Several social media users, on Thursday, August 25, 2022, shared a video claiming to show West Bengal police beating up ISKCON devotees over distribution of Bhagvad Gita books on the road. One Twitter user alleged, “Clash observed between #Bengal #Police and #iskcon devotees reportedly over distribution of Srimad Bhagavad Gita. #Government of West Bengal highly criticized by #devotees. #BhagavadGita,” while another Twitter user took a pot shot at Mamata Banerjee, saying “Dear @MamataOfficial akka, ‘too much is always too bad’.” However, Newschecker found that the video was neither from West Bengal, nor was it recent.
Archived versions of the tweets can be seen here and here.
Newschecker first closely inspected a few key frames of the video, and noticed that the police jeep had the words ‘Goa Police’ written on it, and not West Bengal Police.
Taking a cue from the screenshots of the jeep, we conducted a Google search with the keywords “Goa police Krishna devotees clash” and came across a Herald Goa report, titled “Eight Russians arrested for clash with police”, dated November 26, 2008.
Although the article did not have any pictures or a clip, it stated, “Religious chants by a group of Russian members of the ‘Hare Ram Hare Krishna’ sect near the Mapusa police station took a violent turn on Tuesday, when the Russians clashed with the police and ended up getting assaulted by the public.”
On further research, we found a Reddit thread, the thumbnail of which matched the key frames of the viral video. One of the users also posted the 2008 Herald Goa article in the comment section.
The Reddit thread also contained more details from the article. It revealed that the Mapusa police, upon receiving complaints from locals against the singing and revelry by the Russians who were in saffron attire, rushed to the site, near the Mapusa taaxi stand. When a police team of six reached the spot and tried to stop the celebrations, a scuffle broke out. “On noticing the cops being at the receiving end of the group, the public intervened and thrashed the foreigners before handing them over to the police. While police managed to arrest eight members of the group, others fled away from the site. Those arrested include Egoloboi Bable, Eugene Cathrina, Ekolo Valanko, Alexander Valanko, Costancio Roma, Terence Tubo, Gory Gorbelo and Andre Adito. All the eight accused have been booked under Sections 143, 145, 147 149 and 353 IPC,” the report read.
A Google search further led us to this Youtube video, titled “Real Unseen Footage Violent Attack On ISKCON Members by Goa Police”. The video was uploaded by ISKCON Truth on December 19, 2019, with the description, “Unseen Footage: Extremely Violent Attack On ISKCON Members by Goa Police(NOT West Bengal). The incident had occurred in 2008 in Goa…”.
The ISKCON Truth Facebook page also posted a clarification on its account on May 9, 2019, confirming the viral video is not from West Bengal, but Goa.
Since the article in Herald Goa report in the Reddit Thread stated that the police stopped the group near the taxi stand at Mapusa, we did a Google-map search for Mapusa taxi stand and found images that looked similar to the location in the video.
The viral video claiming the West Bengal police beat up ISKCON devotees for distributing Bhagawad Gita books was found to be of a clash between Russian devotees of the ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna Sect’ and the Goa police in 2008.
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