Senior journalist Ravish Kumar had made a speech last year at Press Club, Delhi on the murder of veteran journalist Gauri Lankesh. Soon after, his 10-minute speech was truncated to 11 seconds by many on social media and presented in a manner that Kumar came across as speaking on behalf of a political party. BJP IT Cell Head Amit Malviya had circulated the mischievously cropped video. However, he wasn’t the only one. A Facebook page that goes by the name ‘The India Eye’ had also shared the video (which is now deleted), with the caption – “Which Party is Ravish Kumar talking about? A Freudian slip?”
Which Party is Ravish Kumar talking about? A Freudian slip? pic.twitter.com/4GBWxgrghh
— The India Eye (@TheIndiaEye) September 10, 2017
In the original video, Kumar is urging PM Modi to speak to his own party workers and tell them that people like Dadhichi are not true nationalists. This clip can be accessed here.
A quick scroll through ‘The India Eye’ would divulge many more such misleading claims. The page has a following of over 17 lakhs and its posts are liked and shared by thousands on a daily basis. During the course of this article, we would investigate the origin of this page and present several other instances of its blatant propaganda.
The origin of ‘The India Eye’
Alt News searched for the phone number on Twitter and found that it was first posted from a handle ‘HeMan NAMO’ (@HemanNamo). In fact, HeMan Namo has promoted this number as ‘The India Eye’ Whatsapp number multiple times from his Twitter profile.
WhatsApp पर झूठी ख़बरों और दूश प्रचार से बचें ।
सच्ची ख़बरों के लिए THE INDIA EYE WhatsApp से जुड़ें । 8586993060 pic.twitter.com/ULZdM6QJcV
— HeMan NAMO ( नमो: ) 🙏🙏 (@HemanNamo) December 5, 2016
— HeMan NAMO ( नमो: ) 🙏🙏 (@HemanNamo) August 15, 2012
Clicking on the link redirected us to – ‘facebook.com/on.himanshujain/posts/274979465944900′. This link was dysfunctional as the post was taken down but the URL implied that the name of the person running the Twitter handle @HemanNamo could be Himanshu Jain.
Subsequently, we tried accessing the ‘on.himanshujain’ page by visiting the URL – ‘facebook.com/on.himanshujain’. But surprisingly, we were redirected to the Facebook page of ‘The India Eye’ instead. This suggested that ‘facebook.com/on.himanshujain’ was merged with ‘The India Eye’ page. To get a clearer picture of how we conclusively established the link step by step, watch the video below:
At this point in the investigation, we knew the name of the person (Himanshu Jain) and his Twitter handle (@HemanNamo). But we were yet to establish Jain’s identity as his Twitter profile picture was that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and not his own.
The default Twitter hashtag when a user changes their profile picture is #NewProfilePic, which made us look if Himanshu Jain had ever updated his profile picture with his own image. We found that in 2017 he had indeed used his photograph.
— HeMan NAMO ( नमो: ) 🙏🙏 (@HemanNamo) June 18, 2017
When we reverse-searched this image, we landed up on the website of a company called ‘Silver Touch Technologies Ltd.’. Jain was described as the Whole-Time Director in the ‘About’ section of the website. Himanshu Jain’s LinkedIn profile indicates that he is currently residing in Delhi and received his education from Ahmedabad.
The evidence till now showed that Himanshu Jain of Silver Touch was associated with ‘The India Eye’ Facebook page. However, it was not clear whether this association was in his personal capacity or there was any involvement of his company.
Alt News wrote to Vipul Thakkar, the Managing Director of Silver Touch, and asked him if Silver touch is involved in the running of ‘The India Eye’. Thakkar emailed back to us stating, “We at Silver Touch are neither aware nor associated with any such Facebook page.”
We also contacted Himanshu Jain and asked whim whether he was associated with ‘The India Eye’ Facebook page. Jain denied any links to the page.
However, when we ran the domain name ‘theindiaeye.com’ through an online tool called myip.ms, we discovered that the website’s IP Address – 188.8.131.52 – is owned by Silver Touch. When we questioned Himanshu Jain about the same, he said that Silver Touch has several clients and it not possible for him to be aware of specific details of every customer. The IP Address of the website was changed soon after this conversation. The phone number originally listed on the ‘About’ section of ‘The India Eye’ Facebook page was also removed.
Further, the WHOIS results for the ‘theindiaeye.com’ domain name showed that it was using the name servers of Silver Touch.
The above screenshot also shows that ‘theindiaeye.com’ was created on June 24, 2016 at 12:16 UTC.
On another online tool domainbigdata.com, which keeps a historical data of whois information, we found that another domain name ‘theindiaeye.in’ was also created on June 24, 2016 at 12:16 UTC. This was registered under Himanshu Jain’s name and his phone number (which is excluded from the screenshot below).
The Facebook page ‘The India Eye’ was previously called ‘Changing India’ and renamed on June 24, 2016. This coincides with the date of creation of both ‘theindiaeye.com’ and ‘theindiaeye.in’.
In conclusion, our investigation revealed that:
- Himanshu Jain was associated with ‘The India Eye’ Facebook page. The domain names ‘theindiaeye.com’, listed on the Facebook page, and ‘theindiaeye.in’, registered to Himanshu Jain, were created at exactly the same time.
- The IP Address of ‘theindiaeye.com’ domain name and the name servers used by the website were both owned by Silver Touch. This indicates that ‘The India Eye’ website was hosted on the company servers.
Silver Touch and BJP’s online presence
Silver Touch Technology Ltd. is an IT firm that was established in Ahmedabad in 1992. In its ‘About Us’ section, the company defines itself as “a leading and globally accepted IT Solution Provider and currently at the forefront of Digital Transformation & Emerging Technologies to serve the customers across the world.” The company’s website also has an ‘E-Governance’ section where it says – “we are serving citizens needs while working on government projects for more than two and a half decades. Our E-Governance service practices include a vast array of services.”
In 2014, Himanshu Jain tweeted about one such government project – the website of the Ministry of Culture, designed by Silver Touch and launched by BJP minister Shripad Nayak. The company has, in fact, done a lot of work for the BJP government. That same year, a mobile application for the President was developed by Silver Touch and inaugurated by Pranab Mukherjee at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Himanshu Jain was present at the occasion.
A proud & prestigious moment for Silver Touch Technologies Ltd.
Today, the new web site and #mobile #application…
The Managing Director of Silver Touch Vipul Thakkar has also tweeted several times about projects undertaken by the company for various government departments.
Last year, NDTV had published a report titled “Exclusive: The ”Silver” Touch Behind BJP’s Online Dominance?”. According to this article, the Gujarat government was among the biggest clients of Silver Touch. NDTV counted at least 17 departments that availed its services.
In its draft red herring prospectus (document submitted as part of public offering of securities) filed before the National Stock Exchange (NSE) of India in September 2017, Silver Touch said that 53% of work came from government contracts worth approximately Rs 62.5 crores in the previous financial year.
NDTV had also found that Himanshu Jain, from his Twitter account @HemanNamo, was a part of trending pro-BJP hashtags. He is also followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter. Last year, he made several tweets with #ModiTransformsIndia after the PM made a speech defending the economy. Another hashtag #LiesAgainstShah was tweeted several times by Jain after questions were raised on the finances of Amit Shah’s son, Jay Shah.
Whenquestioned in 2017, Jain claimed that his “private” social media activities had nothing to do with Silver Touch. However, Alt News’ investigation suggested that Jain was the creator of the Facebook page ‘The India Eye’ and the website ‘theindiaeye.com’ was hosted on servers belonging to Silver Touch.
It is disconcerting that a Director of a multinational IT firm that manages several government projects is also linked to a propaganda website and Facebook page. ‘The India Eye’ has often been found circulating misinformation to its massive following of 17 lakh. Below are some of the instances that we found.
1. Fake news about Sanskriti school bus attacked in Pune during Bharat bandh
The Congress Party announced Bharat bandh on September 10 as a response to rising fuel prices. Soon after, claims suggesting that a school bus was vandalised during the strike by members of the Opposition were widespread on social media. This narrative was propagated using a set of images that showed a damaged school bus of Sanskriti school with a shattered windshield. ‘The India Eye’ was among the many who circulated the claim, drawing a share count of 1,600.
As it turned out, the photographs of the damaged bus of Sanskriti school were misleading as they had been vandalised the previous day i.e. on September 9 and had nothing to do with the bandh. Alt News had busted the false claims here.
2. Declared Congress world’s 4th most corrupt party based on a fake BBC website
On September 15, ‘The India Eye’ shared a post claiming that “according to BBC, Congress stands at the 4th position among the top 10 most corrupt political parties in the world.” This was shared 24,000 times and was liked over 17,000 times.
A fake news website BBCNewsHub.com had published an article in July 2018, which was shared by ‘The India Eye’ as a recent and authenticate “list of world’s most corrupt political parties.” Alt News debunked the false claims in this article.
3. Fake news about Hardik Patel’s weight gain while on a fast
On August 25, PAAS leader Hardik Patel had initiated an indefinite fast over demands of farm loan waiver and reservation for the Patidar community. The leader agreed to be hospitalized after his health deteriorated steadily on the 14th day of fasting. On September 4, 2018, reports emerged that the Patidar leader had lost 20 kg after 11 days of fasting and weighed 58.3 kg. However, a medical report published the next day showed a stark difference of 8 kg and put Patel’s weight at 66.4 kg. This was taken as an opportunity for many to imply that Patel was not on a fast. ‘The India Eye’ post was shared 8,600 times and has now been deleted.
However, a report by Desh Gujarat on September 5th clarified that the anomaly in weight was due to a false reading.
4. Fake claim that Rahul Gandhi’s Mansarovar yatra photo was lifted from Google images
Congress President Rahul Gandhi had tweeted images of Lake Rakshastal during his Kailash Mansarovar yatra.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) September 5, 2018
Several right-wing users and pages quickly declared that Gandhi’s pictures were lifted from Google stock images. ‘The India Eye’ also made the identical allegation, posing the question – “Was it that Pappu ji went somewhere else in the name of yatra? (translated).“
Alt News had found that the image appeared on Google after it was cross-posted from Rahul Gandhi’s Instagram to JD Social account. Essentially, it was posted by the Congress President himself on his social media account.
5. Fake claim that Congress party used a mortuary van for political campaigning in Madhya Pradesh
A photograph was shared widely on social media in August this year, which showed a Congress party advertisement on a van. Those who shared this image claimed that the van is a mortuary van, and ridiculed the Congress party for using it for its political campaign. ‘The India Eye’ post circulating the same narrative received over 3,200 shares. It has now been deleted and its archived version can be accessed here.
Alt News had debunked this false claim using a simple Google reverse image search that revealed that the photograph was photoshopped.
6. Fake claim that Sports Minister served food to Indian athletes at Asian Games
An image of Rajyavardhan Rathore holding a plate with food bowls and talking to athletes at the 2018 Asain Games was circulated as the Sports Minister serving food.
Alt News had spoken to a person who was present at the scene. He informed that the picture was misleading as the minister was not serving food, snacks or tea but only greeting the players he met on his way to the table.
7. Fake post claiming India took no loans from World bank during 2015 to 2017
In yet another instance, ‘The India Eye’ claimed – “In these 70 years of independence, there were only three years India did not take any loans from the World Bank – 2015, 2016, 2017 – is this Modiji’s failure or success? Namo namah (translated).“
Alt News had debunked this fake news in the past when we found that loans worth more than US$ 96,560 million for 50 projects had been approved for India during the time period in question.
From the examples above, it is evident that the Facebook page ‘The India Eye’ is a repeat offender when it comes to misinformation. Their propaganda is apparent from the kind of posts they share – building the image of Prime Minister Modi and maligning Opposition parties. The use of well-designed posters with ‘The India Eye’ logo adds to their branding and easily catches the readers’ attention. Its creation and marketing led by a Director of a multinational firm, while the firm itself providing web-hosting space to the site, is an unsettling truth.