In a queer incident, a report on fake news published by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) which gave the example of a viral audio clip of the Tablighi Jamaat chief, to show how minorities were being targeted over the COVID-19 pandemic, has been removed a day after being posted online, reported Indian Express (IE).
In the said audio clip, a person purportedly identified as Maulana Saad Kandhalvi, the head of the Markaz Nizamuddin is heard telling Tablighi Jamaat members not to follow social distancing rules. An FIR was filed against Kandhalvi.
When asked by IE, BPR&D spokesperson Jitendra Yadav said some corrections were being made in the 40-page “guide for law enforcing agencies” and that it will be uploaded soon. The booklet was initially published on Saturday (May 9) and pulled down on Sunday (May 10).
Incidentally, the booklet was pulled down from the BPR&D website, a day after IE reported that initial investigation by the Delhi Police Crime Branch has found that the audio clip was doctored and was put together using several audio files.
Delhi Police, however, took exception to the report, stating “the new is not only factually incorrect but seems to be based on wholly unverified sources and purely conjectural imagination.”
On Sunday, Delhi Police summoned the reporter, asking him to join the probe on Monday (May 11) or face legal action under Section 174 of IPC.
IE in its rejoinder to the charges has maintained that the report was based on conversations with highly placed sources and officials who were aware of the probe against Maulana Saad.
“The report is based on conversations with sources and officials aware of the probe against Maulana Saad. Before publication, calls were made to Special CP (Crime) Praveer Ranjan Friday. Also, a message was sent to him seeking his comments on the key points made in the report. No response was received,” the IE rejoinder read.
According to IE, the Tablighi Jamaat audio found mention in the “Fake news and disinformation vectors” section of the BPR&D booklet.
“Fake/Viral Audios: In the present scenario, viral/fake newsmongers may create voice content and spread it across the social networking channels,” said para V of the section.
The paragraph was followed by a screenshot with the words, “T…Jama…Leaked Audio on Covid 10 Lockdown,” along with the caption, “A voice clip of religious leader who violated lockdown rules that went viral.”
The BPR&D guidebook also asked personnel and law enforcement agencies to be wary against their own beliefs.
“Watch out for information that confirms your pre-existing beliefs. Review facts before sharing information. Stories that seem hard to believe are often untrue,” IE quoted the booklet as saying.
Related news: Tablighi Jamaat asks it COVID-cured to donate plasma
Even though the publishing of the audio and its withdrawal shows a stark contrast in the perception of Delhi Police and the BPR&D, when asked by IE why was the audio cited as an example in the booklet, the BPR&D said he cannot comment on all examples that have been cited.
“There are many examples given in the booklet. I cannot comment on what examples have been given for fake audio clips and videos. These are all done by a committee. It is the committee which does these enquiries. It has technical people who find out which is a fake video or audio. Only they (the committee) can say what it is. Right now there are some corrections being carried out in the report,” the BPR&D spokesperson said.