Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Lakshadweep has created a lot of buzz on social media after he shared pictures of the island. It also led to a controversy surrounding Lakshadweep tourism, with many people comparing it to the Maldives. The Maldives government suspended three deputy ministers after they made derogatory remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi on social media in connection with his Lakshadweep visit. The debate, which began on social media, has now snowballed into a full-scale diplomatic row between the two countries.
Against this backdrop, various politicians and ministers have urged people to travel to island destinations within India by sharing apparent images of places such as Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Port Blair.
Minister of earth sciences Kiren Rijiju has shared two pictures and identified them as from Lakshadweep. However, he later deleted the tweet. (Archived link)
In a now deleted tweet, actor Ranveer Singh also shared a picture and appealed to netizens to explore Indian beach destinations. (Archived link)
BJP MP Ravi Kishan also shared a few photos as places to explore in India. (Archived link)
Indian cricketer Virender Sehwag also shared a set of images as Indian destinations. (Archived link)
Right wing influencer Arun Pudur also amplified a few images as the Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep. (Archived link)
In addition, BJP leader Tajinder Bagga posted two images claiming they depicted the Chidiya Tapu Beach at Port Blair. (Archived link)
Alt News performed a reverse image search of the image shared by Kiren Rijiju and Arun Pudur, purported to be from Lakshadweep. We discovered that this was a stock photo available on the Alamy website. The information associated with the image clearly states that it is from Bora Bora Islands in French Polynesia. The same user has also uploaded many other photos of this location. Another user also uploaded a picture of the same location on the stock image website Dreamstime, and the caption states that it is a picture of French Polynesia.
Arun Pudur shared another image claiming it to be from Lakshadweep. However, a reverse image search on Google revealed that the photo is available on the Shutterstock website along with many other stock websites. Its actual location had been recorded as Tonsai Beach in Thailand. We also looked it up on Google Maps and found that many users had posted the picture of the location containing the viral picture in Google Reviews.
When we performed a reverse image search of the photo shared by Ranveer Singh on Google, we found it uploaded on the stock website Shutterstock. In the information provided with the picture, it is mentioned that it was taken in the Maldives. We also verified this location on Google Maps and found that this picture was indeed from the Maldives.
This picture was shared by Ravi Kishan, Kiren Rijiju and Arun Pudur. Using a reverse image search, we found it published in a magazine named Top Dreamer dated 2013. Here it was described as the Maldives island. As we continued our investigation, we found this picture in a post dated March 21, 2012 on a Facebook page named Malediven. The same page had posted a similar photo taken from a different angle at the same location on April 26, 2012. Screenshots of both the posts are given below.
We also found this picture on image hosting website Flickr. Here too, it has been described as a picture of the Maldives. According to the EXIF data given on the website, this photo was taken on November 14, 2011.
A reverse image search of one of the pictures shared by Virender Sehwag, led us to another instance of the same photo uploaded on a travel page on Instagram. The location of this picture is mentioned as Bora Bora, French Polynesia.
For more information, we performed a keyword search using terms related to Bora Bora on YouTube. We also came across a video of the location depicted in the photo, from which it can be confirmed that this photo is from Bora Bora, French Polynesia.
This picture was shared by Arun Pudur. A reverse image search led us to another iteration of it on stock image website Adobe Stock. The description mentions that this picture is from Phuket, Thailand. The user has uploaded more pictures of this location taken from different angles on the stock image website.
This picture was also shared by Arun Pudur. After performing a reverse image search on Google, we found it pinned on Pinterest. The pin contained a link to image hosting website Flickr where it had been uploaded on July 19, 2011. The tags also mention Koh Phi Phi, Thailand. We also verified the location of this place using Google Maps and discovered that it was captured from the viewpoint of Koh Phi Phi in Thailand.
BJP leader Tajinder Bagga had shared this photo. We performed a reverse image search and found it uploaded on stock image website Shutterstock. The description states the photo was captured in Koh Lipe Beach in Thailand. The artist who uploaded this picture has uploaded many other pictures of the same place from different angles.
A reverse image search of this photo shared by Arun Pudur led us to the stock image website Pixabay, where it had been uploaded on December 19, 2017. According to the information provided, this was a picture of French Polynesia.
This image was posted by Arun Pudur as well, which Alt News also found on stock image website Alamy. According to the information provided, it was captured on May 23, 2017, with a contributor named Denis Moskvinov uploading it. We found Moskvinov’s Facebook profile but it did not contain any contact details, only some information about his wife, Katya. We found a link to his wife’s email address from her Instagram profile and reached out via email to ask about the viral photo. She informed us that this picture was of a friend of theirs. It was uploaded by her husband Denis, who was a photographer and digital creator. She added that this image was taken in the Indian Ocean near Lembongan Island in Indonesia.
To sum it up, all these pictures shared by well-known personalities including politicians as being from India do not, in fact, depict Lakshadweep or any destination in India.
Independent journalism that speaks truth to power and is free of corporate and political control is possible only when people start contributing towards the same. Please consider donating towards this endeavour to fight fake news and misinformation.