Thousands of farmers marched yesterday into Delhi as a part of Kisan Kranti Padyatra with Bharatiya Kisan Union chief Naresh Tikait, leading the agitation. Their demands were for the recommendations of the Farmer’s Commission to be implemented by the central government. A total of 7 policemen were injured during the agitation and all schools and colleges in Ghaziabad were closed.
Many took to Twitter to either support the farmers or ask legitimate questions regarding some of the agitations we have been seeing across the country. However, the rumours mills started working overnight, quite literally.
WhatsApp has become one of the greatest purveyors of fake news as many forward messages they receive without any form of verification. A similar message went viral on WhatsApp today that attributed a specific picture to yesterday’s farmer agitation.
The above message has been widely circulated on WhatsApp which attributes a photograph of a farmer holding a brick and a policeman holding a gun, that points towards the farmer. From the photograph, it seems as if the policeman is about to fire at the farmer, and the farmer, in self-defence, is getting ready to hurl a brick at the police officer.
However, our fact-check tells us that the picture forwarded and attributed to yesterday’s farmer protests is not a picture from yesterday at all.
According to archived reports, a large number of villagers, including several women carrying their children, had gathered in Khera village in Sarghana for the mahapanchayat to protest against the arrest and slapping of National Security Act on local BJP MLA Sangeet Singh Som in connection with the Muzaffarnagar violence, in 2013.
This was covered by the Indian Express:
The date of the above article published by Indian Express is 30th September 2013. Clearly, this photograph is not from yesterday’s farmer protests.
It was not only on WhatsApp that this photograph was shared widely.
Communist ‘activist’ Kavitha Krishnan too shared this picture yesterday and used it to allege that since the farmers protesting are not called ‘terrorists’ for hurling stones, the Kashmiri stone pelters shouldn’t be called terrorists either.
Look at the farmer with a brick in his hand, facing a cop with a gun.
If you don’t think the farmer is a terrorist – and I hope you don’t – if you empathise with his anger, I hope you’ll think again before you call a Kashmiri kid with a stone in his hand a terrorist. pic.twitter.com/7Omxax3sWj
— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) October 2, 2018
While Kavita Krishnan doesn’t specifically mention that this picture is from yesterday’s protest, her sharing this image while the country debated, discussed and watched thousands of farmers protesting does insinuate that there exists a connection between the photograph and the protests.
Kavita Krishnan’s potentially misleading tweet was also shared by self-proclaimed fact-checker, the co-founder of AltNews.com, which is funded by a habitual fake news peddler Arundhati Roy. Altnews.com, the self-proclaimed fact-checkers, have also been caught several times while spreading fake news.
In a country like India, fake news during turbulent protests could potentially spark trouble and spin out of control rather quickly. While asking the general population to fact check every WhatsApp forward they get is a tall ask, other ‘activists’ and ‘fact checkers’ should perhaps be a little more careful in adding fuel to fire, just to score political brownie points.