Secunder Kermani, BBC’s correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan, has tracked down the original of a doctored video used in India to spread a scare about child-lifters, which has resulted in a spate of lynchings which refuses to die down. Just yesterday, police and military personnel saved three ascetics from being lynched by a mob in the Dima Hasao district of Assam.
The original is an advertisement for child safety created by the Karachi advertising firm Spectrum Y&R (the initials refer to Young and Rubicam), for Roshni Helpline, a charity working on child abduction in Pakistan. In the edited version which apparently spread on social media in India, two men stop their motorcycle on a street, pick up a child and speed off. In the ending of the original, which was apparently edited out, the bike loops back immediately and the pillion rider drops the child back among his cheering friends. Then he unfurls a banner which reads: “It takes only a moment to kidnap a child from the streets of Karachi.”
The advert was shot right outside the office of Spectrum Y&R, where Kermani interviewed the filmmaker, Asrar Alam, who is “horrified at how it is being used in India… It is very devastating and shocking for me. I want to see the face of the man who edited the video for bad purposes.” Indeed, to pervert a positive public safety message to generate fear and murderous hatred on a national scale should qualify as the rarest of rare crimes. The encryption of social media channels like WhatsApp, on which fake news about child-lifters was spread, should not be regarded as a deterrent. There is a case for taking the help of Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, to track down the original poster of the doctored video. The BBC story, in which the original is shown, can be viewed at youtu.be/YegEun8lzZ4.
Apart from this grim story, and the familiar, boring speculation on whether Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi will be clapped in irons and sent to India in the baggage hold anytime soon, it has been a week for funny hilarious news and funny haha news, at home and abroad. Donald Trump has clarified that he uses capital letters in his Twitter messages for emphasis, not because he doesn’t know that capital letters should not be used. They were deprecated decades ago, back in the days of dial-up bulletin boards, as signifying that you were shouting. JK Rowling has gone “haha”, because apart from the sheer lameness of the message, Trump had managed to misspell “pore” as “pour”.
Meanwhile, Times Now claimed to have “ revealed for the first time ever the truth behind anti-Modi activism. Treachery ‘outsourced’ to Pakistan; anti-Modi lobby-Pakistan ISI nexus. Is anti-Modi lobby aiding Pak narrative?” Shameful, trying to crowd stand-up comedians out of the entertainment market. And close on the heels of Maharashtra banning the use of plastic, BBC reported that the Somali militant group Al-Shabab has done the very same thing, citing risks to humans and livestock. Elsewhere in Sudan, reports Radio Poland, a white stork landed and immediately had its sim card ripped out. Seriously. It had been fitted last year with a tracker by a Polish charity, to track its migratory route. Someone in east Sudan relived the tracker of its sim card and used it to rack up a huge phone bill, which the charity must now pay. The year 2018 seems to have a taste for the bizarre.
And finally, the most moving video of the week, shot by Rushdi Abu Athra near the border with Israel, which went viral and leaked into television. It showed young Palestinian protesters performing the Dabke, the traditional dance which is believed to date back to Phoenician times. The unconcerned poise of the dancers amidst tear gas smoke and the sound of gunfire is a living demonstration of the spirit of revolt.