A photograph of Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore is viral on social media with the claim that the Sports Minister was serving food to Indian athletes currently in Jakarta for the Asian Games. In the picture, Rathore can be seen holding a tray and interacting with players. The tray has three bowls on it, which acted as an affirmation for many that the minister was serving food to the players.

The Frustrated Indian posted the image on both Facebook and Twitter, captioning it as – “the dude holding the tray is our sports minister”. It attracted a combined share count of nearly 6,000. They also wrote an article which said, “a minister serving food to the players would have been unthinkable 5 years ago.” The article has 1,500 shares.

Fake news website Postcard News founder Mahesh Hegde shared the image as well. It was retweeted over 900 times.

BJP Telangana State President and MLA Dr K Laxman, BJP Karnataka MLA Raghupati Bhatt and AAP Delhi MLA Kapil Mishra also circulated the photograph with the identical claim. Mishra’s tweet has been retweeted over 7,700 times.

Among the hoard of individual users who shared the image were also the ones followed by BJP leaders, including the Prime Minister and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal’s Office (1,2,3).

A Facebook page India First shared the picture as part of a collage depicting “new India”. The post had 12,000 shares at the time of writing this article. However, the claim was not limited to circulation by individual users, fake news purveyors and lawmakers. Several media outlets and journalists also praised Rathore for “serving food.”

Media and journalists

NDTV, DNA, Dainik Jagran, India TV and Republic World were among the media outlets that wrote articles on the minister’s alleged inspiring gesture. The image of him with the tray was the sole testament to the act and the basis of their reportage.

Several journalists also praised the Sports Minister via tweets. Among them was Republic TV’s Major Gaurav Arya, senior political editor of News18 Pallavi Joshi, Karnataka journalist Hariprakash Konemane and India Today’s Rajdeep Sardesai. However, Sardesai later deleted his tweet.

What is the truth?

The viral image was first shared from the official Twitter handle of Sports Authority of India (SAI) on August 26, along with several other pictures of the Sports Minister with athletes and officials at the Asian Games Village in Jakarta. However, SAI did not post the image with the claim that Rathore was “serving” the players.

The Sports Minister has also not claimed on social media or in media reports that he served food or tea to Indian athletes at the Games.

There are many other photographs of Rathore interacting with athletes that day. However, only the one where he is holding a tray is widely circulated. If one were to observe these photographs, the minister seems to be taking his own food.

However, as this was an observational inference, Alt News contacted a person who was present at the scene but does not wish to be named. He told us that the picture is misleading as the minister was not serving food, snacks or tea but only greeting the players he met on his way to the table.

Ironically, ABP News Hindi, in its ‘Viral Sach’ program, aired a fact-check of the claim on August 28 and concluded that “the image was taken on August 27 and is true.” Their analysis, which was sans any source, was incorrect as SAI shared the photograph on August 26. Moreover, we were able to independently confirm that Rathore was not serving food but only interacting with the athletes.

A photograph of Rathore’s interaction with athletes at Asian Games was hyperbolised to suggest that the minister was serving food to the players. The misleading claim was not only shared across social media platforms by individual users but also circulated by journalists, media outlets and ministers. Inferences on unauthenticated information are often made based on biases and not facts espousing the claim. A pedantic approach is necessary in such situations.

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About the Author

Pooja Chaudhuri is a senior editor at Alt News.