A video, showing an aged man bleeding while being held up by a few people amid the commotion, is being widely shared online. Identifying the man as the Imam of Kotwali Mosque in West Bengal’s Malda, social media users alleged that he was attacked by a ‘Hindutvawadi bigot of the VHP’. Newschecker has found that the post claiming that the Malda Imam was attacked is not true.
Meer Faisal, who is a journalist according to his Twitter bio, was among the users who shared the post from his verified Twitter account initially, with the caption ‘Yesterday Hindutvadi bigot of VHP brutally attacked Imam in Kotwali Masjid, Malda, West Bengal after which Imam was seriously injured, the culprit has been arrested by the local police.’ The post received over 1000 shares and over 1,700 likes.
Controversial ‘journalist’ CJ Werleman was also among those who shared the same video, claiming that the video showed an Imam of a mosque in Malda, brutally attacked by a ‘Hindutva terrorist’. Werleman has previously shared false information on several instances and has been fact-checked by Newschecker. You can read the articles here and here.
Several other social media users also shared the same video online with similar claims.
To verify if the incident took place in Malda, Newschecker looked up reports online using English and Bangla keywords ‘Malda’ ‘Imam’ ‘attack’ ‘Hindutva’, but was unable to find any leads.
Newshecker then reached out to Pradeep Kumar Yadav, Malda SP who stated that the incident was not communally motivated. “The attacker is an alcoholic and has a history of abuse. He gets drunk and fights with his family and neighbors. On the day of the incident, the accused got drunk and roughed up people near his home. He also went into the mosque and attacked people inside. There is no religious motivation to the incident and he has no links to the VHP,” the SP said.
We further probed the story and with the help of local stringers, were able to identify that the incident happened in Arapur and that the mosque seen is called the Arapur Jame Masjid.
We then reached out to Rajib Sheikh, a local resident. Recounting the incident, Rajib Sheikh said “It was early morning and the Imam was not there that day. He (the man in the video, identified as Hazrat Sheikh) had come to perform the prayers. He had just entered the mosque when a man belonging to another community barged in and began attacking him with a sickle. He tried to defend himself and was injured in the hand in the process. Another person who tried to intervene was also attacked in the process. There was blood everywhere. More locals came and held the attacker down till police came and took him away.” Regarding the religious angle to the incident, he said, “There was no religious angle to the crime. The accused is in police custody now. And everything is peaceful in the area.” When asked about the mental health of the accused, Sheikh said that he had no information about that.
Newschecker also spoke to Sayeed Ul Islam, the son of Hazrat Sheikh, as seen in the video. “The incident happened last Monday. My father is not the Imam. He had gone there to read the namaz. He was attacked by a fellow from the neighboring village. The attacker was under ‘Nasha’ (inebriated). It is also being said that he is mentally ill, though we are not certain about that. The incident did not have any religious motives. In our area, Hindus and Muslims live in harmony, and is now sorted out,” said Sayeed.
Newschecker also tried to reach out to the District Magistrate’s office, which refused to comment on the issue on the record. The article will be updated once with their response once we receive it.
Newschecker’s investigation reveals that while the incident in Malda did take place, witnesses, locals, the police, and the family of the victim all deny that the attack was communally motivated. The man who attacked the people inside the mosque is said to be an alcoholic who was under the influence at the time and is said to be mentally unstable.
Rating: Misleading/Partly False
Conversation with Pradeep Kumar Yadav, Malda SP
Conversation with Rajib Sheikh, local resident, Kotwali
Conversation with Sayeed Ul Islam, son of the man seen in the video
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