Death of Hindu boy sparks rumours of torture, lead to communal violence

Date: 13 December 2017

‘Head cut open’, ‘castrated’ and ‘boiling oil poured on face’ were some of the provocative messages that were doing the rounds on social media to describe 21-year-old Paresh Mesta’s death in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. Mesta’s decomposed body was found in a lake in Honnavar town, days after he had gone missing following communal clashes in the region. A picture of his body was used to claim torture and mutilation, and the mob which had gathered to protest his alleged murder turned violent, destroying vehicles and resorting to stone pelting. The vehicle of IGP Western Range Hemant Nimbalkar was set on fire in Kumta. Communal violence had been raging in Uttara Kannada district after a minor altercation escalated rapidly. The situation continued to flare with Hindutva organisations hitting the streets in protest after Mesta’s body was found. On December 9 at 10:06 am, Karnataka BJP issued a press release on its website wherein it quoted BJP MP from Karnataka Shobha Karandlaje who reportedly said, “Hot oil has been poured on his body resulting in his body turning completely black. This is a heinous murder carried out by jehadi elements”. The press release added that Karandlaje had said that Mesta’s hands on which he had inscribed ‘Jayarama’ had been chopped off. The allegation of brutality spread like wild fire, egged on by prominent BJP leaders who parroted that Mesta had been tortured and killed by ‘jehadi’ elements active in the coastal Karnataka region. Fake news websites and communal rabble rousers like put up inflammatory posts. The ‘report’ was carried prominently by the India Today channel which reiterated the allegation that Mesta had been subjected to torture and his body flung in a lake. The channel described the graphic details of the ‘assault’, claiming he was castrated and his head was split open. This overdrive by top BJP functionaries, fake news websites and sections of mainstream media had the cumulative effect of spurring fresh violence in the volatile region. The Karnataka police released the following document from the Department of Forensic Medicine in Manipal which conducted the autopsy of Paresh Mesta. Here is what it said: There are no evidences of injuries caused by weapons over the body of the deceased. The change in the colour of the face of the deceased is due to putrefaction. There is no evidence of castration or mutilation. There is a tattoo mark present over the front of right forearm above the wrist depicting a picture of Shivaji and ‘Maratha’ written in Hindi. The said tattoo had not been destroyed. Alt News spoke to Inspector General (IG) of Western Range, Hemant Nimbalkar who said, “There is a deliberate attempt to create divide in the society by circulation of false news as well as rumours through press notes, social media, and particularly whatsapp for personal gain. We are booking all those people who are trying to circulate false news and rumours through social media and already 20 cases are booked. Anybody who is abetting or circulating false news without authentication shall have to face the law.”




Perpetrators: Hindutva activists, media


Mob kills man on suspicion of being child lifter in Bidar

Date: 14 July 2018


An angry mob killed a man and injured two others on the suspicion of being child-lifters in Murki village in Aurad taluk, in Bidar district. The deceased Mohammed Azam and the two others injured Talha Ismail and Mohammed Salman, all hail from Hyderabad. They were travelling along with their friend Mohammed Bashir to Handikera village in Aurad taluk. Mr. Bashir, who works in Hyderabad, had invited them to his native village. While driving to Handikera they took a break near Balkut Tanda to have some snacks. They had reportedly offered chocolates brought by Mr. Ismail, who had returned recently from Qatar, to schoolchildren. The residents mistook them for child-lifters and started assaulting them, despite Mr. Bashir trying to explain the situation. As Mr. Bashir and his friends managed to escape in the car, the locals reportedly called their friends in nearby Murki village to stop the car. They in turn blocked the road with a fallen tree. As the car approached Murki, it hit the blockade and skidded, after which a mob dragged Azam and hit him with stones and sticks. Three policemen rushed to the spot to contain the mob. However, Azam, who was hit on his head, died on the spot. Police rescued the three others and admitted them to a hospital in Bidar. On Saturday, they were shifted to Hyderabad for further treatment.




BJP MLA Sangeet Som booked for showing 'riot' documentary ahead of UP polls

Date: 19 January 2017

Controversial BJP legislator Sangeet Som was charged with instigating communal hatred in his constituency in Uttar Pradesh after his supporters screened a documentary that allegedly polarised voters. On Tuesday night, police seized a pen drive and a vehicle from his supporter, Shekhar, and a driver in Alamgir Faridpur village. Police charged them under section 188 of the IPC and booked Som under the People’s Representation Act. The documentary purportedly showed Som’s role in the Bisada and Kanth incidents, and his arrest from Salawa village after the Muzaffarnagar riots, thereby projecting him as the saviour of the Hindus. The BJP MLA was booked under the National Security Act in connection with Muzaffarnagar riots and had visited Bisada village of Dadri after a mob lynched a Muslim man on suspicion of consuming beef in September 2015. He also participated in the party’s movement in Kanth in Moradabad where two communities came face to face over the removal of a loudspeaker from a temple during Ramzan. A team of officials examined the contents of the 20-minute documentary and found it unfit for screening.




Large Media Houses Accused of Striking Deals for Paid News to Promote Hindutva Agenda

Date: 27 March 2018

Several media houses were prepared to enter into a ‘cash for coverage’ deal with an undercover reporter posing as a representative of an organisation promoting Hindutva for electoral purposes, investigative portal revealed at a crowded press conference. As part of its investigation, Cobrapost surreptitiously filmed the interaction its reporter had over several months with top executives at dozens of leading newspapers and television channels across north India. The reporter, Pushp Sharma, assumed the identity of ‘Acharya Atal’ from the ‘Srimad Bhagvat Gita Prachar Samiti’. At various times he would refer to his organisation as the ‘sangathan’, and many of the media executives he filmed assumed he was from, or was close to, the Nagpur-based Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The pitch ‘Acharya Atal’ made at these media houses, with some variations, was that in the run up to the 2019 election, his organisation wanted to promote the Hindutva agenda, beginning with ‘soft Hindutva’ content for the first three months with largely religious messaging, followed by ‘semi-political’ material which would include ‘character assassination’ of opposition leaders Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav, followed also by content that would eventually help polarise Hindus and Muslims.