When PM Modi had asked Indian citizens to turn off their lights and instead light diyas for 9 minutes in a symbolic national gesture of solidarity against the coronavirus, most of the country had enthusiastically responded to his initiative. India’s left-leaning journalists, though, weren’t quite as impressed. They’d raised outlandish concerns around how turning off lights would cause power grids to collapse, which could lead to fires and power cuts. But when no power grids collapsed during the event, certain left-leaning journalists appeared to take it into their own hands to create a catastrophe.
Several left-leaning journalists spread fake news of fires during, or immediately after, the 9 baje 9 minute event. The first to start off was Arvind Gunasekar, who is associated with NDTV. “A fire broke out on the fourth floor of Lok Nayak Bhawan that houses several Govt offices on Monday at 9:02 pm,” he tweeted.
The tweet quickly went viral — it was even retweeted by fellow far-left journalist Rohini Singh. But the tweet was clearly fake news — for starters, it said that the fire had spread on Monday, while yesterday was a Sunday. Also, as it turned out, there was no fire at the Lok Nayak Bhawan.
The same mistake was made by Saurabh Trivedi, who writes for the Hindu. “A fire broke out on the fourth floor of the Lok Nayak Bhawan that houses several government offices during PM Modi appeal to switch off electric lights at 9 pm for 9 minutes,” he tweeted. He too explicitly connected the fire to PM Modi’s 9 pm 9 minute event.
But unlike Arvind Gunesekar, Trivedi quickly corrected himself. At 9:34 pm, he tweeted an update. “The fire call was made after a passerby noticed fire on fourth floor but it was found that some had lit candles. The building is safe,” he quoted the Delhi Fire Services as saying.
Such was the eagerness of both these journalists to link any news of fires to PM Modi’s event is that without double checking their sources, they both went ahead and declared that fires had broken out. Both also went ahead and linked it to the event — Arvind Gunasekar tweeted that the fire had broken out at 9:02 pm, while Saurabh Trivedi explicitly mentioned the event in his tweet.
But perhaps the worst bit of fake news came from Rajdeep Sardesai, who tweeted a WhatsApp forward which claimed that a fire had broken out in Solapur.
As it turns out, the fire had broken out in Solapur on 3rd February, but a WhatsApp forward had started doing the rounds just as PM Modi’s 9 baje 9 minute program began. But such was Sardesai’s excitement at a fire breaking out during the event that the veteran “journalist” tweeted the picture, without even checking if it was true.
India’s left-leaning journalists were presumably disappointed when there were no power cuts or fires during the 9 baje 9 minutes event. But that clearly didn’t stop them from inventing some fires of their own.