On September 30,2021, a hashtag named #घुसपैठियों_से_असम_मुक्त_हो started trending on Twitter and quickly reached the top five spot in a matter of hours. A total of more than 50,000 tweets were made within the hashtag. We fact checked some of the statements made within the hashtag that ranged from misleading to downright fake.
But what was shocking was the blatant display of hate and xenophobia displayed by the users who used this hashtag.
Why was it trending?
The hashtag was being used by people who were in support of the mass evictions that took place in Darrang District of Assam which turned violent leading to the deaths of two people. The hashtag was being used to show support for these evictions citing all kinds of reasons for them but most prominently, they seemed to not want these people there because according to these users, the people living in the region were all Bangladeshi Muslims or members of the minority community. We can easily trace a pattern being formed with these tweets that targeted members of the minority community.
Why was it hateful?
Majority of the tweets within this hashtag, rather than providing a valid reason for why they don’t want immigrants, only talked about not wanting them in the country because they were Muslims. Some tweets are specifically targeted at Bangladeshi Muslims while others are just simply hate speech against all Muslims. Some tweets even proclaim the supremacy of Hinduism over Islam and very provocatively so.
Here are a few examples of the blatant hate speech being used against members of the minority community.
Who amplified this hateful hashtag?
The top tweets within the hashtag came from an account by the name of ‘Yogi Devnath’ who rigorously posted and re-posted the hashtag urging their followers to get this hashtag trending.
It must be noted that this handle has over 1 million followers on twitter and has been verified by twitter.
Looking further into their profile, we found that the account is very much used to amplify different hashtags every single day of the week.
Upon digging further into this profile and performing some keyword searches we found that this account has previously been in the limelight for being a fake account whose username was very recently changed from @nageenshekhawat to the current one. Social media researcher Ajayendra Urmila Tripathi did a deep analysis of this account and found clear-cut evidence of the account existing as a woman’s account and when it gained 1 million followers, the name was changed to Yogi Devnath.
At DFRAC, we have previously fact checked this account. You can read the report here.
Why is this trend dangerous?
A new pattern seems to be emerging on twitter where these hateful hashtags are made to trend with thousands upon thousands of tweets within which the use of the language is extremely hateful. The content in these hashtags are often fake and misleading as well which might be difficult to catch on to because each post is posted multiple times over and over again. This particular hashtag displays the same pattern mentioned above. The motive and agenda behind it then becomes very clear which is to bring hate upon minority communities and malign their name.
The first claim we investigated was two separate pictures that were circulated within the hashtag. The left hand side picture shows a man about to attack a police officer and the right hand side picture shows a group of men standing on a street. The users who posted this claim wrote that this was a picture from 2020 when Bangladeshi Muslims attacked police officers in Kolkata.
We performed a reverse image search on the two images along with keyword searches and found that the image is indeed from Tikiapara region of Howrah and it took place when the locals clashed with police officers who were trying to impose lockdown measures.
The Times of India report and numerous other reports make no mention of these individuals belonging to the Bangladeshi Muslim community.
Interestingly, we found follow up reports on the clash in which it said that 14 people were arrested in connection with the incident and Howrah Police department tweeted that amongst the 14 people arrested, one was the brother of BJP’s minority cell head of the area. Further adding a twist to the story. As per their claim, the man was seen instigating others against the police.
Since there have been no reports on the aggressors belonging to the Bangladeshi Muslim community, this claim is misleading.
Second claim that we looked into was the usage of an image showing women protesting in Assam. The image was being used to show that women in Assam are on the streets to protest against illegal migrants.
This image was posted multiple times by many different users.
Upon reverse searching the image on google, we found that the image was first used in 2015 by various news articles covering the 12 hour bandh in Assam that was proving to be detrimental for the state.
Another very extensively used image within the hashtag was an infographic showing how the religious population of Assam changed over the decades. This image was posted and retweeted by hundreds if not thousands of people using this hashtag.
The graphic shows that the Hindu and Muslim population in 1961-1971 in Assam were 37.17% and 30.99% respectively. This changed to 41.89% Hindus and 77.42% Muslims in 1971 to 1991.
Even just based on simple mathematics, the numbers used in the diagram just do not match. We know that Christians and other minorities have historically made up less than 5% of Assam’s population. Based on that estimate, when we add the two percentages given between 1961 and 1971 we get a total of 68.16%. So subtracting the total percentage plus the Christian population from a total of 100 we are left with 26.14%. Who were these 26.14%? The maths is similarly wrong in the second part as well.
However, we did find the census data from the decades mentioned and it must be noted that Hindus have always been the majority population in Assam.
Since the percentages and mathematically incorrect and false, this claim is fake.