On 16 April an incident of mob lynching took place in Gadchinchle village of Maharashtra’s Palghar district. Three men from Mumbai on their way to Surat, were dragged out of a car and beaten to death by villagers on suspicion of theft. The incident which led to a flare-up in the state’s politics also triggered a series of fake news and misinformation on social media.
In one such case that has come to light, multiple users on Facebook are suggesting names of two individuals – Pradip Prabhu and Shiraz Balsara, affiliated with an organisation called Kashtakari Sangathana – as people supporting the attackers. To add credibility to the claim, a picture of a couple identifying them as the duo is being circulated.
Noted documentary filmmakers and professors at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Prof. Anjali Monteiro and Prof. K.P Jayasankar, were on Saturday caught in the midst of a fake news post directed against two Palghar-based activists — Pradeep Prabhu and Shiraz Balsara — with regards to the recent lynching, after their photos were used in it.
The post is being widely circulated on Twitter with the same claim.
TRUE OR FALSE?
The Quint can confirm that there is no truth to the claim and the two people who can be seen in the picture are not Pradip Prabhu and Shiraz Balsara, but KP Jaishankar and Anjali Monteiro – well known documentary filmmakers and professors of media and communications at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.
WHAT WE FOUND
We needed answers to three questions to debunk the claim.
- Who are Pradeep Prabhu and Shiraz Balsara?
- What is the Kashtakari Sanghatana and is the organisation working to get bail for the accused in Palghar case?
- Who are the people in the picture which is being circulated with the post?
First, a Google keyword search using “Kashtakari Sanghatana” led us to several reports which suggested that it is an organisation working for rights of Adivasis in Palghar. Further, we reached out to Palghar SP, Gaurav Singh who confirmed that there is no involvement of the organisation in seeking bail for the accused in the lynching case.
We also spoke to an activist who is associated with the organisation for over 25 years. who confirmed that the organisation is not involved in the case or bail plea for the accused in any way.
We were also able to identify the people in the photograph as Professor KP Jaishankar and Anjali Monteiro from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai and reached out to them to understand what exactly the matter was.
“We were alerted about this post by a Facebook friend who chanced upon this troll page. We were quite horrified after looking at this because it clearly exposed us to a lot of danger,” Professor Monteiro said.
They also told us that the post was immediately reported to Facebook after which the post was taken down and one particular account was deactivated.
Expressing his concerns about the post, Professor Jaishankar said, “By the time we saw the post, it already had a couple of hundred likes and shares. Those posts are still there and we’ve written to Facebook again requesting them to look into the matter.”
Post gone viral
While the content of the post was against Mr. Prabhu and Ms. Balsara, the photos used were of the two professors. Prof. Monteiro said they had been intimated about the post by a Facebook friend and were shocked to see their photos. “We reported the post, but Facebook reporting doesn’t give much leeway as you can only report them under certain categories. We reported it thrice under but got a message saying that the photo did not go against the community guidelines,” she said. The post was finally removed around 7.30 p.m. after being online for around seven hours and getting over 200 shares.
It was posted by a Shatrughan Singh Chandel, whose profile picture was that of Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath. The profile had no personal details or the location of the person and had 4,985 ‘friends’ and was followed by 24,818 people.
Though the profile was also taken down along with the original post, versions of the post later surfaced on Twitter and other Facebook profiles with the same photos of Prof. Monteiro and Prof. Jayasankar.
The post targeted Mr. Prabhu, the founder Kashtakari Sanghatana, a prominent organisation working for rights of adivasis in Palghar, and Ms. Balsara, who has also been associated with the organisation until recently. It claimed that the two were trying to get bail for the accused in the lynching case as they were Christian and the duo head a Christian organisation.
‘Not a Christian outfit’
“The post is completely false. Kashtakari Sanghatana has never been a Christian organisation and we have not been involved in trying to get bail for the accused. The village owes allegiance to the Bharatiya Janata Party and even the sarpanch is from the party. The Sanghatna has never worked in the concerned villages,” Ms. Balsara, said. She said both she and her husband, Mr. Prabhu, had not been active in the Sanghatana over the last few years and Mr. Prabhu is completely retired and house bound.