On Wednesday morning, Amit Malviya, the head of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s IT tweeted a purported first-person account of a student of Kolkata’s Vidyasagar College about the violence that had erupted in the campus during party chief Amit Shah’s rally in the city the previous evening.
In the chaos, a bust of Bengal Renaissance icon Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar installed inside the college was smashed.
According to the Facebook post shared by Malviya, a student named Biraj Narayan Roy claimed that the violence had been instigated by the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad, the student wing of the Trinamool Congress, which is in power in the state. He alleged that bricks were thrown at the participants in the rally from inside the campus and that members of the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad, popularly known as the TMCP, had set ablaze motorcycles and vandalised the bust of Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar.
The writer of the post claimed that BJP workers could not have smashed the statue because it is located deep inside the campus. “You need to cross two gates – one iron and another wooden door – to reach the statue located completely inside the college premises,” he wrote. “And TMCP was already inside the campus with bricks.”
Biraj Narayan Roy’s Facebook account is no longer available. However, the same message has been shared by numerous people, with some circulating it in the first person. This was pointed out by many Facebook users.
One Twitter user pointed this out sarcastically: “Today, entire Facebook is ‘I am a Vidyasagar student.’”
Alt News has attempts to fact-check the claims made in the Facebook post.
1) First brick was thrown from inside the college campus
There are neither ground reports nor visuals circulating on social media that support the allegation that the violence was started after a brick was thrown from inside the college campus.
Local news organisation Anandabazar’s ground report shows stones being hurled inside the premises by people standing outside on the road, wearing saffron coloured “NaMo Again” t-shirts. The footage does not show anyone hrowing stones from inside the campus.
BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya shared a clip to support the allegation that the violence was started by the Trinamool. The clip was captioned, “Another video which shows TMC had strategically planted thugs to create riot like situation during BJP President’s road show.”
But the video does nothing to back Malviya’s claims.
The clip shows the police jostling with BJP supporters who can be seen pushing the barricades. The people on the other side, who Malviya claims are Trinamool workers, are merely shouting slogans and waving black flags. In fact, one of them holds up a bottle to the camera to show that it was thrown by BJP workers.
2) Trinamool Chhatra Parishad members torched bikes
The Facebook post also claimed that Trinamool Chhatra Parishad members set ablaze motorcycles. But video footage from the ground shows men in saffron t-shirts setting the bikes on fire. As is evident from the clip, this takes place outside the campus.
Another video shot from an elevated position shows the moment when the arson takes place. This footage gives a panoramic view of the site of violence. The bikes are burnt right outside the college gate that is surrounded by BJP supporters. They can be seen sporting saffron t-shirts and waving the party flag.
3) BJP workers could not have entered the campus because it was locked
This claim was made by Amit Shah during his press conference on Wednesday. Holding up a photograph of the glass enclosure in which the Vidyasagar bust sat, he said, “This was inside two locked rooms. It wasn’t publically displayed. My only question is that the incident happened at 7.30 when the college was shut and all the gates were locked. Who opened the rooms? Who had the keys? Who has an administrative hold over the college? It’s TMC…Bengal’s citizens’ should also know who gave the keys when the statue was inside a room? The lock was also not broken…How can BJP workers have the key when they were on the road? All evidence points that Vidyasagar’s statue was vandalised by TMC goons.”
Several videos available online show BJP supporters using force to get inside the college campus. At 0:19 minutes in the clip posted below, men wearing “NaMo Again” t-shirts can be seen attempting to break the lock on the gate using sticks, striking the lock repeatedly.
In another video, BJP supporters can be seen entering the campus after forcefully breaking the lock.
An aerial view of the violence showcases dozens of BJP supporters gathered in front of the college gate. Many of them are attacking the locked gate and subsequently entering the campus. At about 50 seconds, the man recording the video can be heard saying in Bengali, “They are entering and breaking things.”
Amit Shah’s rationale that his party workers could not have gotten access to the campus because they didn’t have keys is not supported by video evidence that shows them striking the lock repeatedly and entering the campus.
4) BJP workers could not have vandalised Vidyasagar’s statue as it is located deep inside the campus, guarded by an iron gate and a wooden door
Alt News spoke to alumni of Vidyasagar College who said that the campus has several statues of Vidyasagar. The one vandalised in the violence was located close to the gate of of the main building.
It is true that one has to pass an iron gate, which is the main gate, and a wooden door to get to the statue. However, there is barely any distance between these access points. The image below shows the frontal view of the area where the violence took place. As evident, the main gate is iron, behind which are several wooden doors.
We have already shown while fact-checking Claim 4 that BJP workers entered the premises by repeatedly striking the gate with rods to break the lock. The party’s chief and the viral social media post tried to build a narrative around the iron gate, attempting to suggest that it was impassable. A gate, iron or wooden, is as strong as its lock. The misleading emphasis on the durability of the iron gate is aimed at misleading people.
Amit Shah alleged in his press conference that BJP workers could not have vandalised the statue because it was inside a locked room. The video posted below shows moments after the college gate was breached. Several individuals can be seen charging at wooden doors behind the iron gate. A few persons who have successfully opened the doors, enter the room and bring with them what looks like parts of a white sculpture.
At 0:13, we can see a white object, seemingly made of plaster of Paris, being brought out and thrown around. At 0:21, the same white object is hurled to the ground. From 0:28-0:41, the object remains untouched. At 0:42, a person picks it up and thrashes it again. At least two men in the video can be seen wearing BJP’s colours.
We also located a clip that covers the entire set of events. Posted below, the video first shows saffron-clad men charging at the main iron gate and going past it at 00:32. At about 3:00 minutes into the video, the person recording the footage can be heard saying, “They’ve broken the door and entered inside”, while referring to the wooden door of the building inside. At 4:00, the mob can be seen bringing out Vidyasagar’s bust and thrashing it on the ground. From 7:33 onward, motorcycles are set ablaze.
Photographs published by The Telegraph show the debris of Vidyasagar’s bust, which was kept inside a glass enclosure – the same enclosure that Amit Shah displayed a picture of during his press conference.
According to The Telegraph, “Principal Goutam Kundu, who said he was shocked while speaking minutes after the attack between 6.50pm and 7.05pm on Tuesday, described how a group broke open the gate and stormed the office and went for the glass case.”
A video posted by Amit Malviya shows moments after Vidyasagar’s bust was vandalised when West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee inspects the site. The clip depicts the same location where the statue was being destroyed. It is noteworthy that the second part of Malviya’s tweet – “the broken statue was neatly placed for Mamata Banerjee” – is misleading because we have already substantiated from earlier videos that though the statue was placed inside a glass enclosure, the enclosure was broken and the statue was hurled right outside the wooden doors.
5) Trinamool Chhatra Parishad vandalised the statue
As is evident from several video clips, the men harging at the locked gates of Vidyasagar College wore saffron t-shirts, as did the people who forcefully entering the campus. The claim thatmembers of the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad vandalised the Vidyasagar statue is a claim not backed by any visual evidence.
In conclusion, Amit Shah’s allegations and the claims raised in the viral social media post, that were shared by Amit Malviya and Swapan Dasgupta, are not supported by visuals from the ground.
This article first appeared on AltNews.in