A tweet claims that Buddhists were forced to chant Jai Shri Ram by a few goons. The tweet was accompanied by a 30-second video which showed a woman and man being harassed by a group of people forcing them to say Jai Shri Ram and questioning their arrival in the given location.
The tweet was posted by Advocate Somnath Bharti, Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) and founder member of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as per his Twitter account description on 21 July, 2020. It received nearly 400 likes and 292 retweets at the time of writing this fact check.
Fact Check/ Verification
Using a relevant keyword search on Google we came across the same video posted with slightly different claims on Twitter. One of them was by a journalist/ media researcher and claimed those in the video to be Christian were pressured to chant Jai Shri Ram slogans. As per this tweet, which garnered 3.8K likes and 3K retweets, the incident occurred in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh on 19 April, 2020. See the full post below:
A Facebook post from April claimed that Christians in Himachal Pradesh were forced to say Jai Shri Ram by VHP terrorists.
Another tweet which went viral in April with 1.3K likes and 1.6K retweets claimed the same, adding the location of the incident to be Yola Cantt Ward No. 1 of Yol Cantonment area adjacent to Dharamshala in Himachal.
A tweet thread to the above post linked a Dainik Bhaskar article from April detailing this incident. With a photo of the woman appearing in the video, the news article said that Hari Bahadur and his wife Nisha arrived in Yola Cantonment and were approached by members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a right-wing Hindu organisation.
As per the Dainik article, members of the VHP assumed that Bahadur and his wife were preaching Christianity and misleading people under the guise of religion and therefore, pressured to chant Jai Shri Ram.
On further research, we came across an Indian Express (IE) news article from 24 April 2020 which referred to the widely-shared video in context. Bahadur expressed the following to IE:
“We visited our friends following the birth of their child. But some residents gathered there and started misbehaving with us. They said they had received some complaints about us carrying out religious conversion and even misbehaved with my pregnant wife.”
An article on Contact, a digest of Tibet issues, news and community information, mentioned the same incident quoting Himachal police chief SR Mardi.
We reached out to the now-retired SR Mardi, DGP of Bilaspur at the time for clarification on the incident. Quoted in the above two articles, he refused to comment on the incident since he’s retired and no longer in the police force.
The tweets and news articles mentioned above make it clear that a Christian couple was forced to chant Jai Shri Ram in Himachal Pradesh by members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Therefore, the initial claim posted by Advocate Somnath Bharti of the couple being Buddhists is incorrect.
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