Government Does U-Turn On Kashmir Protest, Acknowledges Unrest In Soura
India's Home Ministry acknowledges the protest that took place in Srinagar's Soura on August 9, reiterates no bullets were fired. An open source investigation by BOOM corroborates the coverage by international news agencies.
A spokesperson for India's Ministry of Home Affairs tweeted on Tuesday acknowledging a protest in Soura, Srinagar on August 9, 2019 after days of various government agencies denying international media reports about the incident.
At least three international news agencies including the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Reuters and Al Jazeera have come under fire for their coverage of sporadic protests from the valley on August 9, 2019 since Articles 370 and 35(A) were revoked on August 5.
The verified Twitter handle @PIBHomeAffairs wrote that on Friday (August 9, 2019) 'miscreants' mingled with people returning home after prayers at a local mosque and that they resorted to unprovoked stone pelting against law enforcement forces leading to widespread unrest.'
Stories in media on a said incident in Soura region of #Srinagar.— Spokesperson, Ministry of Home Affairs (@PIBHomeAffairs) August 13, 2019
On 09/08, miscreants mingled with people returning home after prayers at a local mosque. They resorted to unprovoked stone pelting against law enforcement forces to cause widespread unrest.@diprjk @JmuKmrPolice
The Home Ministry's spokesperson further said that law enforcement authorities showed restraint and reiterated that no bullets were fired.
However, the tweet did not mention which law enforcement agency (police, para military forces) was involved in the incident and whether tear gas or pellets were used against protesters.
Law enforcement authorities showed restraint and tried to maintain law & order situation. It is reiterated that no bullets have been fired in #JammuAndKashmir since the development related to #Article370@diprjk @JmuKmrPolice— Spokesperson, Ministry of Home Affairs (@PIBHomeAffairs) August 13, 2019
The protest took place when curfew was relaxed for a few hours on Friday (August 9, 2019)
Unlike Jammu, internet and phone lines have been affected in large parts of the valley.
The Economic Times reported that the Home Ministry had written to BBC and Al Jazeera seeking raw footage of the protest.
On August 10, 2019 Jammu & Kashmir Police's official account tweeted that "people should not believe any mischievous and motivated news regarding firing incidents in the valley." "The police have not fired a single bullet so far in 6 days," the statement further said.
Press Release.@diprjk @KashmirPolice @igpjmu pic.twitter.com/mDhlKJMYyO— J&K Police (@JmuKmrPolice) August 10, 2019
On the same day the Home Ministry's spokesperson said a Reuters article about a protest involving 10,000 people in Srinagar was fabricated and false.
A news report originally published in Reuters and appeared in Dawn claims there was a protest involving 10000 people in Srinagar.— Spokesperson, Ministry of Home Affairs (@PIBHomeAffairs) August 10, 2019
This is completely fabricated & incorrect. There have been a few stray protests in Srinagar/Baramulla and none involved a crowd of more than 20 ppl.
Reuters reported on August 9, that Indian police had used tear gas and pellets to clamp down on protesters in Srinagar. The article cited a police official and two witnesses. (Thousands protest in Indian Kashmir over new status despite clampdown)
"A large group of people gathered in Srinagar’s Soura area, a police officer said, in violation of orders that prohibit the assembly of more than four people. " - Reuters reported.
The figure of 10,000 protesters was attributed to the unnamed police official.
BOOM could not independently confirm the strength of the rally but images and videos from Friday show the crowd was sizeable.
The BBC on its part too has faced an online backlash for its coverage of Kashmir. At the heart of the uproar is a video which has also been tweeted by BBC's South Asia Bureau Chief.
WATCH: Despite government saying reports of protests in Saura were completely fabricated, see exclusive BBC footage here for the truth. Thousands marched, police fired on protesters, dozens injured #Kashmir #BBCUrdu pic.twitter.com/J0S72XuK1W— Nicola Careem (@NicolaCareem) August 10, 2019
The 2.13 protest montage opens with visuals of protesters scurrying and taking cover as firing can be heard in the background. No security forces are visible in any of the frames. Some of protesters appear to be carrying sticks. It is not clear who is responsible for the firing.
The video also shows a large number of demonstrators walking peacefully through a market area.
Another scene shows protesters holding a white banner which says, "Abrogation of Article 370 is not acceptable for us Jammu Kashmir."
However, supporters of the India government have used clips from the same video and have pointed out to protesters carrying Pakistan flags, Azad Kashmir flags, the flag of a terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed and a poster of slain terrorist Zakir Musa to claim that the video was shot in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
Meanwhile the news agency has defended its coverage of Kashmir.
BBC statement on #Kashmir coverage pic.twitter.com/XJfLOrh9nQ— BBC News Press Team (@BBCNewsPR) August 11, 2019
Qatar-based Al Jazeera too has come under fire for its reporting on Kashmir. On August 9, the news agency reported Indian troops had fired live rounds to disperse thousands of protesters in Srinagar.
Indian troops fire live rounds to disperse thousands of protesters in Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir https://t.co/a8VykPK1Ym pic.twitter.com/N25T6euuz3— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) August 9, 2019
Al Jazeera's correspondent in New Delhi said protesters were met with live fire, tear gas, and rubber coated steel bullets. (Watch the video below)
The visuals accompanying the link show similar footage to that from the BBC's video.
BOOM reached out to BBC and Al Jazeera about the videos, earlier in the day but did not receive a reply till the time of publishing.
However, using open source data BOOM was able to independently geo-locate some of the protest footage used by the two news agencies and verify that the visuals are not old.
BOOM looked through the Associated Press's (AP) photo archive from August 9, 2019 and found similar images to the frames seen in BBC and Al Jazeera's videos.
Below is a screenshot from BBC's video.
Another photo in AP's archive shows the same shop corner visible in Al Jazeera's video.
GEO LOCATING THE PROTEST
In order to locate where the videos were shot we looked for prominent and unique landmarks in both videos.
BOOM found that portions of a mosque (green dome, two white and green minarets) were visible in both BBC and Al Jazeera's video.
We first looked for mosques in Soura, Srinagar which looked the same and zeroed in on the Jenab Saeb Masjid in Anchar, Soura, Srinagar.
We were able to locate the mosque on Google Maps.
Below is a picture of the mosque uploaded by a user in May 2019.
A glimpse of the same mosque can be seen in another Al Jazeera video that was uploaded to YouTube on August 10. (Watch at 27 seconds) It is not clear when the footage was shot.
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