A viral video showing four male students dancing on a stage in what appear to be burqas at a college event in Mangaluru, Karnataka, is being shared with a false claim that they were Hindu students mocking Muslims.
BOOM found that the incident is from St. Joseph's Engineering College in Mangaluru and the students seen dancing in the video are Muslims and not Hindu students.
BOOM spoke to the principal of the college who confirmed that while the four students have been suspended. The students were Muslim boys and the act was part of the dance routine and not a jibe at any religion, the principal said. Furthermore, the principal added that the four students were wearing black cloaks which were meant to be Halloween costumes, and not burqas.
Mangaluru, considered a hotbed of communal politics in Karnataka, saw several protests earlier this year over female students wearing hijab to schools and colleges. Following the same, the Karnataka High Court upheld the hijab ban in educational institutions while ruling that wearing a hijab was a non-essential practice in Islam.
The video is being shared with a caption that claims, "Hindu students in an Event at St.Joseph Engineering College, Mangalore students in blatant Islamophobic act seen wearing Hijab and performing obscene steps for a item song mocking Muslim minorities Burqa"
A Twitter account - Hate Watch Karnataka - that aims to call out hate speech and hate acts in the state, also shared the video but without claiming that the students belonged to any particular religion. The account tweeted, "#Mangaluru ; In an Event at St.Joseph Engineering College, Mangalore students seen wearing Burkha and performing obscene steps for a item song mocking #Burqa #hijab"
The video was shared with a similar caption by another account Hate Detector Karnataka, without making a false claim.
BOOM reached out to the St Joseph's Engineering College in Mangaluru, Karnataka where Rio D'Souza, Principal of the college said that the claims were false.
"The dance was part of an act they had planned. It was not meant to mock any religion," D'souza said. He added that the claims that the students were Hindus dressed as Muslims are false. "The students seen dancing are Muslim students of the college and it was an innocent act. They were supposed to be showing 'ghosts' dancing and hence they were in such a costume. It was nothing religious."
The principal alleged that the incident was made viral by the Twitter handle 'Hate Watch Karnataka'. "The handle shared a clipped video from the full video of the incident claiming that the students were mocking a religion. They did not even bother to clarify with us what was happening in the event or what the students were doing."
BOOM could not independently verify if the Twitter account Hate Watch Karnataka had cropped the video.
D'Souza further explained that the four students had been suspended pending an inquiry. "We will take a call on whether their suspension should be revoked after the report is submitted. But we are certain that there was no religious mocking happening," he said.
We also analysed the video and noticed that the student on the extreme left can be seen wearing a white coloured ghost mask and the two next to him are wearing surgical masks. The attire of the student dancing on the extreme right is not clear.
BOOM also spoke to a faculty member of the college who not wishing to be named said that the students were not wearing burqas. "They are wearing a black cloak with a white mask because they were pretending to be Halloween ghosts. It was not part of the scheduled act and was suddenly decided by the students. It is not a burqa but in the video because of the distance and blurry nature, it looks like one," he said.
The college also issued a statement regarding the incident which can be seen here
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