On August 10, BBC News reported that thousands of protesters had taken to the streets in Soura, Srinagar, against the government’s decision to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status. The outlet claimed that it “witnessed the police opening fire and using tear gas to disperse the crowd. Despite that, the Indian government has said the protest never took place.” BBC Punjabi claimed that live rounds had been fired at the protestors.
Al Jazeera had also reported about a massive agitation in Srinagar where a large crowd defied a government lockdown. The organisation said that the protestors were met with live fire, tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets.
According to Reuters, at least 10,000 had participated in the August 9 protest against the dilution of Article 370. The publication claimed to have spoken to a police source, an official source and eyewitnesses.
Soon after these reports, the Home Ministry put out a statement claiming that the news suggesting 10,000 people protested in Srinagar is “fabricated and incorrect”. It said that there had been only a “few stray protests” involving not more than 20 people were involved.
But three days later, the Home Ministry clarified that widespread protests indeed took place in Soura, Srinagar.
By this time, the claim that news reports about the protests were “fabricated” had already become fodder for many: Republic TV, OpIndia and Bharatiya Janata Party supporters Retd Major Gaurav Arya, Mohandas Pai and Abhijit Iyer Mitra, among others.
The BBC had tweeted that it stood by its reportage. No one, especially journalists who had criticised the BBC broadcast, provided any evidence to back their accusations or support the government’s claim.
Some social media users floated the unsubstantiated idea that the video had not been shot in India.
The Indian government and some social media user made these claims about the BBC’s reportage.
- There were no widespread protests in Srinagar.
- Stray protests that saw a gathering of not more than 20 people took place.
- The reports are fabricated.
- The footage was not shot in Kashmir.
- No bullets were fired at the protestors.
Verification of time
At several places in the videos, the protestors can be seen holding up a poster that says, “Abrogation of Article 370 is not acceptable for us Jammu and Kashmir.”
The government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status only on August 5. The presence of this banner indicates that the footage is not old. Moreover, the home ministry itself has confirmed that protests did take place.
Verification of location
There have been several claims on social media that the no protests erupted in Kashmir. Many others claimed that the unrest did not occur in India. However, several visual cues in the footage establish that the scenes were shot in Srinagar.
1. Jenab Saeb mosque
A mosque is visible from 1:31 to 1:57 in the BBC footage. The same mosque – which has a green dome with white stripes and white and green coloured towers on the side – is also visible in the Al Jazeera footage from 0:27 to 0:36.
Alt News looked for mosques in Soura and found that the one featured in the videos is Jenab mosque located in Anchar, Soura.
The mosque is more clearly visible in another video of the protest broadcast by Al Jazeera.
2. Ramzan Memorial Educational Trust
At 0:57 into the BBC footage, a hoarding that says “Ramzan Memorial” is visible. This is an educational institute in Soura, Srinagar.
3. Nice Bakery
A board that says “Nice Bakery” is seen from 00:59 to 1:08 in the BBC footage. This is also located in Soura near Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences or (SKIMS) Hospital.
4. All the three places are within a 2.5 km radius of each other.
Google Maps show that all the three establishments – Jenab Saeb mosque, Ramzan Memorial Educational Trust and SKIMS Hospital – are within walking distance of each other.
5. Sharp Sight Eye Hospital
In the first few seconds of the BBC footage, where people can be seen running helter-skelter and shots can be heard in the background, we noticed a board (possibly an advertisement) on a lamppost. However, due to the poor quality of the video, the board is not legible. Alt News contacted BBC News and was sent stills from their raw footage where the board is more clearly visible. As evident in the photo montage below, the board says “Sharp Sight”, which is the name of an eye hospital in Chanpora, Srinagar.
This fact-check confirms that the videos broadcast by BBC and Al Jazeera were shot in Soura, Srinagar. The “abrogation of Article 370” banners suggest that the unrest was sparked by the government’s recent decision to scrap the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and the large gathering of people proves that ministry of home affairs’ earlier claim that not more than 20 people had agitated is incorrect.
While BBC’s reportage claimed live rounds were fired to push back the crowd and the media organisation reiterated that they stand by their report, Alt News was unable to independently verify this. However, the Indian government has repeatedly denied the usage of bullets.
This article first appeared on Alt News.