Fact Check : No, most Indians did not search for Hima Das’ caste on Google

On 12 July, 18 years old Hima Das from Assam created history by winning the Gold medal in the Women’s 400m at the 2018 IAAF World Championships. With this feat, she became the first Indian woman athlete to win a gold medal at the world level. The entire country celebrated her achievement. The President, Prime Minister, other sports-persons and film celebrities congratulated her. Netizens posted congratulatory messages for her on all social media platforms. Hima Das also thanked everyone by posting a video on her Twitter account.

However, in the last couple of days, many media outlets have reported that most Indians weren’t interested in Hima Das’ achievement, rather they were interested in her caste. Some said that this represents everything that’s wrong with our society.

 

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Media reports on Google search related to Hima Das

However, these media reports are far from the truth. OpIndia analyzed the searches for “Hima Das” and “Hima Das caste” using Google Trends, which shows interest in search terms over time. Following are our findings:

While there were indeed some searches for “Hima Das caste”, the number was minuscule as compared to the searches for “Hima Das”, i.e. most Indians were interested in knowing about Hima Das and not her caste.

In the graph below, the blue graph line represents the search history for ‘Hima Das’ and the red line represents the searches for “Hima Das Caste”. As one can see, there is a stunning difference between the quantum of searches where “Hima Das Caste” has been searched miniscule number of times.

Relative interest in the search terms since 13 July

The above chart clearly shows that the relative interest in “Hima Das Caste” was just a noise as compared to the interest in the term “Hima Das”.

Interestingly, the interest for “Hima Das Caste” started increasing only after 14 July, i.e. when the news reports and social media posts about people searching for her caste started appearing. One of the first examples of such misleading insinuations was this post from a Liberal propaganda page on Facebook called ‘Humans of Hindutva’.

Facebook post by ‘Humans of Hindutva’ on 14 July

It should be noted that the Google Search suggestions are by no means an indicator of the number of people searching for the suggested terms, as evident from the chart shown above.

The state-wise breakdown of the search trends shows that the highest percentage of searches for “Hima Das Caste” (out of the total number of searches for both terms) was just 7% and came from Andhra Pradesh.

State-wise breakdown of search trends

In fact, only one other state reported searches for “Hima Das Caste” above 5% of the total searches for both the terms – Kerala. The blue colour in the map above indicates that “Hima Das” (not “Hima Das Caste”) was the predominant search term across the country.

Most media outlets based their reports merely on the search suggestions shown by Google. Indian Express did include a screenshot of a Google Trends chart, however, it only shows ‘caste’ as the most searched related topic, but does not show a comparative analysis like the one we have shown above.

It’s clear that our journalists are either technologically illiterate or have a sinister agenda to keep India’s caste fault-lines alive.

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