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Opinion | How rumour mills are working overtime to spread unrest among farmers

At a time when the Supreme Court has intervened to set up a committee of all stakeholders to break the ongoing deadlock between the farmers and the Centre, rumour mills are working overtime to incite the agitators by spreading false news and videos.

Rajat Sharma Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive
New Delhi Updated on: December 17, 2020 17:02 IST
Opinion | How rumour mills are working overtime to spread
Image Source : INDIA TV

Opinion | How rumour mills are working overtime to spread unrest among farmers

At a time when the Supreme Court has intervened to set up a committee of all stakeholders to break the ongoing deadlock between the farmers and the Centre, rumour mills are working overtime to incite the agitators by spreading false news and videos. Baseless rumours are being circulated to spread disaffection not only among farmers but also their relatives who work in the armed forces. This is a serious aspect which needs urgent attention.

Let me take up the rumours that were proved fake recently, one by one.

Fact Number 1: On December 12, Gujarat Congress leader Hardik Patel tweeted a 25-second video clip showing a logo of Adani Wilmar  on a train which advertised Fortune Chakki Fresh Atta. Hardik Patel tweeted: “Adani group’s fresh Atta ad on Indian Railways is worth watching, we can now say that the farmers are  on the side of Truth.” This video was retweeted by Priyanka Gandhi, Congress general secretary, who commented: “The railways that was created with the hard work of crores of Indians..BJP has put a stamp of its billionaire friend Adani. In the days to come, a large part of the railways will go to the billionaire friends of Modi ji”. She further wrote: “India’s farmers are waging a tough battle as they try to stop Modi ji’s billionaire friends from taking over farm sector.” There was frenzy on  social media which acted as force multiplier to send the baseless message that the Indian Railways is going to sell its trains to Adani group.
In its ‘Fact Check’ alert, the Press Information Bureau of the Government of India tweeted: “It has been claimed in a Facebook video that Indian Railways has accepted a private firm’s logo. This claim is misleading. This is just an advertisement that aims to improve revenue.” The Adani ad video had nothing to do with farmers, but it was widely circulated by Congress leaders, particularly among farmers to spread the fake message that their lands will be given to Adani group in the same manner in which trains are being given to that group.
India TV reporter Devendra Parashar checked the veracity of the video and reported that in order to generate extra revenue, Western Railway had called for tenders for display of ads on 10 trains In Vadodara division under the non-fare revenue scheme. The Adani group got its bid accepted in February this year, and five locomotives were allotted to Adani Wilmar for ads on a pro-rata basis in February. It was under these circumstances that the locomotive in Vadodara was painted with the Fortune Atta ad.  This was published on the Western Railway Facebook page on February 1 announcing the launch of the  first locomotive with Fortune branding.
Till March this year, Western Railway had collected Rs 73 lakh 26 thousand per year as non-fare revenue from ads displayed on 37 locomotives. For display of ads for five years, the WR collected Rs 4 crore 40 lakh as non-fare revenue. India TV reporter contacted the Railway Board which clarified that no train was sold or leased to any party, and display of these ads only generated non-fare revenue for the Railways. This was misrepresented by Congress leaders to spread the rumour that Railways was selling its trains to Adani group. BJP leaders allege that it was Punjab CM Capt Amrinder Singh who invited Ambani’s Reliance group to his state. These leaders have posed a question whether Ambani and Adani became billionaires only during the last six years of Modi’s rule? These industrialists had expanded their business much before Modi became the PM in 2014.
Fact Number 2:
A Telugu newspaper ‘Prajashakti’ claimed that 25,000 soldiers of the Indian Army have returned their Shaurya Chakra medals to express solidarity with the farmers’ protest. We asked our Defence correspondent Manish Prasad to check from the Ministry of Defence. It was found that only 2,048 Shaurya Chakra medals have been awarded from 1956 till 2019. The daily ‘Prajashakti’ is a pro-CPI(M) newspaper, and the news clipping in Telugu was translated to Hindi, Punjabi and English and circulated in UP, Punjab and Haryana, particularly among farmers to spread disaffection among them. Many of the farmers took this as gospel truth, but the news was entirely baseless.
Fact Number 3: A video message was circulated showing Gurcharan Singh Babbar, who claims to be the editor-in-chief of three daily morning newspapers. In the video, the man claimed that he had ‘top secret information’ about the Centre’s plan to launch a large operation at midnight to end the farmers’ protest at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur border points. In the video message, Babbar says, private agencies were collecting information about the numbers of women, children, youths and leaders present among the farmers who are on dharna. In the message, Babbar warns that security forces may snap off electric connections in the area at night to carry out an operation to disperse the farmers. The government may also use the CRPF and BSF for this operation, he claimed. In his message, Babbar warns that the government may impose curfew in Haryana and Punjab to quell protests and put the arrested farmers and their leaders in temporary jails.
India TV reporters checked Gurcharan Singh Babbar’s antecedents and found that instead of being a journalist, he was the president of All India Sikh Conference. He had been making provocative comments about Supreme Court judges and 1984 anti-Sikh riots advocate H S Phulka in the past too. The interesting part is that most of the Sikh farmers know about Babbar and do not take his comments seriously. A UK-based journalist Sardar Prabhdeep Singh, who runs a news channel on YouTube, questioned the veracity of the claims made by Babbar. He dared him to disclose the sources of his information.
Fact Number 4:
A video of army movement near a Ghaziabad toll plaza was posted on Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter to spread baseless rumours that army has been called in to disperse the protesting farmers from Delhi’s borders. A man named Nawab Satpal Tanwar, said to be Bhim Sena chief, has claimed that he shot the video at the toll plaza. On checking, it was found that it was only a routine transfer of army battalion from one place to another, and had nothing to do with farmers’ protest. India TV reporters asked farmers at Ghazipur border whether they noticed any army movement. Most of them replied that they have not seen a single army jawan during the last 21 days that they have been sitting in the open.
Such acts of spreading baseless rumours about the army are condemnable. One has to realize that these rumours are being deliberately spread to create unrest. The enemies of our nation are active and they are trying their best to spread violence and disruption. The only silver lining in the cloud is that most of the farmers do not believe in baseless rumours. A web of lies, deceit and propaganda is being spun around the farmers, most of whom may be illiterate, but have the uncanny sense of sifting the grain from the chaff.

Baseless rumours are being spread about the government using jammers to stop farmers from communicating with one another on cellphones. It is common sense that the presence of thousands of farmers, having one or two cellphones each, can cause network issues, but these are also being attributed by rumour mongers to  government agencies by spreading rumours about an impending ‘operation’.

A video of a farmer threatening to destroy his entire cauliflower crop in the field is being circulated to spread rumours that farmers in Punjab have become desperate. The video is not from Punjab, but from Muktapur in Bihar’s Samstipur district. Since cauliflower crop was being bought at Re. 1 a kilo in the local market, the farmer, out of desperation, was going to destroy his entire  crop by using a tractor. I would like to thank Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who, after watching the video, instructed the common service centre of his ministry to get in touch with the farmer, and ensure that his crop was sold at a fair price elsewhere. A Delhi trader contacted the farmer in Samstipur, and bought his crop at Rs 10 a kg. Half of the amount was immediately transferred as advance to the farmer’s bank account. On Wednesday, when the entire crop was loaded on a truck, the farmer got the remaining half of his earnings.

Spreading rumours through fake videos on WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube has become very easy nowadays. We, at India TV, have set up a dedicated team to fact-check each and every questionable video that surfaces on social media. It’s my promise that we will show you the truth and dispel all baseless rumours that are being spread by rumour mongers.


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