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Was flag raised on Red Fort during Republic Day riots the Nishan Sahib? How Twitter and ‘fact-checkers’ manipulated media

Twitter, with its 'manipulated media' mischief is actually spreading misinformation and furthering falsehoods.

A lot has been said about the controversy over the flag hoisted at the Red Fort on Republic Day during the tractor rally riots. Most mainstream media channels claimed the flag was the Nishan Sahib, the Sikh holy flag. However, here is how they played a little mischief.

Twitter user Rosy on 27th January 2021 shared a video of the rioting mob taking siege of the Red Fort and hoisting a flag.

In the video, one can see that along with the Indian national flag, the rioting mob hoisted a saffron triangle flag with the holy Sikh symbol and a yellow rectangle flag with the same symbol.

Twitter quickly marked her tweet as ‘manipulated media’.

When you click on the information card, it takes you to a page on basis of which it marked the tweet as manipulated.

Twitter’s explanation of ‘manipulated media’

Twitter relied on India Today, NDTV and ThePrint’s reports to claim that the above video is manipulated. Here is how these media houses have described the flags hoisted.

India Today

The India Today report Twitter has used for flagging the above video as manipulated does not mention the shape of the Nishan Sahib. In fact, the report only states matter of factly that the Nishan Sahib was hoisted. It does not specify the colour of the shape of the flag. The report is from 26th January 2021 and it states the ‘farmers’ hoisted the Nishan Sahib on the Red Fort.

India Today report on flag hoisted at Red Fort

If one sees carefully, the flag hoisted in India Today report is indeed the Nishan Sahib, which is the saffron triangular flag. The image shown is different from the video uploaded by Twitter user Rosy which also had another yellow rectangular flag.


Now in place of NDTV report, Twitter just uploaded NDTV employee Sreenivasan Jain’s tweet which proclaimed that the flag hoisted was the Nishan Sahib.

NDTV, amongst other things, kept itself busy on the Republic Day downplaying violence and painted the rioting mob as humanitarian for making way for an ambulance. NDTV India’s Ravish Kumar also kept giving leeway to rioting mob. In rest of the ‘manipulated tweet’ details posted by Twitter, no one NDTV tweet or article appears.

So essentially, Twitter relied on Sreenivasan’s singular tweet to flag the video as manipulated. Read how Jain spends his time downplaying violence.

Shekhar Gupta’s ThePrint

Now, Shekhar Gupta’s ThePrint explained what a Nishan Sahib flag looks like.

ThePrint explaining Nishan Sahib

ThePrint explains that the Nishan Sahib is a triangular saffron flag, mounted on a steel pole that is also covered with a saffron coloured cloth.

Twitter mischief

As one can see, the three sources Twitter used to flag the tweet as ‘manipulated media’ were either silent about description of the Nishan Sahib or when they did, they only described the other saffron triangular flag as the Nishan Sahib.

These media houses are conspicuously silent on the yellow rectangle flag planted next to the saffron triangle flag and the Indian national flag on the Red Fort.

‘Fact-checkers’ who are allergic to facts

BoomLive ‘fact-checked’ the ‘second‘ flag uploaded by the rioting mob.

BoomLive ‘fact-checking’ the second flag

BoomLive in a bizarre move has actually ‘fact-checked’ a completely different image from the same day. Instead of talking about the main dome where the tricolour is also hoisted, Boom talks about some completely different dome and concluded that the second flag is of a farmer union.

While it is indeed true that farmer unions also brought their own flags and hoisted them, the particular yellow rectangle flag with holy Sikh symbol in blue is not even mentioned in this ‘fact-check’.

When facts are not in your favour, just change the subject and fact-check what suits the narrative. What a genius way to ‘fact-check’.

The Quint

The Quint’s ‘fact-check’ has also played same mischief. In fact, they, too, did not bother to fact-check two flags that are hoisted where the main tricolour flies.

The Quint, too, ‘fact-checks’ the empty pole where the Nishan Sahib and the other farmer union flag was hoisted. However, it does not talk about the second flag which is on the higher level at the Red Fort where the tricolour flies every day.

The Quint’s ‘fact-check’

In the video shared by Twitter user Rosy, she talks about the two flag hoisted where the tricolour (near the saffron semi-circle) was hoisted. The Quint has fact-checked, the empty pole where saffron triangular flag (Nishan Sahib) and yellow farmer union flags are hoisted.

To make things clearer, here is an Indian Express image with the most clear two flags near the tricolour.

Indian Express image

See the second yellow rectangle flag with the holy Sikh symbol? Definitely not the farmer union flag the ‘fact-checkers’ claim, no?

Speaking of selective fact-checking, here is AltNews and propaganda site The Wire which used AltNews’ ‘fact-check’

AltNews and The Wire

If a crime has to be whitewashed, look no further, AltNews will jump in to do the honours. Now, AltNews is ‘fact-checking’ whether the Tricolour was replaced with the Khalistan flag at the Red Fort.

AltNews’ ‘fact-check’

It is not ‘fact-checking’ whether the Khalistani flag was raised or not. It is been well established that two flags were raised next to the Tricolour. AltNews mischievously ‘fact-checks’ something else when the claims are of something else.

AltNews has quoted one ‘writer’ named Amandeep Sandhu who is explaining the Nishan Sahib.

AltNews describing the Nishan Sahib

Now, AltNews, to give examples of the Nishan Sahib, puts up images where all the flags were saffron triangular flags.

Nishan Sahib from Republic Day parade in 2021

The above image was used by AltNews to show how the Nishan Sahib flag was part of the Republic Day parade. As one can see, the flag is a saffron triangular flag, and not a yellow rectangle one.

AltNews’ second example on Nishan Sahib

To prove a point, AltNews shared image of the 2020 Republic Day parade with Punjab tableau. As one can again see, the Nishan Sahib here was also saffron triangular flag, not yellow rectangle flag.

Nishan Sahib

OpIndia went through multiple of resources available online to find out more details on the Nishan Sahib, especially the shape and colour of the flag. on Nishan Sahib describes the Nishan Sahib as a triangular piece of ochre or saffron coloured cloth with the Khanda emblem in between. The image on the website is also the saffron coloured triangular flag.

Sikhiwiki on Nishan Sahib

As per SikhiWiki, too, the Nishan Sahib is saffron triangular flag.


Another website on Sikhism, Sikhnet, too describes the Nishan Sahib as saffron-coloured triangular flag.

None of these websites describe the Nishan Sahib as a yellow rectangle flag.

Let us have a look at the flags hoisted at some of the prominent Gurudwaras in India.

Nishan Sahib at the Golden Temple, Amritsar

The Nishan Sahib placed at the Golden Temple, Amritsar, as can be seen, are saffron triangular flags.

Image credit: Rajiv Pillai on Tripadvisor

The Gurudwara Bangla Sahib in New Delhi also flies the saffron coloured triangular Nishan Sahib.

Gurudwara Patna Sahib

Gurudwara Patna Sahib, too, has saffron coloured triangular flags.

Khalistani flags

The flag adopted by separatist Khalistani elements is yellow coloured rectangle flag with the holy Sikh symbol in blue in the middle. It also has the word ‘Khalistan’ written on it. Since Khalistan officially does not exist, there is no ‘official’ flag as such. However, there have been some variants of the same yellow rectangle flag.

Khalistani supporters hold protests outside Indian embassy in Washington DC
Khalistani flag raised in Washington DC outside Indian Embassy (Image: ANI)

This is a rectangle flag with Khalistan written in English underneath.

Khalistan flag variant

Another variant of the Khalistani flag has the word Khalistan written in English and Punjabi around the holy Sikh symbol.

As can be seen, there is no consistency in the Khalistan flag, but the Nishan Sahib has always been saffron triangular flag.

Whether the yellow rectangle flag without the words “Khalistan” falls under Khalistan flag or the Nishan Sahib, is anybody’s guess.

However, the fact that Twitter chose to flag the tweet by Twitter user Rosy as ‘manipulated media’ when there is ample ambiguity and the ‘media resources’ they relied on, too, are silent on the aspect, says a lot about the mischief the social media giant is doing.

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OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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