Clip from India's Kerala falsely shared as 'attack on migrant's shop in Tamil Nadu'

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Facebook posts have shared footage of a man setting a shop on fire, falsely claiming he targeted a store in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu belonging to a migrant from Bihar state. The clip surfaced as reports of violence against Hindi-speaking workers in the mainly Tamil-speaking state sparked panic, despite local officials insisting the rumours were baseless. The fire actually occurred in Kerala state and police told AFP it was unrelated to migrant workers.

"A shop of a Bihari brother was burned in Tamil Nadu," reads Hindi-language Facebook posted shared on on March 6.

The video, which has more than 500 views, shows a man calmly walk towards a shop before he pours a bottle of liquid on the counter and lights a fire.

The clip is superimposed with the picture of a unidentified man and a crying emoji.

Screenshot of the false Facebook post taken on March 13, 2023

The miscaptioned clip was also shared on Facebook here, here and here, following reports of a wave of attacks targeting migrant workers in Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu officials have denied the rumours, which have sparked panic and reportedly prompted some migrants to flee the state over safety fears.

Kerala attack

Keyword searches on Google found the video in reports about an arson attack in Kerala, a state bordering Tamil Nadu.

Kerala-based Malayalam-language news channel Asianet News reported that the shop belonged to a lottery agent and that the arsonist, identified as Rajesh TS, was later arrested.

The report makes no reference to a Bihari migrant.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video in false posts (left) and in Asianet News's report (right):

Screenshot comparison of the video in false posts (left) and in Asianet News's report (right)

A closer analysis of the video found the shop sign is written in Malayalam, Kerala's official language, and says "Meenakshi Lotteries Tripunithura".

Meenakshi Lotteries is a chain of lottery agents in Kerala while Tripunithura is a residential area within the state.

Tamil Nadu's official language is Tamil.

A screenshot showing the Malayalam-language shop sign visible in the video

Various media outlets reported on the fire here, here and here and made no mention of migrant workers.

Satheesh Kumar, a sub-inspector from Tripunithura police station, confirmed the video was filmed in Kerala.

He said the attacker used to run a lottery shop and that the fire was related to an issue with lottery tickets -- not migrant workers.