India, the (false) viral videos that feed religious hatred and misogyny

India, the (false) viral videos that feed religious hatred and misogyny

In India they grow religious hatred and the misogyny. This trend is fueled, in particular, by people skilled in… videomaking.

Burqa-wearing criminals?

In a video shared and watched by millions of people in India, a man is seen assaulting a person who wear a burqa black and holds a child in her arms. When the alleged assailant forcibly lifts the veil, another man is seen underneath.

In the message accompanying the clip, in hindi language users are warned that they should “be aware” of criminals who use typical dress used by Muslim women around the world – to camouflage themselves and “kidnap children“.

Posted on YouTube earlier this year, the video was viewed more than 29 million times before it was deleted. But why delete it, if the message contained was so important? Simple, because it didn’t show real events.

Fake videos pretending to be real events

A fake Muslim tailor treats a Hindu girl badly: the message invites Indian women not to deal with Muslim traders, accused of having a “bad mentality”

It’s about performances made by amateur actors. There are many others circulating on the net, on social networks, videos created ad hoc, apparently for entertainment, gone actually how event testimonials actually happened in the country.

Often the clips are accompanied by false claims, fueling inter-faith hatred and misogyny.
Since Prime Minister Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in May 2014, there have been tensions between religious communities.

In December 2021 one of these videos became viral and has been shared along with unsubstantiated claims in several languages ​​that the Muslim men were trying to intoxicate Hindu girls putting food on their plate.

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Under the video many users, believing it to be true, left Islamophobic comments such as: “Beware of jihad dell’amore“. Reference is therefore made to a conspiracy theory which claims that Muslim men court Hindu women for convertirle all’Islam.

Another clip shows a Muslim tailor being mean to a local lady. It was shared several times on Twitter and Facebook, accompanied by the invitation: “The sisters and daughters are asked not to go to Islamic shops, they are people with a bad mentality“.

Illicit relationships in the Hindu community? Success trend

Then there are those that portray illicit relationships between friends, family, and people with a huge age gap. Two such videos were released in May, with false claims that they attack the Hindu community.

The first portrayed a man dressed in a saffron colored dress which he claimed to want to marry his sister. In her second, the same girl is shown wearing a burqa and he claims that he wants to marry her to convert it to Hinduism.

The footage – there are hundreds of similar ones but with different actors – can be found on a YouTube channel with more than 400,000 followers that routinely posts these montages.

When the BBC asked Vikram Mishra, owner of the channel, if he was aware that his videos are perceived as real, he replied: “We all want to be successful. I make videos that are good based on the society trends“.

And he added that he only makes them for “entertainment and viewsas my team of 12 makes a living off our YouTube channel.”

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Why are these videos dangerous?

The problem is that many of the false narratives that they target the various communities of believers they also encourage moral policing against women. And sometimes, even local media have mistaken the staged videos for news.

Many show, as we have seen, people wearing the burqa to kidnap children. And this, in reality, leads to concrete consequences: In recent years, the authorities have had to issue warnings against fake news, as several people have been attacked by angry mobs who believed they were kidnappers.

Films made by actors but passed off as real, which go viral and fuel hatred between believers of various religions

These acted videos are accompanied by strategies of disinformation which can create confusion among social media users. Some have disclaimers, but they can be hidden in the middle or end of clips. Most of the timeFurthermore, the text is in English, and is not always understood by viewers.

According to a fact check by Alt News, the original clip of the man wearing the burqa – later deleted by its creator – actually carried a disclaimer stating that it was “a work of fiction“. But it was only visible for a second.

Most of these movies (over 400) were made by Venkat Seepana, maker based in Hyderabad, and feature a registration mark and timestamp, like those of CCTV cameras. His YouTube channel has over 1.2 million subscribers.

To the BBC he declares that he made them for “spread awareness and show real-life situations”.

Alishan Jafri, a journalist and disinformation scholar, argues that fictions that go viral may not lead to physical violence. But they delve into existing religious prejudices.

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“These videos add fuel to the fire in one already divided and polarized society. Most of these videos are directed against certain communities, especially Muslims, and when they go viral, they contribute to structural violence against the minority community.”


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