DEBUNKED

No, Hindus aren’t abandoning their religion en masse as Covid-19 grips India

This is a screengrab of a video that was widely circulated online that claimed that Hindus were throwing away their religious idols en masse, angry that they hadn’t protected them from Covid-19.
This is a screengrab of a video that was widely circulated online that claimed that Hindus were throwing away their religious idols en masse, angry that they hadn’t protected them from Covid-19. © Observers

An excerpt from an Iranian news programme – making false claims that large numbers of Hindus are abandoning their religion en masse and throwing away their idols, allegedly because they had proved useless in stopping the spread of Covid-19 in India – started circulating widely on social media in mid-May. While the video may seem like serious journalism, it actually includes out-of-date images which were filmed well before the pandemic and taken out of context. 

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The footage, which was originally broadcast on Iranian TV channel Shia Waves, started circulating on social media around May 11. One segment shows a bulldozer scooping up dozens of Hindu religious idols that were lying on the ground. Another segment shows someone throwing a large religious idol from a truck into the river. 

On Facebook, the video was shared dozens of times in multiple languages.
On Facebook, the video was shared dozens of times in multiple languages. © Watch an archive of the video on YouTube

The Iranian TV presenter says "a large number of Indians have thrown the idols of the gods they worshipped on the streets, as the numbers of coronavirus infections and deaths skyrocket in the country […], the idols did not protect them from the coronavirus".

However, we ran these images through a reverse image search (click here to find out how), and found that the footage showing a tractor appeared in a Hindi-language publication dated September 14, 2019 – a full three months before Covid-19 was first detected in Wuhan, China.

The media India Today explains that this footage shows idols of the Hindu goddess Dashama that were left next to a river in Ahmedabad in northwest India in August 2019. 

Traditionally, people would throw these idols into a lake or river but the ritual has changed in recent years to avoid pollution. 

An Indian commissioner, Vijay Nehra, posted a tweet several months back sharing images showing how people had changed their traditions to avoid polluting the river. In a follow-up tweet, he highlighted that the video currently circulating online used these images out of context.

 

After Nehra tweeted those images, a local journalist published a video of similar events. This video was then picked up by the Iranian media outlet, which broadcast it and claimed it showed something entirely different.  

As for the footage showing the large idol being thrown into the river from a truck, it’s been online since 2015 (check here and here). While we weren’t able to establish the story or context behind these images, it’s clear that they have nothing to do with the Covid-19 pandemic. Moreover, the footage doesn’t seem to show anyone rejecting a deity, but is more likely an example of someone taking part in a tradition where idols are tossed in the water.

Conclusion

The footage broadcast by Iranian media outlet Shia Waves has nothing to do with the Covid-19 pandemic currently affecting India. It also doesn’t show people rejecting Hindu deities but instead taking part in traditional rituals honoring those gods.