News Analysis |
Indian Hindutva propaganda cells on the social media have been actively spreading a photo on the web and other areas in order to defame Dalits fighting back against Higher caste violence in Koregaon. The black propaganda attempt shows how Hindutva extremists use fake news to pursue their agenda similar to Neo-Nazis in the west.
A photograph has gone viral on social media with the claim that it is representative of a Dalit protest. In the photo, bike-borne cadres can be seen raising a flag which, it is claimed, is the national flag of Pakistan. The caption accompanying the photograph says ‘Dalit Andolan, Jhanda Pakistani, Yehi hai asli kahani’ (Dalit protest, Pakistani flag, this is the real story). The image with the caption has been shared widely on social media across various platforms.
It harkens back to the debate over intolerance which erupted after the Dadri lynching, in which Hindutva was pitted against those wanting a more pluralistic India as well as Indian minorities, mainly Muslims.
Postcard News was among those who reported that the Pakistani flag was a part of the protest rally. Another caption accompanying the photograph read “What are Pakistani flags doing in a Dalit rally? By spreading this poison of casteism, neither will Maharashtra break nor will the dream of a divided India be realized.” Postcard News is a Hindutva site notorious for peddling fake news and hate material in India.
The image is being circulated in the aftermath of the violence that erupted at Koregaon, 30 km from Pune following the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon by the Dalit community. Mahesh Vikram Hegde who is the founder of the fake news website PostCard News and is followed by PM Modi on twitter was among those who joined the bandwagon.
Media will not dare to show this video! It was not dalit agitation, check what chants were shouted and what flag was raised during Mumbai violence!
— Mahesh Vikram Hegde (@mvmeet) January 4, 2018
While it could not be verified when and where the photograph was taken, in the aftermath of the Bhima-Koregaon violence, this image has been used extensively to portray the Dalit agitation as anti-national in nature. Regardless of the veracity of the image, a closer look at it will reveal that it is not the Pakistani flag that was raised.
It is in fact the banner of Islam. The Pakistani flag has a white band on the left side. Also, there is a difference in the colour and the angle of the crescent in both flags. The use of the Pakistani flag as a marker of “treason” is a standard tactic used by Hindutva activists to defame their opponents.
As of now the whole matter has morphed into a debate between those who wish to impose the RSS (parent organization of the BJP) brand of Hindutva on the rest of India and those who resist it.
The use of the “Pro Pakistan” slander gained prominence for the first time in mainland India during the JNU protests against creeping Hindutva extremism in the campuses. The JNU imbroglio started when a group of students asserted to be “leftwing” organized an event on 9th February, 2016 to mark the hanging of Afzal Guru, which many had termed as extrajudicial killing.
The JNU administration, after protests by the Akhil Bharitya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), disallowed the protests citing misrepresentation of the event. The organizing student group still carried on with the event and held a cultural programme, art and photo exhibition. This was met by a heavy demonstration by ABVP outside the JNU VC office and demanded expulsion of the event organizers asserting that “anti national” slogans had been raised during the event.
The Indian government waded into the issue with the Home Minister Rajnath Singh tweeting that there would be no tolerance for those who rose “anti national” slogans. The JNU Student Union (JNUSU) asserted that none of the event organizers were involved in the sloganeering, however that did little to deter Rajnath Singh who alleged that the protestors had support from Jamaat-ud- Dawa (JuD) leader Hafiz Saeed only to later find out that he was quoting a parody account.
This is evident in the BJP’s strategy of depicting every rival as a threat to national security, implicit supporter of Pakistan, backer of the Kashmiri liberation movement and having a soft corner for militants and Naxalites.
A significant turn took place when Delhi police acting on a complaint filed by BJP MP Maheish Girri, arrested the JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar. Charged with sedition under section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, he faces a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. Seven students have been sent notices to appear before the university’s high level committee probing the matter. Eight students including Kanhaiya have been debarred from any academic activity till the inquiry is over according to JNU registrar Bhupinder Zutshi.
The arrests developed into a nationwide controversy as political parties condemned the crackdown and visited the campus to support the students. Amnesty International criticized the arrest, calling it unwarranted. The University teachers have censured the arrest as “excessive police action”.
Meanwhile Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiran Rijiju said the JNU would not be allowed to become a hub for “anti-national” activities and Jawahar Yadav, former Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, tweeted, “I only have this to say to the girls protesting at JNU that prostitutes are better than them as they sell their bodies and not the country.”
This is the bedrock of the “anti national” allegations against the event. However, a twist occurred as JNUSU released a video showing that the students raising the slogan were actually members of the ABVP itself.
The greatest point of contention being raised by the Indian media and government supporters is the raising of the slogan “Pakistan Zindabad” (Long live Pakistan) during the 9th February event. This is the bedrock of the “anti national” allegations against the event. However, a twist occurred as JNUSU released a video showing that the students raising the slogan were actually members of the ABVP itself.
The narrative used by the BJP against the protesting students and the now current fake news tactic against the Dalits draws parallel with those which it uses against its rivals. This is evident in the BJP’s strategy of depicting every rival as a threat to national security, implicit supporter of Pakistan, backer of the Kashmiri liberation movement and having a soft corner for militants and Naxalites.
Read more: A new idiom of Dalit assertion
As of now the whole matter has morphed into a debate between those who wish to impose the RSS (parent organization of the BJP) brand of Hindutva on the rest of India and those who resist it. It harkens back to the debate over intolerance which erupted after the Dadri lynching, in which Hindutva was pitted against those wanting a more pluralistic India as well as Indian minorities, mainly Muslims.