Fake News Linked to the Ongoing Farmers’ Protest
Updated: May 18
Farmers protesting against the three farm laws on the borders of Delhi have been demanding the abrogation of laws which are considered to favour big private players and are deemed as ‘anti-farmers’. Unfortunately, consequent to the agitation and the blockade in the national capital region, numerous fake news have been spread across social media.
The misinformation targeted towards the protesting farmers tend to portray them as violent and extremists; seeking to discredit one of the longest and most intense protest movements in the past few decades. Indian fact-checking site “BoomLive.in” put together a list of more than 63 fake news stories that are being circulated online.
One of the most prominent false news circulated by many Hindu nationalists accused the farmers of flying the Khalistan flag, which represents a separatist movement calling for the creation of a Sikh nation on January 26, 2020 (Indian Republic Day). But, in reality, neither did the protesters remove the Indian flag nor were there any Khalistani flags being flown. Some protesters had the Nishan Sahib flag, while others had the Kisan Mazdoor Ekta flag representing solidarity and unity; neither of these being associated with separatist movements.
“This isn’t about Khalistan; we are here to talk about farmers’ rights. Here, no one is talking about any party or any groups. This is about farmers and their interests and that is why we all have come here. Before sharing false information on social media, we must think about how we are projecting our farmers before the world.” ~ Gagandeep Singh, Farmer (in an interview to The Quint)
Furthermore, the inert underlying xenophobia and Islamophobia of many Indian politicians and some media houses have resulted in circulation of fake news that Muslims have infiltrated and seeped through the movement. For instance, lots of photos were shared online showing groups of women wearing burkas under the caption “false farmers”. The photo was posted along with the caption #FarmersProtestHijacked, implying that Muslim political parties had infiltrated the movement. However, as BoomLive reported, the women in the photo are not farmers themselves. However, this group paid a visit to the Punjab offices of Bharatiya Kisan Union, an apolitical organisation that defends farmers in India, to offer their support on January 14, 2021.
There has also been predominant claims that the farmers are rising against the majority hindu population. Few social media users have been circulating a photo that shows farmers destroying the Hindi signposts. According to BoomLive.in, this image was taken out of context; where after running this image through a reverse image search it was found that the same photo surfaced in articles from 2017. Reacting to the fake news being circulated around, farmers state that it is an attempt to discredit the farmers and a way to divert attention from the real concerns.
“We are not angry with the media but with a section of the media which is constantly spreading fake news. We have asked the sons of the farmers to train the farmers to use social media platforms. After that, we will post the things related to agriculture and tell the truth about the protest site to everyone. We have made this strategy after the recent news about the borders being vacated. Our fight is not only about the farm laws now, we also have to fight against those who are trying to weaken the movement.” ~ Farmer leader, Jagtar Singh Bajwa (in an interview to Indo-Asian News Service)
In a recent turn of events, a BJP MP alleged that transportation of medical use oxygen into Delhi was hampered due to the road blockade caused by protesters. However, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), the representative body of several protesting farmer unions, affirmed that they have kept a way open for emergency services since day one of the agitation. In retaliation SKM added,
“A false propaganda is being spread against farmers that they have blocked the roads and not letting oxygen into Delhi. This is completely false news. Yes, we are protesting but not against COVID-19 patients, corona warriors or common citizens. We are against the government’s discriminatory policy on agriculture,”
The longevity and the determination shown by the farmers at the protest sites was unanticipated. India is currently witnessing one of the most fierce and extensive movements, which has attracted global attention through media and social media platforms and, with that, it has also been a target of disinformation. At this juncture, it is essential to mindfully consume and share information. Fact checking and verification of sources are absolutely significant to ensure that ‘truth prevails’.
Feature Image Source: The Quint