Patanjali ‘fact-check’, trolling, death threats: How Liver Doc and Vijay Patel’s online spat escalated

Doctor-influencer Cyriac Abby Philips has allegedly been getting death threats since Patel posted about him on X.

WrittenBy:Prateek Goyal
Date:
The Liver Doc and Vijay Patel.
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On November 23, doctor-influencer Cyriac Abby Philips aka The Liver Doc posted on social media platform X about a “terrible and vulgar” online abuse campaign against him over his tweet criticising yoga guru Ramdev and his firm Patanjali Ayurved over “misleading claims”.   

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The campaign was reportedly initiated by a “known Hindutva disinformation peddler” account operated by Vijay Patel. A self-proclaimed fact-checker, Patel often professes conspiracy theories on X. 

Patel, who goes by the username @vijaygajera, has more than 1.75 lakh followers on X. He claims to be an investigative reporter and “protector of Hindus”.

Each of Patel’s far-out theories records about 1,000 retweets on X, and a few fact-checks. But until his run-in with Philips, no one legally challenged his theories. The Kerala-based doctor filed a complaint against Patel at Palarivattom police station in the southern state’s Ernakulam district. 

The complaint said Patel was “allegedly accepting money through social media to kill” Philips, and “spreading hateful, communal messages” against him and his family. Palarivattom police sub-inspector Ravi Kumar told Newslaundry they are probing the matter and the FIR will be filed subsequently.

But what triggered it all?

On November 22, Philips, who has more than 2.19 lakh followers on X, and is known for busting myths related to alternative medicines, including ayurveda, took on Ramdev and his company Patanjali Ayurved. 

He questioned Ramdev over his earlier comments on “cow urine” being a “cure” for liver ailments, and treating cirrhosis and other diseases with breathing exercises.  

Philips’s post on Ramdev had come on the heels of the Supreme Court’s warning to Patanjali over its false claims and “misleading advertisements” claiming cure. Hearing a plea filed by Indian Medical Association on November 21, the top court had told Patanjali it must “stop” such ads or a fine of Rs 1 crore will be imposed on each of its products claiming false cure.

In the wake of the SC’s wrath, Ramdev held a press conference emphasising Patanjali was not engaging in “false propaganda” but a “mafia of doctors” had spread propaganda against him and his company. “If we are liars, then fine us Rs 1,000 crore, and we are also ready for the death penalty,” said Ramdev.  

Meanwhile, Philips’s tweet against the yoga guru-entreprenuer set off a barrage of communal attacks on him, allegedly initiated by Vijay Patel. 

In his initial tweet against Philips, Patel accused him of “always targeting” ayurveda and yoga because he “belonged to the missionary cartel which uses the modern medical field as their conversion factory”.  “Yog and Ayurved are their biggest enemies…He works at Rajagiri Hospital, funded and managed by a Missionary mafia group.”

While Philips blocked him, Patel reportedly continued to make communal and religious attacks on him and his father Dr Philips Augustine, a Padma Shri awardee. In his subsequent posts, Patel alleged Philips was a part of a “organ transplant racket” and “conversion mafia,” and claimed that he would expose him and his “anti-Hindu organisation”. 

Newslaundry saw these posts were retweeted more than 2,000 times. Soon after, a larger online trolling campaign began against Philips, with a storm of communally charged comments on his posts.

Even as Philips posted on X about his complaint against Patel at the Palarivattom police station, and to the police commissioner of Kochi, he said the online trolling campaign against him did not stop. 

Patel alleged that the police complaint was a “plot to silence” him, as he was “exposing anti-Hindu cartels”. He said that crores of funds were flowing into Kerala to “malign Hindus and silence people” like him, who “speak for Hindus and Bharat”. 

In one of his tweets, he even warned Kerala police of “legal action” if there was any “attempt to frame or harm” him in a “fake case”. 

Speaking to Newslaundry, Philips said the incident began after he posted about Patanjali in connection with the Supreme Court’s statements on the company. “After I tweeted about Patanjali, Vijay Patel began targeting me. Instead of replying to my post in a logical and rational manner, he gave it a communal angle.” 

Philips highlighted that Patel had called him a “Christian missionary” and “anti-Hindu”.

“He said that I work at a place where religious conversion happens. When I saw his posts, I blocked him because there is no point in interacting with someone who doesn’t have any logic or intellect,” he said. “But after I blocked him, he got triggered because trolls like him who work under the garb of hate, religion, communalism, need people such as me like ‘oxygen’ that help them monetise on X. So when I blocked him he got ignored and started attacking me.

Philips said he never posted about religion and faith, only medical science. “Patel called me a communist, missionary, leftist as I am from Kerala. After his posts the whole ‘Hindu’ extremist IT cell got activated…but I have never spoken about religion or faith in my posts…their religious, racial and communal slurs were in a way damaging my professional standing.”

‘Organ mafia’ allegations

On the allegations of running an “organ transplant racket,” Philips said the “false narrative” began in 2009, when his father was the medical director of Lakeshore hospital in Kochi, where the organs of those declared brain dead were harvested for organ transplant as per law, and their respective families’ permission. 

The doctor-influencer told Newslaundry that Dr Sadanandan Ganapathy, a retired surgeon, had falsely accused the hospital of harvesting a young man’s organ despite chances of him being saved. Philips said he did not work at Lakeshore hospital at the time of the alleged incident.

The matter was subsequently investigated by at least four regulatory bodies, including the district medical officer, Kerala medical council, and a national-level transplant tribunal, and reportedly “no foul play was found”. 

“Even the law enforcement agencies gave clean chit to all the doctors at the hospital as the procedure involved in the transplant was as per guidelines laid by the Society for Organ Retrieval and Transplantation or SORT,” said Philips, adding that Dr Ganapathy again raised the matter in 2015 – this time as a private complaint in a lower court, instead of a public interest litigation. 

He said because of the litigation, “a section of the media had reported about my father and other directors of the hospital”. “But from 2009 till 2023, 12 years after the incident and nine years after the second investigation was initiated, the police has not found an iota of evidence to urge the culpability of the allegedly involved institution or its doctors.*

Philips alleged that Patel had used these news reports to accuse him and his family of being “organ mafias”. 

“The whole narrative changed from Patanjali to the hounding and defamation of my family and my professional career. Because of this targeting I started receiving a lot of death threats as well,” said Philips. “To stop these threats, I approached the police, but the online abuse has continued.”

Palarivattom sub-inspector Kumar told Newslaundry that the police are trying to find out about Patel’s whereabouts and his address. “After getting his details, we will proceed with the next course of  legal action against him.”

Patel’s version of events 

Newslaundry also reached out to Patel over his posts on Philips. The “fact-checker” said he had “doubts” about the influencer-doctor as the latter “targeted only ayurvedic companies,” and did not spotlight flaws in allopathy. “I first asked him why he doesn’t write about mercury-based vaccines that are banned in the US and Europe, but available in India. I tried to have a logical conversation, but he didn’t respond…He makes jibes on gaumutra [cow urine].”

On his allegations about Philips running an “organ transplant racket”, Patel said Philips worked at Rajagiri Hospital, “run by the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, an organisation which is definitely involved in conversion.”

Patel said he did not have “exact details,” but he had “heard” of several cases about “poor people being converted on the pretext of free treatment”. 

He further said, “There is much evidence that indicates foul play in the organ transplant case. I have mentioned them in a thread on X that the case couldn’t stand because the hospital advisory board has people such as a retired judge of the Supreme Court, former director general of police, among other powerful personalities. If such powerful people will be there in the hospital board, they will obviously get clean chit.”

Patel said the allegations about death threats against Philips were “false”. “I have never ever given death threats to him or anyone. He is making baseless allegations against me. If influential people say something on X it's considered befitting, but when people like us write, we are branded as trolls. Liver Doc also doesn’t only write about medicines, he is also a troll.” 

Goldmine of conspiracy theories 

In one of his tweets, Patel alleged Ratan Tata was an advisor of a private spy agency formed by British Intelligence agency MI6, in another post he claimed that Tata group supplied drugs in China through Hong Kong, and one of his other theories was that India didn’t get Independence on August 15, 1947. 

Over two years ago, Patel claimed there was an international nexus working to thwart the success of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. He named several high-profile individuals and institutions, claiming they were members of this nexus: Fabian Society, Tata group, Infosys chief Narayan Murthy, London School of Economics, George Soros, Congress, Nandan Nilekeni, IPSMF, and Alt News among others. In another long thread, Patel claimed that Fabindia was connected to the CIA

The list of conspiracy theories posted by Patel on X are endless. Some of them went viral, including an “exposé” on Medha Patkar, the BBC documentary on PM Modi, Soros funding Manipur’s Kuki community, and why political parties were targeting Gautam Adani.    

On his allegations against Ratan Tata, Patel told Newslaundry: “Tata has been in the advisory board of Haklyut since 2011. His basic work is to destroy the people against his company using spies.” 

Newslaundry had earlier reported about Vijay Patel’s rightwing ‘fact-checking’ enterprise, and how he used X to peddle conspiracy theories. Read all about it here.  

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article imageAlt News, CIA, ‘Hinduphobic’ media: The fixations of a rightwing ‘fact-checking’ enterprise
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