An amateur video has been circulating on various Facebook and Twitter accounts since June 17. It shows several men being beaten in the street. The same caption is used each time: “In India, elected officials return to their neighbourhood after having disappeared for their entire terms to campaign [for re-election]… They did a good job welcoming them". While the scene definitely took place in India and involves political officials, the reasons behind the violence have nothing to do with the caption.
The video is just under two minutes long and includes several different cuts. It shows at least five men being dragged off by a crowd. Three of them are wearing orange scarves around their necks. One is being brutally beaten. After being thrown to the ground then kicked and punched, he finally manages to stand up, but the crowd keeps beating him.
One video post has garnered more than 360,000 views, others have tens of thousands. In short, it is starting to go viral. The problem is, the caption lacks a lot of information and is misleading to viewers.
How to find out the true story of this video
To track down the original version of this video, you can use the free software Invid (which you can download on Chrome). Copy and paste the link to the video into InVid. The software starts by running a reverse image search through Google Images. Nothing comes up. But on Invid, you can also run a search on the Russian search engine Yandex. This search does pull something up. It turns out this video was first posted on YouTube in October 2017. So that gives us our first clue – this isn’t a recent video.
A second tool can help us find out even more. If you post the link to this video in Dataviewer, a tool created by Amnesty International, it brings up an article published in the Times Of India newspaper.
A face-off between separatists in West Bengal
The Times of India article reveals that this scene took place in Darjeeling, a town in West Bengal, on October 5, 2017.
It turns out this video does not show campaigning politicians under attack, afterall, because during their entire time in office the politicians had never once met with voters.
The men being attacked are actually local officials with the BJP party – the nationalist Indian party currently in power. One of the men is the leader of the West Bengal branch of the party, Dilip Ghosh.
In 2017, a wave of unrest swept through Darjeeling led by the separatist party, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. The Gorkhas, a group of Nepali-speaking Indians, asked to secede from West Bengal and create their own state within India. On October 5, these BJP politicians were prevented from attending a local celebration. They were physically attacked before being put under police protection.
Before sharing a video, it's always a good idea to run it through a few checks. That way you can be certain about whether you're sharing a misappropriated video or one with a misleading caption. If you want some tips, the Observers has a handy online guide.