Video shows chicken shop outside defunct Hindu temple in Pakistan, not India

A video showing a defunct Hindu temple in Muslim-majority Pakistan has been repeatedly shared in social media posts that falsely claimed it was located in India's southern Kerala state and contained a chicken shop "inaugurated" by opposition Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. A human rights activist told AFP the temple was no longer in use as Hindus fled the Punjab region in Pakistan following the subcontinent's partition in 1947, which split the country from neighbouring India.

The 28-second clip, which shows a poultry vendor in front of a building with an elaborate facade, was shared here on Facebook on April 30, 2024. 

Hindi-language sticker text on the video translates as: "Wake up, Hindus. This is Seeta Ram temple in Kerala's Wayanad that has a chicken shop inaugurated by Rahul Gandhi. This is Rahul Gandhi's constituency."

Rahul Gandhi, a leader of the opposition Congress party, represents Wayanad district in the southern state of Kerala in India's lower house (archived link).

"Imagine if the Congress comes to power in the whole country, what will it to do to our temples," the sticker text continues. 

A voice can be heard in the video saying: "This is Sitaram Mandir and beneath it is a chicken shop." Mandir is the Hindi word for temple.

The post's caption accuses Gandhi and his sister and fellow party leader, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, of helping Muslims to take over the Hindu temple (archived link).

Screenshot of the false Facebook post, captured on May 15, 2024

The claim surfaced after India began a marathon six-week general election on April 19, 2024 in the largest democratic exercise in the world. 

Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is widely expected to win the polls, but opposition parties have condemned him for anti-Muslim comments in election campaign speeches that have heightened concerns over sectarian tensions in India.

He has referred in campaign rallies to Muslims as "infiltrators" and claimed the main opposition Congress party would redistribute the nation's wealth to Muslims if it won.

Similar posts sharing the same video on X here and here also accused the Gandhis of giving over the temple to Muslims. 

But the video in fact shows a now-defunct temple in Pakistan.

Old temple in Pakistan

A keyword search on Google followed by a search on YouTube found the original video was uploaded by a Pakistani vlogger on August 10, 2023, with sticker text that read "Seeta Ram mandir become chicken shop in Pakistan" (archived link).

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

Screenshot comparison of the video in the false posts (left) and the original YouTube video (right)

The same YouTube user uploaded another video on August 25, 2023, which shows a Hindi-speaking man telling viewers he would take them on a tour of the now-defunct Seeta Ram temple in Ahmadpur Sial, a city in central Pakistan's Punjab province (archived link).

The temple in Ahmadpur Sial can be found on Google Maps here (archived link).

Photos of the temple uploaded to Google Maps by users match the building seen in the videos of the Seeta Ram Mandir (archived link).

Below is a screenshot comparison of the building seen in the video (left) and a photo of the temple seen on Google Maps (right), with similarities marked by AFP:

Screenshot comparison of the building seen in the video (left) and a photo of the temple seen on Google Maps (right), with similarities marked by AFP

Pakistan-based human rights activist Kapil Dev also confirmed the temple's location in the country's Ahmadpur Sial city.

"This temple is not functional anymore," he told AFP on May 9, 2024. Kapil explained many similar temples in Punjab became defunct after Hindus fled Pakistan for India following the subcontinent's partition in 1947.

AFP has debunked misinformation swirling around India's elections here


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