The rumour-mongering and resultant panic among northeasterners living in Bangalore, Mysore and other cities of Karnataka and in other States began in mid-July after a Pakistani website, of which nobody seems to have had heard of till then, posted a picture of Buddhist monks supervising the burial of Tibetans killed in the devastating earthquake that hit Tibet in April 2010. The picture was luridly described as showing “Buddhist monks with the bodies of Rohingya Muslims killed by Buddhists in Burma”.
Within days, the photograph with its provocative caption went viral, appearing on the front pages of Urdu newspapers in Pakistan and getting re-posted on several Islamic websites and blogs which claimed the picture was ‘evidence’ of Rohingyas being massacred by Buddhists in Burma.
It did not take long for the picture to surface on Indian websites and blogs; social media was used for propagating the patent falsehood; it was used for propaganda to rouse Muslim sentiments. A Bangalore-based Urdu newspaper reproduced the photograph and the provocative caption. It got away with this blatant violation of ethics and law.
Yet, since that particular photograph had been widely used by media around the world in 2010, its misuse to incite Muslims was swiftly spotted. Tibetans living in India, when they came to know of the picture doing the rounds, lodged a formal protest.
“The Central Tibetan Administration based in Dharamshala is deeply disturbed and concerned over the circulation of a misleading photograph in some sections of the media showing Tibetan monks in their reports on the recent violence in Burma involving Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims,” the CTA said in a statement issued on August 14, 2012.
“A photograph of Tibetan monks standing in front of a pile of dead bodies appeared in many websites in the Muslim countries, especially Pakistan,” it said. The statement said that “this photo of Tibetan monks was actually taken during their relief work in Kyegudo (Yushul), eastern Tibet, after a devastating earthquake hit the region on April 14, 2010. The Tibetan monks extended remarkable service in the rescue and relief operations at the time.”
“The relevant department of the Central Tibetan Administration wrote a letter to a website in Pakistan (ColumPk.com, Urdu Current Affairs Portal) on July 30 to remove the photo from its website, which it did so the next day,” it further added.
“But the photo is still in circulation, as some Muslims carrying the photo during their recent protest in Mumbai on August 11, 2012, appeared in Zee News, a leading news channel in India,” the CTA said.