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Couple Forced to Chant Jai Shri Ram In Himachal Pradesh Are Christians, Not Buddhists

Couple forced to chant Jai Shri Ram as members of the VHP assumed that Bahadur and his wife were preaching Christianity and misleading people.

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Christian couple forced to say Jai Shri Ram in HP

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. 

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=524617348226400

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.  

Dainik Bhaskar news article citing Christian couple in the claim.
Dainik Bhaskar news article citing Christian couple in the claim

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.” 

Indian Express news article citing Christian couple accused of conversion, asked to say Jai Shri Ram
Indian Express news article citing Christian couple accused of conversion, asked to say Jai Shri Ram

An article on Contact, a digest of Tibet issues, news and community information, mentioned the same incident quoting Himachal police chief SR Mardi.  

Contact, a digest of Tibetan issue cites the incident in context
Contact, a digest of Tibetan issue cites the incident in context

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. 

Conclusion

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.

Result: Misleading

Our Sources

Tweet: https://twitter.com/aarifshaah/status/1253024684309970945?s=20

https://www.bhaskar.com/amp/local/himachal/news/kangrahimachal-jai-shri-ram-made-video-to-pressure-him-to-speak-accused-of-propagating-christianity-127201437.html?__twitter_impression=true

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/jk-labourers-assaulted-christian-couple-accused-of-conversion-asked-to-say-jai-shri-ram-6376413/

Religious Discrimination in Himachal Pradesh


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Year Old Video Showing A Massive Crowd At Bangalore’s KR Market Goes Viral With Misplaced Context

On 31 July, BBMP Commissioner, N. Manjunatha Prasad, tweeted that Bangalore’s KR Market & Kalisapalya will continue to be closed till August 31, 2020.

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Massive crowd at Bangalore's KR Market

A Facebook post claims there was a massive crowd at Bangalore’s KR Market on the occasion of Varamahalaxmi ignoring social distancing norms amid the ongoing pandemic. 

Bangaloreans are not at all afraid of Corona. 1.Aug.2020KR Market today for Varamahalaxmi shopping.Govt is silent because they want business to flourish at any cost.Now all sensible Bangaloreans have to prepare themselves to brace the demon reaching their doorsteps through these people.🤔

Posted by Muthu Pugal on Saturday, August 1, 2020

Posted on the night of 1st August, 2020, the Facebook post states the following: 

“Bangaloreans are not at all afraid of Corona. 1.Aug.2020

KR Market today for Varamahalaxmi shopping.

Govt is silent because they want business to flourish at any cost.

Now all sensible Bangaloreans have to prepare themselves to brace the demon reaching their doorsteps through these people.”

The video in context has been widely circulated on social media platforms in the past few days after the Varamahalaxmi festival celebrated last week.  

Other social media users have posted this video with similar claims. See you can an examples of this below:

Fact Check/ Verification

Varamahalaxmi also known as Varalakshmi Vratam is celebrated to worship Goddess Varalakshmi in most South Indian states. Krishna Rajendra Market (KR Market) in Bangalore, Karnataka one of the largest wholesale markets in the city and is usually a popular location for shopping during this festival.

Owing to the continuing ban on large public gatherings, we did a Twitter advanced search to find any relevant notice/ announcements from Bangalore’s official government accounts. Through this we came across a 31 July tweet posted by Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP) Commissioner, N. Manjunatha Prasad, which stated an extended closure of KR Market and Kalisapalya till 31 August, 2020. 

The tweet read as follows: 

“KR Market & Kalisapalya will continue to be closed till August 31, 2020.

ಕೊರೋನಾ‌ ಸೋಂಕು ಹರಡುತ್ತಿರುವುದರಿಂದ, KR ಮಾರ್ಕೆಟ್ & ಕಲಾಸಿ ಪಾಳ್ಯ ಮಾರ್ಕೆಟ್ ನಲ್ಲಿ ಇಂದಿಗೆ ಕೊನೆಯಾಗುತ್ತಿರುವ ಸೀಲ್ ಡೌನ್ ಅವಧಿಯನ್ನು ದಿನಾಂಕ: 31-08-2020 ವರೆಗೆ ಮುಂದುವರೆಸಲಾಗಿದೆ. ‌ಸುರಕ್ಷತೆಯ ಆದ್ಯತೆಗೆ ಈ‌ ನಿರ್ಧಾರ ಕೈಗೊಳ್ಳಲಾಗಿದೆ.”

The above translates to: Due to the spread of coronavirus, the current sealed down period at KR Market & Kalasi Palya Market has been extended till 31-08-2020. This decision has been made to prioritize safety.

After reading the BBMP Commissioner’s tweet, we suspected the video to be shared with a misplaced context. So we did a Google search using the keywords: KR Market Varamahalaxmi bangalore. 

Google search results of keywords: KR Market Varamahalaxmi bangalore
Google search results of keywords: KR Market Varamahalaxmi bangalore

This led us to a Youtube video titled, “Varamahalakshmi croud at KR Market Bengaluru.” Posted on 8 August, 2019 we found this to be the same 3.35 minute video posted in the initial claim. Below are screenshots from both the videos which show a man wearing a blue jacket with white stripes looking over the crowd. 

Left: Screenshot from video in the claim  Right: Screenshot from 2019 video of KR Market
Left: Screenshot from video in the claim Right: Screenshot from 2019 video of KR Market

Further, we added the word “crowd” to our keyword search on Google and found more links to the same video posted in 2019. One of them is posted on Oneindia Kannada portal’s Youtube channel on 8 August, 2019.

You can see a shorter version of the same video posted by another user in 2019 here. And another one here

Conclusion 

The same video posted by social media users in August 2019, as well as the announcement of the extended closure of Bangalore’s KR market by BBMP Commissioner, make it clear that the video in context is old and has nothing to do with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

Result: Misplaced Context

Our Sources

BBMP Commissioner’s tweet

2019 Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M25-wfJ1q7A

Oneindia Kannada: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPULQDp3oxg

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=418419132359304

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdZ6sB4fsm0


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Viral Claim On Dr Valliyate, Chairman of PETA India Wearing Leather Accessories Is False

“PETA India staff live a vegan lifestyle, one in which no animal derived products are used, and we advocate vegan living every day.”

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Dr Valliyate, Chairman of PETA India allegedly wearing leather accessories

A tweet claims that Dr Manilal Valliyate, Chairman of PETA India wore a leather watch and shoes. The Twitter post by Siddharth Bakaria, member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and digital entrepreneur (according to his Twitter profile description) aims to show Dr Valliyate’s hypocrisy of wearing leather accessories and protecting animals

The above tweet has been widely shared on Twitter as it garnered 8.3K likes and 3.1K retweets at the time of writing this fact check. You can read similar claims made by other users below:

Fact Check/ Verification

We began our research with a Google reverse image search of the photograph in the claim. This led us to a February 2012 article on animalrahat.com. This article detailed an official name change of the Animal Rahat Sanctuary to Simone’s Place in honour of PETA’s most dedicated longtime volunteers, Simone Reyes. 

A February 2012 article on animalrahat.com
A February 2012 article on animalrahat.com

The above article included Dr Manilal Villayate’s photograph as seen in the claim. 

Photograph of Dr Manilal Valliyate, Chairman of PETA India in a 2012 Animal Rahat article.
Photograph of Dr Manilal Valliyate, Chairman of PETA India in a Animal Rahat article

Another article from February 2012 on animalrahat.com included Dr Valliyate’s photo from the claim. 

Without any credible news report to support the claim in context, we directly reached out to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India office via email. We received a response from Dr Valliyate himself who dismissed the contents of the claim which suggest he wore leather accessories. You can read his response to us below:

“This bullying trend of finding personal photos of PETA India staff, and pointing out shoes or other items supposedly made of leather, was started by those who support jallikattu—a bloodsport in which bulls are tortured to injury or death. Now, it has been picked up by other opponents of our work for trolling, and shared on social media. Most people these days know, however, that you can have a look that kills without killing animals! Vegan (non-animal) leather shoes, watch straps, wallets and more are available just about anywhere you shop, and PETA India provides a handy list of brands that use the PETA Approved Vegan logo for easy ethical shopping: www.petaindia.com/living/fashion/introducing-our-peta-approved-vegan-logo-for-easy-shopping/. PETA India staff live a vegan lifestyle, one in which no animal derived products are used, and we advocate vegan living every day. This is a case of trying to discredit PETA India’s messages of kindness by those who want to justify and continue harming animals in some form.”

Conclusion

With Dr Valliyate’s response dismissing the allegation and no other credible evidence to support the claim in context, we can say that Bakaria’s claim is false and misleading. 

Result: False

Our Sources

Primary source: Dr. Manilal Valliyate 

Animal Rahat Sanctuary Was Officially Given a New Name—Simone’s Place

Animal Rahat: https://www.animalrahat.com/latest-news/education-outreach-save-from-abuse/


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Old Video Of An Indian Band Playing Dhol In EU’s Folklore Festival Passed Off As Ram Mandir Celebration

Prasad Pimpale started Swargandhar in 2014 and led a 30-member team to the European Union of Folklore Festival (EAFF) in Spain, 2018.

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Indian band, Swargandhar, performs during EU's Folklore Festival in Spain, 2018

A Twitter post attributes a video showing an Indian band playing dhol on the streets of Spain to celebrations of Ram Mandir being built in Ayodhya otherwise known as the land of Ram

The tweet in context garnered over 9K likes and 2.5K retweets at the time of writing this fact check. The accompanying 2.2 minute video in the post shows an Indian band with both women and men dressed in Indian tricolours and playing the dhol on a street.  

This video has been widely circulating on social media platforms with similar claims. While the above claim attributes the video to celebration of Ram Mandir in Spain, others associate it to celebrations in New York. Below are a few examples:

Indians have already started * celebrations * in Spain on this occasion of building Rama's temple in ram land in Ayodhya.

Posted by Hindi News Video on Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Fact Check/ Verification 

A relevant keyword search on Google led us to Youtube videos posted by an account named “swargandhar dhol tasha pathak.”

Google search results using keywords: Indian, women, dhol, spain
Google search results using keywords: Indian, women, dhol, spain

There we found a 2018 video titled “Dhol Tasha on the streets of Spain (2) – Swargandhar Dhol Tasha Pathak” which received over 13 million views at the time of writing this fact check. 

Another video posted on 12 November, 2018 on the same channel is titled “Swargandhar’s International Tour to Spain 2018 | Dhol Tasha Pathak | Documentary | Spain.” The video’s description reads as follows:

“Swargandhar, a Dhol Tasha Pathak from Mumbai made its way to Spain to perform in Folk Music Festival. The team carried our Marathi Culture across the seven seas.”

Here, we observed that members of the band wore the exact same outfits as in the claim. We also noticed a frame in the above video to be identical to one in the claim. See below: 

Left: Screenshot from the claim    Right: Screenshot from Swargandhar's International Tour to Spain, 2018 video
Left: Screenshot from the claim Right: Screenshot from Swargandhar’s International Tour to Spain, 2018 video

A 2019 news article by The Hindu writes about gender stereotypes being broken by women playing the dhol in Maharashtra. It also writes about Prasad Pimpale who started Swargandhar in 2014 and led a 30-member team to the European Union of Folklore Festival (EAFF) in Spain, 2018. 

The Hindu's 2019 article on women breaking gender stereotypes with the dhol.
The Hindu’s 2019 article on women breaking gender stereotypes with the dhol

You can read more about how these Maharashtrian women from all walks of life come together to play the dhol here and here

Note that this video has gone viral at a time when the bhoomi pujan (laying of foundation stone) for the construction of Ram Mandir is fast approaching on 5 August, 2020. 

You can read about this claim in our Hindi fact check here

Conclusion 

Our research makes it clear that the video in the claim showing an Indian band playing dhol is from 2018 shot during a folk music festival in Spain. The claim in context has nothing to do with Ram Mandir. 

Result: Misplaced Context 

Our Sources

Dhol Tasha on the streets of Spain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvlWKqQj9RU

Swargandhar’s International Tour to Spain 2018: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbVsh4fkv4k&t=888s

The Hindu: https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/women-break-gender-stereotypes-with-the-dhol/article29399259.ece

Deccan Chronicle: https://www.deccanchronicle.com/lifestyle/culture-and-society/020919/rocking-to-a-different-beat.html

The Quint: https://www.thequint.com/videos/women-in-dhol-pathaks-this-ganpati


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