Edited video used to target Indian opposition politician with false 'Muslim conversion' claim

A manipulated video of an Indian opposition politician was repeatedly shared online as the Hindu-majority nation held marathon general elections, in posts that falsely claimed it showed him announcing his conversion to Islam. The video fused separate clips to misrepresent remarks made by Kanhaiya Kumar about India's Muslim minority population. His representative told AFP on May 17 that Kumar is Hindu and has not converted to Islam.

The video was shared on social media site X on May 2, 2024.

Its Hindi-language caption suggested the video showed politician Kanhaiya Kumar from the opposition Congress Party announcing his conversion to Islam (archived link).

"I have become a Muslim... Everyone should become Muslim," it said in part.

The video was made up of three clips of Kumar taken from the same event.

In the first clip Kumar could be heard saying people "left the old religion in which there was untouchability" -- referring to the Hindu faith's rigid caste system whose bottom rung was once disparagingly known as "untouchables".

"There is no high or low status in the mosque," Kumar, who is running to represent northwest Delhi, could also be heard saying.

In the second clip he said: "We will safeguard ourselves, and in doing so, we will also safeguard our community and our nation."

And in the third: "Our Allah has immense power. Allah will protect us."

Screenshot of the false post taken on May 5, 2024

The video was shared with a similar claim on Facebook here and here and on X here.

The posts surfaced as India held general elections conducted over six weeks to ease the immense logistical burden of staging the democratic exercise in the world's most populous country.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party are widely expected to win with a weakened political opposition pushed to the sidelines.

But responding to the circulating posts, a representative for Kumar told AFP on May 17: "Kanhaiya has not converted to Islam. He remains a Hindu."

Manipulated video

The video in the posts was also manipulated.

A Google reverse image search of keyframes found the clips were taken from longer footage uploaded on the YouTube account of local media outlet One Channel on August 27, 2018 (archived link).

The video's title and caption said it showed Kumar answering questions from Muslims in Nanded, a district in the western Maharashtra state (archived link).

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video in the false posts (left) and the longer footage (right):

Screenshot comparison

An analysis of the 30-minute footage found Kumar's remarks had been misrepresented.

Nowhere in the footage did he say he converted to Islam.

The first clip corresponds from the 12:03 mark of the longer footage.

But it actually showed Kumar quoting Abul Kalam Azad, the first education minister of India post-independence and who was Muslim (archived link).

The reference to Azad was omitted in the circulating video.

The second and third clips -- which correspond from the 16:01 and 15:12 marks of the longer footage respectively -- also excluded the context of Kumar's remarks.

He was making a point about what he said was the marginalisation of Muslims in India and was telling his audience how they could respond to this.

He said: "We can counter that narrative and say that the constitution has given us equal rights, this country belongs to us as much as it belongs to the Hindus... We will safeguard ourselves, and in doing so, we will also safeguard our community and our nation."

He also said: "If anyone comes to you as a protector of the community and says we will save the religion, tell them 'Our Allah has immense power. Allah will protect us.'"

AFP has repeatedly debunked misinformation related to India's general elections here.


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