The photo of a newspaper cutting in Hindi is being shared widely on Facebook. It reads, “पुलवामा हमला बीजेपी की सोची समझी साजिश थी -विंग कमांडर अभिनंदन (Pulwama attack was a well-planned conspiracy of the BJP -Wing Commander Abhinandan -translated)”, reads a message posted along with a newspaper clipping, which is being circulated on social media. The clipping has attributed a quote to IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman. It said, “पुलवामा हमला बीजेपी की सोची समझी साजिश थी और पाकिस्तान पर नकली हमला करवाया, मोदी को चुनाव जीतने के लिए इमरान खान मदद कर रहा है। बालाकोट पर बमबारी इमरान खान की सहमति से हुई है (Pulwama attack was a well-planned conspiracy of the BJP whereas the attack on Pakistan was a sham. Imran Khan is helping Modi win the elections. Balakot airstrikes were conducted with Imran Khan’s permission -translated)”. The newspaper clip attributing the said quote to an IAF pilot, who was directly involved in the Balakot airstrike, comes across as a statement injecting credibility into the narrative of the attack being a BJP conspiracy.

A user called Rajesh Saldanha, whose Facebook profile picture and cover picture have photos of Congress leaders, shared the photo on April 24 with a caption: अपनो का ही हाथ हैं… …

Another user, M F Azmi Azmi, posted the photo in a group called ‘I Support Punya Prasun Bajpai Group’.

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Same Photo was Viral in 2019

Several individuals on Facebook and Twitter shared the clipping with the identical narrative in May 2019.

Fact Check

The statement credited to Varthaman is atypical of a serving officer of the armed forces, wherein he is directly raising allegation against a political party, let alone the ruling party. Had Abhinandan Varthaman issued such a statement levelling allegations of sabotage against the ruling party, it would have been reported extensively and would have led to a huge political furore, to say the least.

On searching for credible media reports on Google News, we found no reports that have attributed the said statement.

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman hasn’t been much in the public eye since the time he was captured by the Pakistan army and later released and handed over to India on March 1, 2019. However, he was recently in the news after a video of him interacting and taking selfies with fellow colleagues went viral on social media and was reported by the media.

Fact-checking the newspaper clipping

Alt News found that the newspaper cutting, which is currently being circulated on social media, was clipped from a fact-check article published by Dainik Jagran regarding the statement ascribed to Varthaman. The fact check by Dainik Jagran also arrived at the same conclusion, that the quote was fake.

In conclusion, a newspaper clipping of a fact-check article, which had determined that a quote attributed to IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman was fake, was in turn circulated on social media to inject credibility to the same quote.

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About the Author

Jignesh is a writer and researcher at Alt News. He has a knack for visual investigation with a major interest in fact-checking videos and images. He has completed his Masters in Journalism from Gujarat University.