A disturbing image of an injured woman is viral on social media falsely linking it to the communal violence that has gripped Bangladesh in the past two weeks. The image is doing the rounds with claims that Muslims attacked a Hindu village in Bangladesh's Noakhali on October 22, 2021. The claim further gives gory details about the gang-rape and strangulation of a pregnant woman by Muslims in the area.
BOOM found that the photo is not related to the recent violence in Bangladesh and is from an old incident which happened in 2020.
The image is viral as an aftermath of communal violence and riots that spread across various parts of Bangladesh during the Durga Puja festivities. The violence was reportedly triggered after footage of a Quran placed on the knee of a Hindu god during celebrations of Durga Puja emerged. Internet services were shut down last week in an apparent bid to prevent the violence from spreading. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also met leaders of the Hindu community and promised to take stern action.
The viral photo claiming that a pregnant woman was gang-raped and strangulated to death, has been shared with both Bangla and English captions.
The caption with the photo in English reads, "Today, Friday 22nd October, just after dusk in Noakhali, the agitated Muslim mob started vandalizing and setting fire. in the evening 7:30 pm, Some excited jihadi Muslims entered a Hindu village at 7.30 pm, gang-raped a pregnant Hindu woman, strangled her to death and hacked two others to death. The situation is very bad and horrible. About 30 houses were set on fire. The situation is out of control. There is no cooperation from the administration. I am praying to the Hindus living abroad, try to raise the issue of our security in the international media as soon as possible. Genocide is being carried out on the Hindu community in Bangladesh. Pray to the one hundred and thirty crore Hindu people of India, please help us. Wake up, Santani, wake up."
BOOM ran a reverse image search on the viral picture and found a news report by a Bangladeshi news outlet Desh 1 published on April 25, 2020. The article reports about a forceful land grabbing incident where a Hindu family was attacked in Mongla sub district, Bangladesh ; a pregnant woman and seven family members were injured in the incident.
Taking a cue from this, we did a further keyword search and found a local news report by Bagherhat 24 about the incident and the viral photograph. The report states that an influential man from Bashtala village, Ah Salam, wanted to grab the land of a minority Hindu family in Golardanga village of Chila Union. He had been conspiring with his neighbours for some time to take over the land.
It further added that Ah Salam and his goons attacked Anil Bala's family with domestic weapons on April 24, 2020. Eight people, including a pregnant housewife Sumita Bala, Anil Bala, Maya Bala, Sarala Goldar, child Putu Goldar and Shankar Goldar were seriously injured due to the attack.
To confirm about the viral photo, BOOM Bangladesh contacted Bagherhat 24 reporter Masud Rana who covered the incident. Rana confirmed to us that he reported about the incident and the woman in the viral photograph was identified as Sumita Bala, when she was taken to the hospital in 2020.
Additionally, BOOM did not find any credible news reports about an attack in Noakhali by a Muslim mob on October 22, 2021. According to news reports, two people were killed following the temple attacks in Noakhali's Choumuhani on October 15 and 16. The Dhaka Tribune stated, "Police have so far arrested around 130 people for their alleged involvement in the attacks on the Choumuhani market area in Noakhali's Begumganj upazila. A total of 10 cases have been filed in connection with the incident, SP Shahidul told a press briefing on Saturday."
BOOM Bangladesh has also reached out to the SP of Noakhali district. Mohammed Shahidul Islam, District Police Super, Noakhali told BOOM Bangladesh, "The narrative is absolutely baseless. No Hindu woman was raped or killed on October 22, in the area. After October 15, there has been no communal violence in Noakhali."
Islam further added, "We have taken strict legal action against those who are spreading rumours on social media."
(Additional Reporting: BOOM Bangladesh)