Old Hindu festival clip falsely claimed to show 'rally in support of Indian politician in prophet row'

·2 min read

Footage of a massive crowd has been repeatedly shared in Facebook posts that falsely claim it shows Hindus gathering to support a spokeswoman for India's ruling party whose incendiary comments about Islam embroiled the country in a diplomatic row. The posts circulated online in neighbouring Bangladesh, a mainly Muslim nation. Although there have been some small rallies in support of the ruling party spokeswoman in India, the video has been shared in a false context. It has circulated online since at least 2019 in posts about a Hindu festival in India.

The video was posted on Facebook on June 16.

Its Bengali-language caption translates as: "About 18 hundred thousand Naga Sadhu are on the street to show their support for Nupur Sharma."

"Naga Sadhu" refers to a Hindu sect that follows the god Shiva.

Sharma is a spokeswoman for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party who triggered a global backlash in May after commenting on Prophet Mohammed's relationship with his youngest wife during a broadcast debate. She has since been suspended by her party.

An identical video was also shared here and here on Facebook alongside a similar claim.

Although there have been some small rallies in support of Sharma in India, reverse image searches and keyword searches on Google found the video was shared with false context.

Hindu festival

The video predates the prophet row sparked by Sharma's remarks by at least three years.

A longer version of the clip was previously shared on Twitter here on March 7, 2019.

The tweet reads: "The greatest temporary spectacle on earth, peaceful and orderly for such a great mass of humanity. Incredible Indian civilisation. #Kumbh2019".

It refers to the Kumbh Mela, the world's largest festival that attracts tens of millions of pilgrims to bathe in waters considered among the holiest in Hinduism.

The Naga Sadhu are known to leave their homes in the Himalayas to attend the festival.

The video was also shared in 2019 YouTube posts about the Kumbh Mela here, here, and here.

Below is a screenshot comparison between the video shared in one of the false posts (left) and one of the YouTube videos from 2019 (right):

The footage also corresponds with clips aired by Indian state broadcaster Doordarshan National here and here about the 2019 Kumbh Mela held in the city of Allahabad in India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh.

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