The Telegraph Says First Woman Detained Under ‘Love Jihad’ Law Suffers Miscarriage; Officials Call It ‘Fake News’
The Telegraph has neither responded to the official rebuttal nor modified its report so far. Among those who amplified the report was Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of Altnews
On 12 December, British website The Telegraph carried a report headlined ‘First woman detained under India's controversial Love Jihad laws ' forced into miscarriage'.
The report was widely shared by a section of the Indian media and opposition leaders.
A day later, officials from Uttar Pradesh have called the report “fake news”. The woman did not suffer a miscarriage, they said.
The Telegraph report has neither responded to the official rebuttal nor modified its report.
Background of the case
On 5 December, a woman from Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnor district gave a complaint to the police that a man named Rashid had ‘lured’ her 22-year-old daughter Pinky to go with him to a maulvi with a motive of conversion.
Based on the complaint, the Kanth police filed a first information report (FIR) against Rashid and his brother Saleem underSection (3) and 5(1) of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020.
In the FIR (number 484/2020), the mother, named Bala Devi, mentioned that she belongs to a poor scheduled caste (SC) family.
Swarajya reported the case here.
Bala Devi told Swarajya over the phone that Pinky was pursuing Bachelors in Arts from a college near Kanth, where she lived with her Mausi’s family. Bala Devi also said that she was informed about her daughter’s attempt to “elope” by a member of the Bajrang Dal.
She said she was glad that the activist informed her about her daughter’s plan. “I will never willingly marry my daughter to a Muslim. There have been many untoward cases,” she said.
The police subsequently arrested Rashid and Saleem. They were remanded in judicial custody for 14 days. Pinky was shifted to a government woman shelter home.
What The telegraph reported
The report by the British website carries the byline of Joe Wallen, and credits inputs to an Indian reporter named Mohammed Sartaj Alam. The report says Pinky has married and converted to Islam, and changed her name to Muskan Jahan.
The bit about the woman’s “miscarriage” is based on an unverified statement of Pinky’s “mother-in-law”.
“The first woman detained under India's controversial new 'Love Jihad' laws has miscarried in custody, her family have told The Sunday Telegraph,” the report’s first paragraph says.
In rest of the text, the report uses the word “believes” to statements attributed to Muskan’s mother-in-law.
“Mrs Jahan believes her three-month-pregnant daughter-in-law was given an injection to abort the baby by staff because she converted from Hinduism to Islam and married a Muslim man,” the report says.
The report carries no confirmation of these sensational claims by the mother-in-law. It carries no version of the police or the shelter home where the woman is kept.
Officials refute The Telegraph report
Several Indian newspapers and websites have now quoted UP officials as saying that The Telegraph report is “fake news” and that Pinky has not suffered a miscarriage.
A 13 December report by Hindustan Times says, “The inspector of Kaanth police station, Ajay Gautam, said that she [Pinky] has been kept in a government shelter home and her statement will be recorded on Monday. He, however, denied the reports of her miscarriage and described it ‘rumour’ and ‘fake news’.“
The Hindu has quoted Moradabad district probation officer Rajesh Chandra Gupta as saying that Pinky had complained of abdominal pain two days ago and was admitted to the District Women’s Hospital, and on December 13 at 11:05 a.m., she was discharged from hospital. The report further quotes Gupta as saying that Pinky is “in full normal health. Her pregnancy is intact”, and that all reports of the woman having a miscarriage are fake.
Indian Express too has quoted District Probation Officer (Moradabad) Rajesh Chandra Gupta. The quote says, “The medical report stated she is three months pregnant. On Friday, the woman complained of severe stomach pain and was taken to Mahila District Hospital. She was admitted there. Today around 11 am, the woman was discharged from the hospital… She was readmitted to the hospital around 2 pm after she again complained of stomach ache.”
The report further quotes Gupta as saying that he has briefed the magistrate about Pinky’s pregnancy, and that the decision on where to shift her would be taken once her statement is recorded before the magistrate, which is pending due to “busy schedule”.
While The Telegraph has not responded to the official rebuttal so far, the “fake news” has spread far and wide through social media.
Among those who amplified the report is Barkha Dutt’s media venture Mojo Story, and self-proclaimed ”fact-checking” website Altnews’s co-founder Mohammad Zubair, who was booked by the Delhi and Raipur police under sections of the IT Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act for online harassment of a minor girl.
Several political leaders, activists and journalists also shared it on their social media accounts. They have not deleted their posts yet.
Pinky’s brother Sunil told Swarajya on 14 December that he and his mother met Pinky “two-three days ago”. “She [Pinky] told us she does not want to live with us. We told her she should have at least told us about her plans. Let’s see what she tells the magistrate,” he said.
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