The ongoing hostilities between Israel and Palestine have brought several aspects of the conflict into sharp focus. Surprisingly, verified users on X , predominantly from India, were identified as consistently spearheading the dissemination of inaccurate and deceptive information during the conflict. Their efforts aimed at garnering engagement have significantly distorted the global perception of the crisis.
Over the past 3 months, Indian right-wing accounts, often featuring the Indian and Israeli flags together, have become prominent supporters of Israel. They are also major contributors to and amplifiers of disinformation against Palestine.
After carefully examining content related to the conflict, DFRAC identified multiple verified users on X from India orchestrating a disinformation campaign. Their focus primarily leans towards portraying Palestine negatively or expressing support for Israel. We’ve gathered a list of six accounts with blue ticks, actively sharing posts related to the conflict. Several of their claims have been subjected to fact-checking, revealing them as false or misleading.
We the people (@ajaychauhan41):
A user with the username @ajaychauhan41 has been fact-checked on four separate occasions for sharing misinformation related to the Middle-Eastern conflict.
Below we provide a compiled collage for easy understanding of the misinformation spread by the user.
Mr. Sinha (@MrSinha_):
Right-wing user @MrSinha_, a recurrent subject of fact-checks by DFRAC, was identified as disseminating numerous inaccurate reports related to the war. Here is a consolidated collage to facilitate a clear understanding of the misinformation propagated by the user.
Suresh Chavanke (@SureshChavhanke):
Sudarshan News Editor Suresh Chavhanke, who has been fact-checked multiple times for spreading misinformation and hate, was also found to be sharing false information about the conflict. His speech feeds the audience (and others online) with heaps of false information and also makes baseless claims.
Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul):
A right-leaning account named Aditya Raj kaul, is the executive editor of TV9 Network. He was also found sharing multiple false information on the internet in relation to conflict.
Megh Updates (@MeghUpdates):
Another verified account, Megh Updates, right wing leaned, was found to spread the maximum number of false information in relation to the conflict.
For the account alone we fact-checked 7 false information peddled on X platform.
Frontal Force (@FrontalForce):
Another right-wing account was found to share false information on the conflict.
Beside these users, other verified users like ShriRaj Tripuute (Social Media & IT Cell member of BJP Maharashtra), Naveen Kumar Jindal former Media Head & Spokpesrson BJP Delhi, Shivam Dixit (Part of Panchjanya media house), Prashant Umrao (Standing Counsel in Supreme Court of India for the State of Goa & Spokesperson for BJP UP) have also shared false news similar to all the six users identified above.
Utilizing images and videos in conjunction with text messages, the messaging aims to persuade users that Islam and Muslims bear sole responsibility for the war. Concurrently, it dehumanizes the plight of Palestinians by labeling them as “jihadis” and “terrorists.” Meanwhile, online, there is a prevalence of jokes about their fatalities and a mocking of their hardships.
After Hamas attacked Israel this month, the Indian social media space was abuzz with the debate of Indian Muslims supporting Palestine! This discourse was marked by the emergence of the hashtag #IndianMuslims. On investigation, we found that the hashtag gained traction on October 10, 2023, and reached its peak on October 11, with a total of 156 tweets dedicated to promoting it. Subsequently, the trend, gradually, subsided over time.
Our investigation also provided insight into the frequently used words that are associated with the hashtag — gaddaar, snakes, jihadi, barbarism.
The hashtag #IndianMuslims was employed on Twitter as a deliberate attempt to target Indian Muslims while circumventing Twitter’s hate speech policies. Instead of using the term directly, individuals resorted to coded language such as “Buzlims” in order to dodge content moderation.
The tweets in question raised doubts about the loyalty of Indian Muslims to their own country, making false claims that insinuated that the community’s primary support is for Pakistan or organizations like the Hamas.
What is particularly alarming is the consistent use of derogatory terms like “gaddaar”, (traitor) “ummah” and “jihadi” alongside the hashtag. This pattern reveals a disturbing trend of labeling an entire community under a toxic umbrella of negative terms, thereby fueling social conflict and harmful stereotypes.
Despite the absence of a specific hashtag, these individuals have consistently chosen to espouse hateful rhetoric with their tweets. Due to their significant number of followers on social media, these ‘influencers’ possess a considerable amount of societal sway, thereby perpetuating hate speech that further intensifies divisions among communities during periods of conflict.
1. Yati Narsinhanand
Prominent religious figure, Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, known for his controversial speeches and advocacy for violence, once again attracted attention recently. Against the backdrop of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the 58-year-old leader of the Dasna Devi temple in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, expressed his intention to involve himself in the Middle-East turmoil. He has released a video statement where he is trying to reach out to Israel’s religious and political leaders, while expressing his desire that he and his followers want to relocate to Israel.
During the video message, Narsinghanand, accompanied by a small group of disciples, asserted that Israel and India share a common adversary. He acknowledged that the followers of Sanatana Dharma may currently lack the means to confront this shared enemy. Consequently, he extended his and his followers’ support to Israel, on the condition that they are permitted to practice their religion freely in that country.
He emphasized that during times of peace, they would continue their regular activities; but, during times of conflict or crisis, they would stand in solidarity with Israel, even willing to make sacrifices for the cause. He announced his intention on October 16, to formally request the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi, to settle in that country.
Narsinghanand’s past is marked by inflammatory remarks against religious minorities in India. He had reportedly played an important role in organizing the Dharma Sansad in Haridwar in December 2021 where there were calls for violence against Muslims. Videos from this event received widespread condemnation, with some likening the rhetoric to the extremist ideologies of Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Additionally, he has expressed scepticism towards the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court, and the army, making provocative statements about those who place their trust in these institutions.
Yati Narsinghanad hate speeches: We have it for you here in our report
2. Shekhar Chahal
A close associate of Sadhvi Prachi, who is well-known for promoting hate speech, has also engaged in divisive activities. He has posted tweets related to the Israel-Palestine conflict with the apparent intent of targeting the Muslim community in India. In one of his tweets, he has urged people to show support for Israel by waving flags at an India-Pakistan cricket match, a move seemingly aimed at singling out cricketer Rizwaan and the Muslim community in India, labeling them as “Desh ke Gaddaar” (traitors to the nation).
In another video he was found using the word ‘jihad’, while expressing strong support for Israel.
His user name: @modifiedshekhar should be noted. Indeed, he modified his user name. He claims himself to be a “Kattar Hindu” and has a profile picture with the prime minister. He was earlier running his account by the name of film actress Kangna Ranaut.
As illustrated in the graphic below, it’s quite evident that @ModifiedShekhar has gone to great lengths to erase their previous tweets, which were originally posted during their impersonation of Kangna Ranaut.
What’s particularly interesting is that both the former and current usernames of this user share the same user ID. This individual, previously operating under the name @iKanganaTeam, shamelessly resorted to desperate tactics, like the follow-for-follow strategy, to artificially boost his followers’ count.
It is important to highlight that @ModifiedShekhar consistently engages in divisive and communal commentary, resorting to impersonation, simply to get more followers.
3. Sadhvi Prachi
Known for stoking controversies and hate speech, Sadhvi Prachi also had something to say about the Hamas while targeting Indian Muslims in a video interview with an account called ‘Sanatani Voice’, which identifies itself as the ‘Voice of Every Sanatani’.
In her statement, she implies that those who express solidarity with Palestine, are automatically aligned with the Hamas. She suggests that their support for the Palestinian cause is equivalent to endorsing Hamas. Besides, she makes a comparison between these supporters and iconic freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, insinuating that they cannot be seen in the same light as the martyr.
There are reasons why Shekhar Chahal is considered a close associate of Parchi Saadhvi; they share the inclination to propagate hate speech by reposting each other’s tweets. This affiliation stems from their mutual commitment to endorsing and magnifying content that fuels a polarizing and incendiary dialogue in public spaces.
Other usernames running with name of “proud hindu” and showing flags of india and israel together were majorly found spreading hate around conflict with captions like , “ Look at the human face of #Israel’s warships, they demolished the entire building, but did not even touch the stairs to allow the righteous servants of Allah like Hamas terrorists to meet the 72 Hurons.”
Another user wrote , “Indian Muslims are also not behind, they also believe in d same book, same ideology as Hamas which permits k*lling of Kafirs in d name of Jihad”
While considering the broader scope of discussions surrounding Israel and Palestine, the false information and hate network can be perceived as a calculated attempt to scatter the seeds of confusion, discord and disharmony in society. Its purpose? To spread divisive storylines and narratives that has the power to penetrate and vitiate the secular and pluralist fabric of our society.