As India celebrates its 74th Independence Day, pictures of the national flag hoisted in different parts of the country are widely circulating. Among these photographs is one from Lal Chowk, Srinagar where the tricolour can be seen atop Ghanta Ghar. Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been sharing the image since the morning of August 15. Below is a tweet by BJP Delhi leader Kapil Mishra which garnered over 40,000 likes and more than 7,000 retweets.
On August 5 last year, prime minister Modi-led government abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Since then, the region has been attempting to return back to normalcy even as high speed internet remains inactive.
The image also found a place in a report by News Nation. “Lal Chowk used to see bloodshed due to hoisting of the national flag. Now the country’s flag rises there with pride,” read the report. Dainik Jagran claimed, “On the occasion of India’s 74th Independence Day, the tricolour was reportedly hoisted at the historic Lal Chowk in Srinagar,” in both English and Hindi reports. ABP News journalist Astha Kaushik also tweeted the photograph.
A simple reverse image search brings out the truth. The national flag has been morphed into an old picture of deserted Lal Chowk. A blogpost on mubasshir.blogspot.com carried the picture in 2010. The cars on the left and the man walking can be seen in both the pictures, thus indicating that it is the same.
Mubasshir Mushtaq, the person who runs the blog, quote-tweeted Kapil Mishra and said that he had shot the photograph on June 22, 2010.
Have you no shame in sharing a doctored image? I clicked the original photo without the Indian flag on June 22, 2010. @SMHoaxSlayer @AltNews @boomlive_in @free_thinker #LalChowk #FakeNews #Fakeimage https://t.co/25FtKivTft
— مبشر مشتاق Mubasshir Mushtaq (@MubasshirM) August 15, 2020
Journalist Ahmer Khan shared a picture of the clock tower in Lal Chowk with Alt News. The photograph has been shot today and the tricolour flag isn’t visible.
Khan had also tweeted a video of deserted Lal Chowk area.
Live telecast of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech at deserted Lal Chowk, Srinagar, #Kashmir.
Video: Ahmer Khan. pic.twitter.com/L3fM0ukrFZ
— Ahmer Khan (@ahmermkhan) August 15, 2020
As of this writing, there have been no reported sightings of the Indian national flag in Lal Chowk, Srinagar. According to a report in The Kashmir Monitor, the main Independence Day function was held at SK Stadium in Srinagar where Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha hoisted the tri-colour. “Authorities suspended the 2G mobile internet service across Kashmir on Saturday as I-day functions were held in district headquarters in the valley. Kashmiris woke up to see the service barred even as mobile telephony was working,” the report adds.
False claim amplified on social media
Several prominent users shared the photograph falsely claiming that the national flag was hoisted in Lal Chowk. Among them were BJP Delhi IT cell member Sandeep Rajliwal, president of fringe group Azad Sena Abhishek Azad, Friends of RSS, parody account of Republic TV founder Arnab Goswami (@arnew5222) and Gaurav Pradhan.
[Update: Mubasshir Mushtaq’s tweet has been added to the report.]
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.