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No Electricity in Jama Masjid? Republic TV Shares Fake News

The fake story on electricity bills left unpaid by Imam Bukhari was all over social media and Republic TV.

Updated
Opinion
4 min read
Image used for representational purpose. 
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“Imam Bukhari has money to buy luxurious cars but can’t pay electricity bills,” claimed Republic TV while reporting that electricity has been suspended at Jama Masjid on account of overdue bills.

Inside Jama Masjid is a complete blackout” stated the Republic TV reporter as camera panned to the mosque. The crew then went outside Imam Bukhari’s residence, counting the number of parked cars and informing the viewers about the models.

What was so far fake news circulated by sites like Postcard News and ‘Hindutva’ handles on social media made it to national television. Let us look at this story about Rs 4 crores of unpaid bills by Delhi’s Jama Masjid that was doing the rounds on social media before being picked up by Republic TV.

The Fake News Cycle

The story of non-payment of electricity bills by Jama Masjid has been coming up every few months since 2012. This time it came up soon after the sentencing of godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in an attempt to draw unrelated comparisons.

Though the first tweet did not say it was recent news, a subsequent tweet by a user, @ArunrBits on 28 August claimed that Jama Masjid in Delhi and its 2,000 shops haven’t paid electricity bills since 1947.

The tweet provided no links to the news but it caught the fancy of many like-minded people. The tweet has been shared more than 3,700 times.

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When asked for the source, @ArunrBits shared an Indian Express article from September 2012. The article reported that Jama Masjid had run up a power bill of Rs 4.16 crores as the amount had not been paid for the past several years.

It mentioned a dispute between the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid and the Delhi Waqf Board, as both held each other responsible for clearing the dues and said, “With neither ready to take up responsibility, residents in the vicinity of the mosque have been suffering as power distribution company (discom) BSES often snaps power supply to the area as penalty for unpaid dues.”

When there is fake news to be shared, Postcard News is at the forefront. In an article titled, “Huge Jolt for Imam Bukhari!! BSES cuts Power Supply for Jama Masjid due to huge pending electricity bill”, the website claimed: “It seems Bure Din has started for Baba and Imams in India.”
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It goes on to say: “One of India’s biggest and most famous mosques, Delhi’s Jama Masjid, has plunged into darkness over unpaid electricity bill of Rs 4.16 crores.”

It quoted BSES and Waqf board in its story. These were the bits that were picked from the 2012 news piece, but neither the source nor the date were stated.

No Electricity in Jama Masjid? Republic TV Shares Fake News
(Photo Courtesy: AltNews/Screengrab of Post Card News)

Those like Tapan Ghosh, the president of Hindu Samhati, who take Postcard News articles quite seriously, promptly cited this as a proof of India changing under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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BSES Clarifies

In response to queries, BSES clarified that it is an old issue that was resolved long back.

BSES also retweeted the tweet of Hindustan Times journalist Sweta Goswami to confirm that power supply to Jama Masjid has not been cut and there are no outstanding dues.

Alt News spoke to the BSES spokesperson who confirmed that there was no such power cut due to non-payment of dues.

It is a fake news. Power supply in Jama Masjid is normal like always.
BSES spokesperson

He also stated these were baseless rumors started by people on social media. He told Alt News that there was an issue five years ago which was resolved at that time.

He stated that in 2012, the non-payment was due to a dispute between the mosque and the Waqf board and that had been settled long back.

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Alt News also spoke to Tariq Bukhari who is Imam Bukhari’s son. Bukhari brushed off the recent reports as false news started by someone on Twitter.

He confirmed that BSES had not cut the power supply. When asked why the mosque appears dark in the footage shown by Republic TV, Bukhari said he is not sure what time the footage was taken.

He explained that the mosque is not lit with floodlights. Gate number 3 of the mosque is closed after the sunset prayers and the mosque can be accessed from the main gate.

If you look carefully at the footage, there are lights inside and on the steps. There is sufficient lighting inside till the mosque is shut an hour after the night (Isha) prayers.
Tariq Bukhari, Imam Bukhari’s son
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It is understandable for right-wing Hindutva Twitter handles to spread fake news and jump with joy at the thought of supposed BSES action against Jama Masjid. But one expected better from a national television channel.

The news about the past dues and the dispute between the Imam and the Wakf board is five-years-old.

Both Bukhari and BSES confirmed that power supply has been regular and there were no power cuts.

BSES had already tweeted debunking the story as a rumor. Surely Republic TV could have reconfirmed any non-payment with BSES before airing the story.

(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

(This article was originally published on AltNews. It has been republished with permission.)

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