sutar'.
This showed a similarly decorated bus and the location was marked as 'Osmanabad'.
In the comments section, Sutar responded to another user saying that the bus had been decorated by them on the occasion of Urs.
Urs, or Urus, is an event marking the death anniversary of a Sufi saint in Islam, which is celebrated like a wedding, as the saint’s passing is considered to be a joyous event which is the culmination of their lifelong desire to meet Allah (God).
We then got in touch with a state transport committee member, MA Khan, who has previously been involved in the event, who told us that this has been going on for 53 years.
"We book the newest bus available for the event and decorate it every year. We also cook large volumes of food, and distribute it to the attendees. This event is not restricted to Muslims, everybody participates.”MA Khan
Khan shared some photos of the bus being decorated for Urs.
Khan also told us that a similar practice was carried out on other occasions like Ambedkar Jayanti and Shivaji Jayanti.
'AN ANNUAL EVENT': POLICE, LOCAL REPORTERS ON VIRAL CLAIM
We then got in touch with a local reporter, Balaji Vitthal Nirphal, who told us that the bus was indeed decorated for Urs. He said that the buses have been decorated every year for more than 30 years, but this practise has been on hold since the pandemic started.
Speaking to The Quint, Osmanabad ASP, Navneet Kawat, confirmed the same, adding that people from the State Transport (ST) department have been decorating the bus as a sign of respect of their own volition.
“This is an old tradition. People from the ST department decorate it for Urs every year, but it hasn’t happened since 2019 due to COVID-19. Hindu and Muslim committees work together behind this. There’s no religious or political reason, no particular minister has started this.”Navneet Kawat, Osmanabad Additional SP
Evidently, this video doesn't show Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government's initiative to “appease” the Muslim community in Maharashtra’s Osmanabad.
The practise has been followed for decades and shows the bus being decorated for the occasion of Urs.
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