On September 11, a 65-year-old man was attacked by Shiv Sena activists for allegedly sharing a cartoon mocking Maharastra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on WhatsApp. A video of the incident was widespread on social media. Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar tweeted the video with the claim that these were Shiv Sena workers beating retired Indian Navy man Madan Sharma. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also tweeted and condemned the attack.
अभिनेत्री कंगना राणावत के कार्यालय की तोड़फोड़ करके अपनी मर्दानगी दिखाने वाले सत्ताधारी शिवसेना ने अब सत्ता के मद में एक बुजुर्ग भूतपूर्व नौसेना अधिकारी मदन शर्मा को मारपीट करते हुए उनकी आंख को जबरदस्त चोट पहुंचाई है। मुख्यमंत्री घरबैठे तानाशाही चला रहे है। pic.twitter.com/qF2NVcIN55
— Atul Bhatkhalkar (@BhatkhalkarA) September 11, 2020
On September 13, Twitter user @Raja_Africa posted a screenshot of Madan Sharma’s Facebook profile and pointed out that Sharma isn’t a retired navy man but worked with the merchant navy. Several others on Twitter made similar claims. It was quote-tweeted by Maharastra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant with a message asking, “OMG! Is it true?”
With a keyword search on Twitter, we found a photo of Madan Sharma’s ex-service identity card posted by journalist Varun Singh. The registration number on the ID card reads “201814-W” and the ID card number is “MAH-01/013527”.
Here’s the identity card of Madan Sharma. It’s proven He’s an ex-servicemen.
Hide under the blanket of shame you bunch of liars. pic.twitter.com/hmc9Vj8ua6
— Singh Varun (@singhvarun) September 13, 2020
According to this ID card, Sharma’s rank in the Indian Navy was Chief Electrical Power. “CHEL(P)” is the acronym for his rank in the card. Speaking with Republic TV, Sharma said that he had served the Indian Navy for “15 years” and had joined the merchant navy to feed his family. Several media reports have identified Sharma as retired Chief Petty Officer.
Without going into violence part, repeating what I learnt. A Chief Petty Officer (Madan Sharma's last rank) is not a commissioned officer rank in Indian Navy. Must get designations right while reporting on armed forces. He can be designated as ex-navy man etc, not ex-officer.
— Saurabh Gupta(Micky) (@MickyGupta84) September 15, 2020
Fact-checking outlet BOOM spoke with Madan Sharma’s son Sunny Sharma who provided a photograph of his father’s Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) smart card and said, “This is his profile after he joined merchant navy. My father joined merchant navy after serving the Indian Navy for 16 years.”
Six Shiv Sena workers who were involved in the attack on the retired Indian navy serviceman were re-arrested and produced before Mumbai’s Borivali court. They were remanded for 14-days of judicial custody. Madan Sharma, while speaking with India Today, said that he has now joined BJP-RSS.
A screenshot of Madan Sharma’s Facebook profile where he stated that he worked in the merchant navy was shared to falsely claim that he was not a part of the Indian navy.