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Old video of abaya-clad man falsely shared as ‘Muslim voter fraud’ in India election

In World
May 15, 2024

Pakistan police confirmed a man in an online video with a female Muslim face covering was arrested in 2023 after he wore the garment to a college, contrary to Facebook posts that falsely claimed he masqueraded as a woman to commit voter fraud in India’s ongoing national elections. A police officer in Lahore was suspended over the video of him undressing the man to reveal his true identity, a spokesman said.

“This is why checks are being done at polling booths,” read a Hindi-language Facebook post that shared the video on April 27, 2024.

The video shows a police officer removing the face covering of a person in female Muslim dress to reveal they are in fact a man. The officer also removes two balloon-like objects concealed by the man’s chest.

“And Akhilesh Yadav’s party says he is being harassed???” the post added.

Yadav is an Indian politician whose opposition Samajwadi Party has been accused by critics of favouring Muslims.

<span>Screenshot of a Facebook post sharing the false claim, taken on May 13, 2024</span>” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/Yt2CheCjZQcBcTph8KNoGA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTExOTE-/https://media.zenfs.com/en/afp_factcheck_us_713/92986c0bcf43465a429f40f1248f9c98″><noscript><img alt=Screenshot of a Facebook post sharing the false claim, taken on May 13, 2024” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/Yt2CheCjZQcBcTph8KNoGA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTExOTE-/https://media.zenfs.com/en/afp_factcheck_us_713/92986c0bcf43465a429f40f1248f9c98″ class=”caas-img”>

Screenshot of a Facebook post sharing the false claim, taken on May 13, 2024

Nearly a billion Indians are voting to elect a new government in six-week-long parliamentary polls that began on April 19, the largest democratic exercise in the world.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s muscular Hindu-first politics is a key part of his electoral appeal and his opponents have accused him of marginalising India’s 200 million Muslim population.

Modi’s Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has reportedly called on female Muslim party members to monitor voters wearing Muslim face coverings at polling stations in areas with a high Muslim population.

Party-appointed agents can ask election officials to check a voter’s identity by having them remove a face covering. However, this must be done in a private room, election commission spokesman Anuj Chandak told AFP.

“That is why one female and one male officer are appointed at every polling booth,” he told AFP.

Pakistan police suspension

A keyword search found an X post about the video from Lahore Police in Pakistan on June 18, 2023 (archived link).

“The recent incident involving the arrest of a person cloaked in woman attire has raised concern,” it said, replying to another account that shared the clip (archived link).

It added that while the arrest of the abaya-clad man was lawful, the police officer that removed the garment had “resorted to indecent gestures” and was suspended.

Visual clues in the video confirm it was filmed in Lahore, including a sign in the background that reads “Capital City Police Lahore” and a Pakistani flag on the police officer’s uniform.

<span>Visual clues highlighted by AFP that confirm the video was filmed in Lahore</span>” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/xZH_QLl.fwuZL4TkAwPJgg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTE2ODM-/https://media.zenfs.com/en/afp_factcheck_us_713/39f13cfc86f59261c10758c70737dae4″><noscript><img alt=Visual clues highlighted by AFP that confirm the video was filmed in Lahore” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/xZH_QLl.fwuZL4TkAwPJgg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTE2ODM-/https://media.zenfs.com/en/afp_factcheck_us_713/39f13cfc86f59261c10758c70737dae4″ class=”caas-img”>

Visual clues highlighted by AFP that confirm the video was filmed in Lahore

Lahore Police spokesman Agha Ehtisham Haider told AFP on May 8, 2024 that the man in the abaya was arrested on charges related to obscenity and harassment after he wore the garment to a college in the city.

He confirmed a police officer was suspended over the video as his actions were deemed inappropriate.

AFP has previously debunked misinformation around the Indian elections here.

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