On Monday, November 15, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and several right-wing media shared a seven-second video of what they call “evidence of Thook Jihad.” Hardline right-wing groups in India are using the video and several other similar footages to accuse Muslim minorities of attacking Hindus by spitting on their food.
In the following days, several local television networks covered the video. Aman Chopra, an anchor at News 18, a local news channel, held debates regarding the video. Chopra floated the idea that the Muslim man in the video is intentionally contaminating the food.
The show where Chopra and his guest discussed the circulated video was titled “Spitting in food, jihad or barbarism?” Chopra was joined by several right-wing political figures, including Ashwini Upadhyay, a BJP leader, and openly anti-Muslim advocate.
The video circulated on November 15 showed a Muslim man baking chapatis, a type of unleavened flatbread, allegedly spitting on the bread. Amit Prajapati, state chief of Hindu Raksha Dal (HRD), said that both Hindus and Muslims eat the food prepared by the man in the video.
Prajapati explained that Sumit Sood, a worker of HRD, saw the Muslim man “repeatedly spitting in rotis (chapatis) and made a video of him.“ In the video, Sood can be heard calling Muslims pigs and giving a warning. “This is for those Hindus who come and eat with these pigs,” Sood said. “You come and eat their spit daily,” Sood added.
The Muslim man seen on the video was detained following a complaint filed by members of the HRD.
Thook Jihad is a conspiracy theory peddled by hardline right-wing Hindus. They alleged that Muslims are attacking Hindus by spitting on the food that is served to them.
Speaking to The Wire, a worker from a popular restaurant in Delhi explained that sometimes the bakers need to blow extra dry flour so the bread will stick properly while being cooked. “These videos are false stories meant to spread hatred,” the worker added.
A roti show owner calls the conspiracy theory a “laughable accusation.” “I don’t want to explain anything. You can come and record a video to know the process,” he said.
N.C. Asthana, an author, and a retired Indian Police Service officer, dismisses the allegations peddled by the right-wing groups. Asthana challenged the police who registered a case based on the circulated video, asking if “a video clip which is a few seconds long and does not show the impugned act clearly be held to be credible information to register a case.
What makes this conspiracy theory dangerous is the actual violence it poses on the Muslim minorities in India. On November 16, protests were organized by HRD members to retaliate on the alleged food spitting they witnessed on the circulated video.
Right-wing Hindu politicians are also capitalizing on the conspiracy theory. Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India and the leader of the BJP, followed Aman Chopra on Twitter after his show on Thook Jihad aired. The prime minister’s action further perpetuates the lies spread by right-wing Hindu politicians.
Although Chopra’s videos were taken down on youtube after getting fact-checked by Newslaundry, Modi’s actions online already made the misinformation irreversible.