On Tuesday, actor Deepika Padukone attended a protest meeting at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University to express solidarity with students who had been injured in violence unleashed by a masked mob on Sunday. Many have blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party’s student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, for planning the violence.

Padukone’s gesture irked some people, who took to social media to make #BoycottChhapaak one of the top trends on Twitter. Padukone’s Chhapaak, which will be released on Friday, has been inspired by the life of acid attack survivor Laxmi Aggarwal, who was attacked by 32-year-old Naeem Khan in 2005.

A section of the media has claimed that the attacker in Chhapaak has been given the Hindu name Rajesh. Among the publications making the claim was the right-wing magazine Swarajya. It based its assertion by reading the online IMDB film database, which lists the screen name of one cast members as Rajesh.

Opindia’s Nupur Sharma tweeted, “If secularism means changing “Nadeem” to “Rajesh”, set secularism on fire.”

Latestly and News Nation published similar reports.

BJP Haryana IT cell head Arun Yadav tweeted a photograph of attack survivor Aggarwal and wrote, “This is Laxmi Aggarwal. Chhapaak is based on her. In 2005, a man named Nadeem Khan threw acid on her in Delhi’s Khan Market. To keep the fabric of secularism intact, our Bollywood has named Nadeem ‘Rajesh’ in the film. #NameItLikeBollywood.”

National media in-charge of J&K BJP youth wing BJYM Rohit Chahal made the same allegation.

Advocate Ishkaran Singh Bhandari tweeted, “If a different name is used & especially a name typically used by different religions will send a Legal Notice.”

Referring to Bhadari’s tweet, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy wrote, “…if they have changed name of accused from Muslim in real life to a Hindu name. That is defamation.”

False claim

Alt News contacted Newslaundry co-founder Abhinandan Sekhri who attended the screening of Chhapaak in Delhi. “I watched the special screening of the movie which was organised for acid attack survivors, and the claim on social media that the accused is portrayed as belonging to the Hindu community is false,” he said. “The person who is convicted is presented as belonging to the Muslim community, and so are his relatives, with one of them shown in a burkha.”

Sekhri also called-out Swarajya’s erroneous report on Twitter.

According to PTI journalist Radhika Sharma’s report, “In the Meghna Gulzar directed film, there is no mention of any Nadeem or Naeem Khan. Moreover, Rajesh is the name of Malti’s boyfriend.

The screening was organised by the National Commission for Women. “The person convicted for the acid attack is known as Bashir Khan urf Babboo in the film, whereas Rajesh is the name of the boyfriend of the acid attack victim, Malti,” Sharma informed Alt News.

A Times Now broadcast also debunked the false claim.

Organised campaign

Prashant Patel Umrao, Shefali Vaidya, author Ravi Rai, Anuj Bajpai and @Nationalist_Omwere among those who suggested that the Muslim identity of Laxmi Aggarwal’s attackers had been whitewashed in Chhapaak.

Sonam Mahajan whose tweet drew over 7,000 retweets at the time of writing this article wrote, “If crime has no religion, then why does Bollywood feel the need to change the religion of perpetrators even in biopics?”

Mahajan was one of the earliest to float the false claim.

Rohit Jaiswal who identifies himself as a “film critic” asked, “If Acid attacker name was Naeem Khan then the same name should have been used in film as well… Ye Rajesh kya hai??”

Swarjaya later updated its report with the correct information and deleted an erroneous tweet.

Furthermore, the Free Press Journal carried a misleading report titled, “#NameItLikeBollywood trends after Deepika’s ‘Chhapaak’ ‘changes’ acid attacker’s name from Nadeem Khan to Rajesh.” The article clarifies the misinformation only in the concluding paragraph.

This article was first published by Alt News.