A piece of ‘breaking’ news that was published by several media outlets on August 31 informed that the Kerala police booked 30 students (Times Now reported 25 students) of Silver Arts College, Kozhikode, for allegedly waving the Pakistani flag during the college election campaign. Times Now anchor, after stating that the BJP protested against the incident, questioned a channel correspondent, “Yes, Vivek, could you give us details about what really happened because we can see the visuals of a massive Pakistani flag being raised.”The correspondent’s answer was a reiteration of the anchor’s claim.
ANI, Times of India, Deccan Chronicle, India Today, MyNation, OpIndia and Dainik Jagran were other media outlets that carried similar reports claiming that the Muslim Student Front (MSF) raised the purported flag of Pakistan inside the college campus. It is noteworthy that the word “allegedly” found no mention in the title of any of these stories. A few used the word inside the articles.
The alleged incident was also picked by Pakistani media. Many citizens of the nation shared Times Now’s broadcast of the alleged event, including Major General Asif Ghafoor.
One of the firsts to tweet about the alleged incident before it was widely picked up on social media was ABP News journalist Pinky Rajpurohit.
Kerala: Over 30 students booked for allegedly waving Pakistan flag inside the college campus. Perambra police in Kozhikode has filed a case against students belonging to Muslim Students Front (MSF) for allegedly waving agiant Pakistan flag inside Perambra Silver college. @ABPNews pic.twitter.com/CjQ2MC67z2
— Pinky Rajpurohit (ABP News) 🇮🇳 (@Madrassan_Pinky) August 31, 2019
Not the Pakistani flag, but MSF flag
The police reportedly booked 30 students belonging to the MSF, a student body associated with the United Democratic Front, under Sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 153 (intent to cause riot) and 149 (offence committed under unlawful assembly) of the IPC. The before-mentioned media outlets reported the police action without a basic fact-checking which reveals that the flag raised by the students was not the Pakistani flag but the flag of MSF.
A Malayam portal azhimukham.com quoted MSF State Secretary Nishad K Salim as stating that the students had a minimum budget for campaigning for the polls set to be held on September 5. They got the flag stitched by a tailor who did not know the exact green-white ratio to be used. The MSF first hoisted the large flag on a stick which later broke, added Salim.
A different video of the event shows the flag with the stick intact. This video was uploaded by Facebook user Abdul Jaleel Ct who wrote, “This video will show the truth”.
Alt News found another video of the event uploaded on Twitter. Both these videos establish that the flag raised in Silver Arts and Science College was not Pakistan’s flag. The difference between the Pakistani flag and the MSF flag is distinct.
- Pakistani flag has white on the left while the MSF flag has the colour at the bottom.
- The crescent moon on the Pakistani flag is in the middle while on the MSF flag it’s on the top left corner.
A juxtaposition of the Pakistani flag and the MSF flag puts the distinction in perspective.
In the video viral on social media, the students can be seen holding the flag from all four corners in a horizontal position as the stick is absent. When we turn the flag upside-down, it looks the same as the one in the collage above – with the white at the bottom and the crescent moon on the top left corner.
A controversy was created as the MSF flag raised in the college did not have the perfect green-white ratio which should’ve been half and half. Speaking to Alt News, MSF General Secretary Navas informed, “The news is incorrect. It isn’t the Pakistani flag which has white on the left. In the MSF flag, the white is at the bottom. If you see a photo of the upright flag, you can clearly see that the white is at the bottom. Moreover, in the MSF flag the crescent moon is on the left corner. A problem arose because we didn’t ourselves make the flag because of its large size. The tailor who made it didn’t know that the green-white ratio should’ve been 1:1 and he made a flag with a 3:1 ratio.”
Moreover, this wasn’t the first time that an imperfect flag was waved by students. Images of the flag raised in Silver Arts College, Perambra in 2016 also show an imperfect colour ratio.
While an investigation is underway, there’s little doubt that the flag raised was not the Pakistani flag but the flag of Muslim Student Front (MSF). Media outlets failed to highlight this fact in their report thus, giving credence to false claims. This wasn’t an isolated incident when the flag of a Muslim body was mistaken to be that of Pakistan. The same misconception often arises in case of IUML flags and Islamic flags.