Is a section of international media trying to foment unrest in the country by portraying a misleading picture of the situation in Kashmir?
This debate is raging on social media for the last few days since Al Jazeera and the BBC put up two video clips, purportedly showing a protest march that took place in Srinagar last Friday (August 9). Many people are commenting that these videos are from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
To add further to the confusion, there were conflicting reports from the official government sources about untoward incidents in Srinagar after last Friday's prayers.
According to the BBC and Al Jazeera reports, thousands of people raised anti-India slogans and protested against the abrogation of Article 370. The BBC report stated that police opened fire and used tear gas to disperse the crowd.
It is important to note that in the video, many people in the crowd are seen carrying flags of terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammad, but both the reports fail to highlight the fact.
With questions being raised about the authenticity of these video clips - some even calling the video to be old and from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir - we did a detailed analysis to establish the location and time of these videos. We dived deep into the video of Al Jazeera for our analysis.
Besides the initial portion in the BBC clip which depicts firing with sounds of gunshots (to which we'll come back later in the story), both the videos have marked similarity and show the same protest march -- although shot from different angles.
Determining the location
We extracted all the frames from the Al Jazeera video, and selected some of the snaps which have distinct visual clues. The following screengrab from the video provides three vital clues to help us geolocate the place.
First, on the left side of the road where people are marching, a text in Urdu can be seen written on the yellow wall which reads: "Masjid ul-Rehmat".
A few metres ahead on the same road, a big red building with a slanting roof can be seen. Behind this red building, on the left side, an overhead water tank is visible.
As the text on the wall says "Masjid ul-Rehmat", we looked for a mosque in the video. It was not difficult to locate a mosque with a green-coloured dome.
The Al Jazeera video claimed this place to be Srinagar. So we looked on Google Earth Pro for places in Srinagar which match with these visual clues.
We found that in the Soura area on the outskirts of Srinagar, 11 kilometre north of Lal Chowk, there is a place which has a striking similarity to the visual clues we were searching for.
The ul-Rehmat mosque can be seen in the satellite image and the red building with the slanting roof is marked as Trust Medicate Hospital. Far behind the mosque, the overhead water tank can also be seen.
Stitching these pieces of evidence, we could establish that the location of the protest march was Dullbagh Road in the Soura area of Srinagar. This area is on the Srinagar-Ladakh highway. There is a very heavy deployment of security forces in this entire area for the past few weeks.
On-ground verification of location
To further confirm the location, we worked on yet another clue from the video.
In one of the shots, the crowd is seen gathered and sloganeering near a house that has a blue board with the name "Toreto" on it.
Toreto is a mobile accessories company which has its head office in Delhi. As phone lines in Kashmir are not working, we contacted the Toreto head office. They confirmed that the board in question is one of their sale partners in Soura, Srinagar.
Determining the time
We could not find the video anywhere else on social media or YouTube before Al Jazeera and the BBC published it.
This was to confirm that an old video is not being passed off as a recent one. We scanned the Internet but could not find any evidence to suggest that it is an old video.
In the video, a man is carrying a white banner which says "Abrogation of Articale 370 is not acceptable" (sic). The word 'Article' has been misspelled in the banner. Just behind the white banner, on the green-yellow flag of PoK, it's written "Save Artical 35A".
These clues are not good enough to conclusively determine the date of the video. A banner about the abrogation of Article 370 in the video is also not a reliable evidence to prove that it is a fresh video. No sooner than the ruling BJP hinted at repealing the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, there have been protests against the move in the Valley.
Moreover, the timing is very crucial as Pakistan has been caught peddling fake news in the info war against India multiple times recently.
Did the crowd gather in a field?
It is also being pointed out by social media users that hardly any security personnel were seen in the video while the agitated mob was marching fearlessly holding flags of terrorist organisations.
People are wondering how such a large crowd can gather in a field when there is a massive deployment of security forces in the Valley for the past two weeks.
So did the crowd really gather in the field besides marching on the streets when the curfew was lifted on Friday for the first time as claimed by the BBC? There is an important hint in the video. Look carefully at the following snapshot from the BBC video.
People sitting in the field are holding the same white banner (with the word 'Article' misspelled) that is visible during the march. Again, this cannot establish the exact date of the video but is good enough to establish that people gathered in the ground the same day the protest march happened.
The 'firing' in the BBC video
In the beginning of the BBC video, there is a clip that depicts firing and use of tear gas. The BBC report says this happened on the same day.
People can be seen running helter-skelter while sounds of gunshots can be heard in the background. A trail of smoke can be seen rising from one corner. Interestingly, policemen are not seen anywhere in the video.
Some questions are being raised on the audio track in the video (in which screaming of some women and children can be heard) which doesn't quite match with the visuals.
It seems there is some dissonance in the sound and action when the protesters are ducking for shelter and sound of firing is heard. However, due to lack of concrete evidence, we can't say anything conclusively about the firing incident in the video.
We contacted the BBC spokesperson in Delhi regarding the authenticity of the video. The BBC said they stand by everything being mentioned in the report. It further said the video was not sourced from a third party, rather shot by its own team.
The government on Saturday (August 10) had claimed that the Valley largely remained peaceful. However, four days after the Friday prayers, the government on Tuesday (August 13) admitted to a clash between a mob and security forces in the Soura area of Srinagar.
"Stories in media on a said incident in Soura region of #Srinagar. On 09/08, miscreants mingled with people returning home after prayers at a local mosque. They resorted to unprovoked stone pelting against law enforcement forces to cause widespread unrest," tweeted Ministry of Home Affairs spokesperson on Tuesday.
This is the same area which was mentioned in the BBC and Al Jazeera reports.