The official Twitter handle of Kashmir Zone police on Sunday posted tweets about the gunfight in Asthal village of Kulgam district in South Kashmir, leading to series of factually incorrect news reports.

The Kashmir Zone Police had tweeted that the government forces killed four militants in the gunfight. The two tweets about the news of four militants killed was published by various media outlets in the next few hours.

The news agencies PTI, IANS, and ANI had sent out the news reports based on these two tweets. It was then carried by various platforms, including Times of India, Hindustan Times, Business Standard, ABP News, and The Wire. Republic TV and India Today.

kashmir fake news, kashmir police twitter, kashmir police fake news,
Screenshot of the tweets by Kashmir Zone police, which were later deleted.

Major national and local news organisations also reported on the tweets, including The Kashmir Walla. Valley-based papers Greater Kashmir, Rising Kashmir, and Kashmir Reader put the story on their front page on Monday. All three papers also said they corroborated the death toll with police officials, whom they quoted anonymously. 

The Deccan Herald said that Inspector General of Police in Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, confirmed to the paper that four militants had been killed.

On Sunday, a patrolling party of the forces was attacked by militants, the police said, in between Chehlan and Asthal villages that led to an exchange of firing. The Kashmir Zone Police first tweeted about it at 9 pm: “Two terrorists killed so far. Two more terrorists trapped. Operation is going on.” Later another tweet was posted at 9:48 pm, reading, “Two more terrorists killed. Operation still going.”

However, only after 20 hours, at 5:40pm on Monday, the Jammu and Kashmir police sent out a statement clarifying that only one “militant associate” was killed in the gunfight.

The clarification statement noted that the individual killed was a “militant associate”. He was identified as Aqib Mushtaq Lone, the son of a police official posted in Srinagar. Lone had recently graduated from an engineering course at a college in Chandigarh. On 28 April, he was buried in Sheeri village of Baramulla district, north Kashmir, away from his home in Soch village, Kulgam.

Kashmir police has now deleted the tweets, but the incorrect information is still up on other official handles such as the Ministry of Defence’s public relations officer in Udhampur.

On Monday, when contacted by The Kashmir Walla, the IGP Mr. Kumar refused to comment on the tweets. 

Last week, the police in South Kashmir had registered an FIR against a report filed by The Hindu‘s Kashmir correspondent, Peerzada Ashiq — calling it “factually incorrect”. “The details quoted in the news item were factually incorrect and could cause fear or alarm in the minds of public,” the police had said in a statement. Mr. Ashiq was also summoned by police in Anantnag and questioned.

Since yesterday, questions are being asked when the police officially spreads incorrect details through official channels, will any action be taken?

Nobody from the police department is commenting on how the incorrect information was shared. Other police officials contacted by The Kashmir Walla also refused to comment. 

“I have already given a press release on this. I will need to confirm further information,” Gurinderpal Singh, the Senior Superintendent of Police, Kulgam, told The Kashmir Walla. On Monday, Mr. Singh was also quoted by GNS news agency, saying, “Please see the twitter handles. It was not done by me.”

The concerned police station, under which the gunfight site falls, also has no clarification on the matter. “I am on leave,” said Irshad Reshi, the station house officer of Kulgam police station.

Deputy Inspector General of Police, South Kashmir region, Atul Kumar Goel, told The Kashmir Walla, “The press release has come. Please look at that. I’m not authorised to talk about it.”

Officials are not divulging any details of how the incorrect information was tweeted, leading to incorrect news. Only a statement released almost a day later, it is still a mystery why did the police have wrong details about the gunfight and why did it take so long to send the statement.

The Kashmir Walla is waiting for any further clarification on this by the police. We will add it if and when it comes.

The Kashmir Walla needs you, urgently. Only you can do it.

We have always come to you for help: The Kashmir Walla is battling at multiple fronts — and if you don’t act now, it would be too late. 2020 was a year like no other and we walked into it already battered. The freedom of the press in Kashmir was touching new lows as the entire population was gradually coming out of one of the longest communication blackouts in the world.

We are not a big organization. A few thousand rupees from each one of you would make a huge difference.

The Kashmir Walla plans to extensively and honestly cover — break, report, and analyze — everything that matters to you. You can help us.

Choose a plan as per your location