A video of two female Kashmiri Pandit school students singing a Hindu religious prayer is being shared with a false claim that they are Muslim students forced to recite Hindu scriptures.
BOOM found that the video is from 2022 when the two students of the Government Girls Higher Secondary School in Sallar village in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir recited a prayer for Hindu deity Ganesh at the morning assembly. We also found that both the students are Hindus, Kashmiri Pandits namely and not Muslims as being claimed.
The video is being shared on Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) with the claim, "Muslim girls in a Kashmir secondary school are forced to recite Hindu prayers"
Documenting Oppression Against Muslims (DOAM), a United Kingdom based human rights organisation also tweeted the video from their X handle with the claim, "MODIfying Kashmir. Muslim girls in a secondary school in Occupied Kashmir forced to recite Hindu prayers."
BOOM found that the video is from 2022 and that the girls are not Muslims but Kashmiri Pandit Hindus.
We noticed that the podium where the girls were standing and reciting the prayer read 'Govt. Girls HR. Sec. School SALLAR' and the same was written on the building seen in the video.
Using this, we ran a search and found that Sallar is a village in Anantnag district in Kashmir. We then contacted the principal of Government Girls Higher Secondary School (GGHSS), Sallar who confirmed that the claims were false.
Masuda Akhter, Principal, GGHSS, Sallar told BOOM that the video is from March 2022 and that both the girls are Kashmiri Pandit Hindus. "The girls are sisters, now in standard 12th. When the video was recorded they were in 11th," Akhter said. She explained, "We have a practice of students reciting a song or a poem or a religious scripture sometimes during the morning assembly. On March 18, 2022, the two girls recited a Hindu prayer praising Lord Ganesh. They had taken due permission from their class teacher for the same, which is the norm for any student wanting to recite anything in the morning assembly."
The principal further added that the in 2022 too the video had gone viral locally with the same fake claim and the District Education Board had asked the school for an explanation. "We had then replied to the education board that the girls were Hindus and not Muslims. Also, only the two girls recited the prayers, they did not ask the other students to sing after them or anything like that. The girls were not forced but were in fact praised for the same as everyone learnt something new," she said. She further said that the school celebrates all relgions and festivals and all claims that Muslim girls are forced to recite Hindu prayers are false.
We also spoke to one of the students who confirmed that they are Kashmiri Pandits. "We had asked permission from our teacher. And in fact after our recital, another teacher asked us what the prayer meant and what significance it held for us. We explained the importance of praying to Ganesh and everyone praised and clapped for us."
A longer version of the video was also shared with BOOM where one of the teachers present during the recital asks the girls questions about the prayer including what language it is in. When the girls say it is in Sanskrit, the teacher praises them and says, "Sanskrit is the oldest language in the world."