Conspiracy Theories Grip Social Media Following General Bipin Rawat's Death

Social media users are linking the crash, that killed General Bipin Rawat, to either an attack by insurgents, or internal sabotage, or even a communal attack.

Several conspiracy theories have gone viral on social media, following the Mi-17 helicopter crash near Tamil Nadu's Coonoor, causing the death of India's Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, his wife, and 11 other passengers.

Aviation experts and sources have pointed to the media that bad weather and "controlled flight into terrain" could be the cause of the crash, while a tri-service inquiry is currently underway for further investigations.

Meanwhile, several social media users have started linking the crash to either an attack by insurgents, or internal sabotage, or even a communal attack. No substantial evidence has been provided to actually back up any of the claims.

Let us examine and scrutinise some of these viral conspiracy theories.

Also Read: CDS Gen. Bipin Rawat, Wife Among 13 Dead In Chopper Crash: IAF Confirms

Theory: Attack By Tamil + Nagaland Insurgents?

One of the most viral conspiracy theories was started by Pakistan-based Twitter user AEROSINT Division PSF (@PSFAERO) in a Twitter thread, where the user claimed that the helicopter was shot down by a "shoulder fired man portable air defence system (sic)".

In the rest of the thread, the user claims that the Tamil Nadu Liberation Army, along with insurgent group LTTE and Nagaland separatist group National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM).

The thread mentioned that "Locals in the area have said that the helicopter carrying Indian CDS Bipin Rawat was on fire before it crashed".

Click here to view an archived version of the Twitter thread.

The claim's made by this user was further amplified by multiple accounts from both Pakistan and India, with many either copy-pasting some of the tweets, or sharing screenshots from the thread.

We found these tweets being shared on both Twitter and Facebook.

Fact: No Statements From Insurgents, No Evidence Of Attack Yet

We searched for 'emerging reports' of the helicopter being shot down, as claimed by the Twitter thread, but were unable to find any by a credible news media organisation.

We then started looking for recent activities of Tamil Nadu Liberation Army (TNLA).

TNLA was a separatist group from Tamil Nadu, fighting for an independent Tamil state, following India's Peacekeeping mission in Sri Lanka during the Civil War. The group was mostly active during the 1980's and 1990's, with the activities dying in the early 2000's.

According to the South Asian Terrorism Portal (SATP), the group was proscribed by the Union government under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) on July 2, 2002. SATP also mentioned that the TNLA cadres were also operating under the name "Tamizhar Vidhuthalai Iyakkam".

We searched for any recent statements from TNLA or Tamizhar Vidhuthalai Iyakkam, but yet again, were unable to find any statement, much less any mention of recent activities.

According to SATP, the last major incident involving TNLA was recorded in July, 2005, with the arrest of several members of the outlawed group.

"Four suspected members of the outlawed TNLA are arrested from Chennai, capital city of Tamil Nadu. The arrested are identified as Jayavel of Kurinjipadi, Selvam of Perambalur, Nataraj and Prabakar of Mayiladuthurai. Another person, identified as Yuvaraj of Vadamalai, is arrested for providing shelter to the four. According to police, the four-member gang had assembled in Chennai as part of a murder plan, which they had planned to execute in Vridhachalam," mentioned SATP profile on TNLA.

The viral thread also mentioned the involvement of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the crash.

Yet again, like TNLA, LTTE is a former Tamil separatist group working mostly out of Sri Lanka, and some parts of Tamil Nadu, from the 1980's to the end of 2000's.

India was the first country to ban LTTE and proscribe it under the POTA act on May 1992 - a year after the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by an LTTE operative.

LTTE officially disbanded in May 2009, following the death of their leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

According to SATP, the latest statement involving LTTE was on December 29, 2016, when former Sri Lankan State Minister of Child Affairs Vijayakala Maheswaran said during a ceremony at the Kilinochchi District Secretariat that "if LTTE leader Prabhakaran had been living today he could have become the Prime Minister of the country".

Further search for recent statements by the LTTE did not provide us with any results.

We were also unable to find any evidence of involvement by Nagaland separatist group National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM).

Theory: Crash Was Done By #SinoWahabiAlliance? Internal Sabotage?

Right-wing influencer Madhu Purnima Kishwar, who describes herself on Twitter as a 'factarian, and TRUTHWINGER (sic)' also tried to push a conspiracy theory about the crash being an intentional attack, rather than an accident.

According to Kishwar, the 'Sino-Wahabi Alliance (sic)' is to blame for the attack. "One of the prime suspects in the murder of #GeneralBipinRawat is the #SinoWahabiAlliance since General Rawat himself identified these genocidal forces as the biggest threat to India. Anxiously waiting to see if @PMOIndia cracks down on these forces," she wrote on Twitter.

Furthermore, immediately after the helicopter crash hit the news, there was a deluge of posts claiming that it was an internal sabotage to assassinate CDS Bipin Rawat, that caused the crash.

Fact: No Evidence Of Attack, Or Sabotage; Tri-Service Inquiry Underway

A tri-services inquiry has been ordered by the government into the crash, as announced by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at the Parliament on Thursday. The inquiry will be led by senior Indian Air Force helicopter pilot Air Marshal Manvendra Singh.

Also Read: Tri-Services Inquiry Into Crash: Rajnath Singh To Parliament

Meanwhile, sources have told the Economic Times that the first impression on the crash was that it was a 'controlled flight into terrain' (CFIT). According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), CFIT is an accident involving an "in-flight collision with terrain, water, or obstacle without indication of loss of control".

IATA categorised CFIT as "the second-highest fatal accident category after Loss of Control Inflight (LOCI)".

Furthermore, aviation experts have told the Times of India, that poor visibility and foggy conditions could be a reason for the crash to take place.

Therefore, there is absolutely no evidence or expert opinion, or military statement, that suggests that the crash could be linked to a planned attack.

Avoid Uninformed Speculation: Indian Air Force

In the wake of all the posts on social media claiming that the crash was caused due to an attack, the Indian Air Force released a statement on Twitter, reiterating the ongoing investigation by the tri-service Court of Inquiry, It also made an appeal to avoid uninformed speculation "to respect the dignity of the deceased".

Meanwhile several unrelated images and videos have gone viral on social media, false claiming to show the last instances of the crash. BOOM has done at least three different fact checks on such false claims.

Also Read: Video From Syria Peddled As Fatal Crash That Killed CDS Bipin Rawat

Also Read: Video From Arunachal Pradesh Viral As Crash That Killed CDS General Rawat

Also Read: No, This Photo Does Not Show CDS Bipin Rawat's Helicopter Crash In Coonoor

Additional inputs by Sujith A.

Updated On: 2021-12-14T12:19:52+05:30
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