In a heroic rescue attempt, a group of men in Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka jumped off the Panemangaluru bridge into the Netravati River to rescue Nishanth, a 28-year-old resident of Kalladka. Nishanth had jumped in the river in an attempt to kill himself.
The men – Mohammad, Arif, Shameer, Thouseef, Zaheed and Mukhtar – from Bantwal taluk of the district were successful in bringing Nishant out of the water alive but he succumbed in the government hospital in Bantwal on Sunday.
However, hours after the incident occurred and visuals of the rescue act were shared widely, the story took a communal turn when a screenshot of a tweet, purportedly by BJP's Shobha Karandlaje, Udupi-Chikkamagaluru MP, got shared widely. The tweet accused the men who tried to save Nishanth, of murdering him. The MP has now said that she never posted the tweet.
“Received an information that Jihadis had allegedly murdered Hindu organisation’s Nishanth from Kalladka. I have already asked Amit Shah to initiate action against Jihadis,” read the tweet which was shared widely.
This was condemned by Congress leader and Mangaluru MLA UT Khader, who urged Shobha Karandlaje to issue a clarification. Despite this, the screenshot and other communal messages were circulated a lot in the coastal districts.
Responding to Khader, Shobha Karandlaje stated that she had not tweeted about the incident and that an edited tweet was being projected as a tweet from her account.
Mohammed (35) is a fisherman in the area and has been responding to rescue calls for over 20 years now. He says that this is the fifth such incident near his hometown since the lockdown was put in place over the coronavirus outbreak. "I was told that a man arrived on his scooter at the bridge and jumped off. I immediately left my home and rushed to the bridge to try and rescue him," says Mohammed.
Speaking to TNM, Mohammed, said that he did not think of religion or of the fear of coronavirus before jumping into the river. "I just wanted to save his life. I got a call saying that someone has jumped into the river and I immediately came to the bridge and jumped into the river to try and rescue him," Mohammed tells TNM.
Last year, Mohammed was involved in several rescue attempts including the search for VG Siddartha, the founder of Coffee Day enterprises, who took his life by jumping into the Nethravati river. "We never stop to think who might be in trouble. Life is precious and we try to save people from situations like this," adds Mohammed.
Police officials in Dakshina Kannada are investigating the tweet which tried to portray the incident as one of communal violence. "We have received two sets of explanations. One that says that she (Shobha Karandlaje) posted the tweet and another which states that it was edited to make it seem like she was introducing a communal angle to the incident. We have asked both groups to send us written complaints and we will be investigating them," Dakshina Kannada SP BM Laxmi Prasad told TNM.
Shobha Karandlaje has been called out previously for publishing fake news on her social media accounts. In 2017, Shobha Karandlaje was in trouble with police in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka when she claimed that Paresh Mesta, a young Hindu man, was mutilated and that boiling oil was poured over his head, and his head was split with a weapon. The claim was made after Paresh's dead body was discovered in Honnavara in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka; however Shobha's claims were refuted point-by-point in a detailed note issued by Kasturba Hospital in Manipal where the post mortem was conducted.
In 2019, Shobha had claimed that Shivu Uppar, a man from Belagavi district of Karnataka was killed for protecting cows from smugglers. Police later refuted this statement and said that Shivu had taken his own life.
Recently in April, the MP took to social media to claim that some people from Belagavi district, who were quarantined after they attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, were misbehaving and spitting at health workers. This claim was denied by Belagavi Deputy Commissioner SB Bommanahalli, who stated that people quarantined in the district had not misbehaved with health workers.
However, this time around, police are ascertaining if Shobha actually tweeted the fake news or whether miscreants used it as an opportunity to spread communal hatred.