A news portal – Khabar Non Stop – reported on July 31 that a group of Kawariyas were attacked by a “particular community”, and robbed. According to the report, one person was killed, several others were injured as they were attacked with sharp weapons in Uttar Pradesh’s Hardoi. Within hours, the report was being shared on social media including by our very own Anand Ranganathan. The English media was accused of the ignoring the news as ‘Muslims’ were the perpetrators of this “brutal attack”.
While digging for details Newslaundry came across the Hindi daily Amar Ujala’s report published on July 31. The first thing that we noticed was that there was no mention of a dead body or anyone killed during the violence. According to the report, the incident took place on Sunday when the Kawariyas were returning from the Ganga in Unnav. As the group camped at the nehar in Kasimpur, a few others went to bathe. The violence started after a boy jumped in the nehar and fell on a Kawariya who was already in the water.
Hardoi Superintendent of Police Vipin Kumar Mishra told us that no one was murdered in the violence.
“The Kawariyas were bathing in the neher. There is a ritual, after bathing, Kawariyas’ throw coins in the neher,” Mishra said. “Some local kids were throwing magnets in the water to collect these coins and one of these magnets hit a Kawariya. Soon, one of the boys who was diving in the water fell upon a Kawariya. After this, the Kawariyas started beating these children.”
Those being beaten up were from a nearby village. The police said that around 40-50 Muslims from the village reached the spot and confronted the group of Kawariyas. The two groups clashed and a police team rushed to the spot.
“The Station Officer (of Kasimpur Police Station) took the Kawariyas to the police station as they were insistent a complaint be lodged in the matter. The complaint was registered,” Mishra told Newslaundry. According to Mishra, the matter was under control until a local leader Ajay Pratap Singh from Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) entered the scene. “When the Kawariya were leaving, on the provocation of Singh, they set two shops owned by Muslims near the neher on fire. The police reached the spot to control the Kawariyas as well as doused the fire. ”
Based on the complaint of Dharmendra, a Kawariya and resident of Hardoi’s Kisan Tola, five Muslim men were arrested for rioting, loot and attacking people. The five arrested – Raji, Rehan, Fariyad Mohammad, Nizamuddin Mohammad and Najrul Mohammad – are all residents of Karlawan village.
The police said no one from the group of Kawariyas’ was arrested as “no one from the other side has lodged a First Information Report (FIR).”
Notably, even Amar Ujala had misreported the event. While both groups had sustained injuries, it was reported that the villagers had attacked Kawariyas with sticks and sharp weapons. “Both parties have sustained injuries – in fact, those arrested were also injured. But no sharp weapons were used in the clashes by any party.”
It was also rumoured that a minor Hindu girl was abducted. Amar Ujala reported that villagers had “thrown her in the neher.” The police, during its search operation had recovered the girl from a nearby temple. Mishra accused the local media of irresponsible reporting as it had published the report without verifying the facts.
It appears that Amar Ujala had gotten several facts wrong. But that’s not even close to Khabar Nonstop, whose reporting had perhaps only the location of the incident correct. And yet, that story had over 600 retweets from one account alone. An isolated incident, perhaps over tempers running high, fanned with religious overtones by politicians is further amplified across social media. With little incentive to fact check or verify, nothing is easier than clicking a simple button.