Uttar Pradesh has passed an ordinance against unlawful conversions, popularly known as ‘Love Jihad’ – a term coined by the right-wing and its affiliates, which have now been made a punishable offence. A case of alleged unlawful conversion for marriage, based on a complaint lodged by the family of the bride in Kushinagar district of Eastern UP has taken the Internet by storm.
Several media organizations reported various narratives around this incident. ‘The Wire’ and ‘The Indian Express’ were among the organizations that faced the ire of the Indian right-wing for an alleged misreporting of the incident. Some users claimed that ‘The Wire’ and “Indian Express’ spread fake news while reporting this incident.
A WhatsApp forward, in this regard, is doing the rounds in every noisy WhatsApp groups where most conspiracy theories are cooked up. The viral forward reads, ‘The Indian Express & The Wire published news: “Wedding stopped in UP’s Kushinagar due to rumours of love jihad, Muslim couple kept overnight at the police station” This is fake news. Girl’s family filed a complaint against the man for kidnapping the girl. Police handed over the girl to her family’
The report published by Indian Express can be viewed here.
The report published by ‘The Wire’ can be viewed here.
As we began fact-checking this claim, we first tried to know what exactly happened.
What Exactly Happened?
Based on our ground verification, we found out that Kamal Akhtar who is a resident of Purani Basti, Mubarakpur in Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh, complained to the Mubarakpur Police Station. As per the complaint, Kamal Akhtar’s daughter ‘Sabeela Khatoon’, who, according to her father, is mentally challenged, went missing. The complaint application is dated 04-12-2020.
The girl who allegedly went missing from Azamgarh wanted to tie the knot with Haider Ali but was stopped by the Kushinagar Police following an informal complaint by the watchman of Gurmiya village on suspicion of forceful conversion. The watchman ‘Mushtaqeem Ali’ informed the local police that some locals informed him about a girl who is being forced into an interfaith marriage. Based on Mushtaqeem’s information, the local police stopped the marriage and brought the couple to the police station where they were asked to prove their respective religions. Once the duo proved they belonged to the same religion, they were let go.
What did ‘The Wire’ and ‘Indian Express’ report?
Indian Express, in its report, has categorically mentioned that the girl was reported to be missing by her family but ‘The Wire’ has not reported this aspect of the incident. However, ‘The Wire’ in its report, has hyperlinked the ‘Indian Express’ report that covers the entire incident.
Did ‘The Wire’ and ‘Indian Express’ spread Fake News?
As we have been trying to highlight in our fact check reports, the media is highly polarized and biased in its reporting of cases where there is a communal angle. The right-leaning media has its own version of a particular incident and so does the left-leaning media.
Meanwhile, due to the ideological biases of the prominent media organizations, the truth gets suffocated to its core. However, both ‘The Wire’ and ‘Indian Express’ in their respective reports did not spread fake news. We first contacted the Superintendent of Kushinagar Police, the circle officer who initially investigated the matter and subsequently a Police Inspector at Mubarakpur Police Station in Azamgarh – they confirmed the same details as mentioned in the reports of aforementioned media organizations.
However, as reported by both ‘Indian Express’ and ‘The Wire’, we spoke to the brother of the bride and he clarified that he was present at the police station and the groom was not tortured by the Kushinagar Police. He also requested us not to take this any further fearing social defamation. The circle officer who initially led the investigation of the matter termed the allegations of torture as ‘laughable’ saying, “The groom did not have any criminal history, he was also not accused of committing any crime. So we brought the couple to the police station and interrogated them, but we did not torture them at all.” He further added that the father of the bride is extremely happy to see his daughter again.
Based on the statements of the local police and media reports, we can say ‘The Wire’ and ‘Indian Express’ did not spread fake news in this case. Their reporting, in this case, can be called their ‘version’ of the incident at best but not ‘fake news’.
Hence, we could conclude that ‘The Wire’ and ‘Indian Express’ in their reporting of the aforementioned false ‘Love Jihad’ incident, did not spread fake news.
Confirmation By Kushinagar Police
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