A picture tweeted by former Infosys CFO Mohandas Pai on January 10, 2020, took Twitter by storm. It garnered 4,500 retweets and 9,500 likes in one day. The text on the image claims that in 1975, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi entered Jawaharlal Nehru Univerity (JNU) along with Delhi police and forced then-President of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU), Sitaram Yechury, to resign. It further alleges that Yechury had to read an apology letter for protesting against the emergency.
— Mohandas Pai (@TVMohandasPai) January 10, 2020
Several others shared the image claiming Gandhi forced Yechury to resign as JNUSU President during the emergency. “Can the Congress and Communists deny what Indiraji did to Sitaram Yechuri, the President of Student Union in JNU, in 1975 during emergency? The current govt hasn’t done anything remotely close to this,” wrote a user.
Another user @GuleriaPramod claimed that Yechury was beaten “red and blue” in 1975 before he was made to step down.
#Mota_Bhai its time for Action. Thukai & Kuttai of these Gaddar Students.#Indira_Gandhi got today’s CPI Leader SitaRamYechuri’s pichhwada beaten Red&Blue in 1975 & then made him to resign Presidentship of JNU+read an apology letter.#This is what is required now in JNU today. pic.twitter.com/pFbWQG0sK4
— Pramod Singh Guleria (@GuleriaPramod) January 11, 2020
Alt News has received fact-check requests regarding the image on its mobile application.
Photo from 1977, not 1975
According to the website of CPI (M), Yechury joined the party in 1975 and was also arrested that same year. However, he was not elected as the President of JNU Students’ Union until two years later in 1977. “He joined Students Federation of India (SFI) in 1974, while at JNU. He joined the CPI(M) in 1975. He was underground for sometime, organising resistance to Emergency, before his arrest in 1975. After Emergency, he was elected as President of JNU Students’ Union thrice during one year (1977-78),” reads Yechury’s bio on the party website.
A reverse search of the viral image revealed that it was shot in 1977 and not 1975. A file photo was published by Hindustan Times described as, “Sitaram Yechury as a student leader in JNU reading the memorandum presented by students on Sept 5, 1977, to Indira Gandhi demanding her resignation as chancellor of the university.” The emergency was lifted in January 1977 and Gandhi was not reelected as Prime Minister in the next general elections.
Alt News contacted journalist and author Manoj Joshi who had witnessed the historic scene. Joshi was then pursuing a PhD from JNU and was an office-bearer in JNUSU. He was present in the massive rally led by Sitaram Yechury and confirmed that Yechury read out the memorandum presented by students to PM Indira Gandhi on September 5, 1977.
“In 1975 she was in power and we would have not been allowed to stand near her. This picture was clicked in 1977 when she was not in power,” said Joshi.
Indira Gandhi did not enter JNU
“Indira Gandhi was no longer in power and we wanted her to resign from the position of Chancellor of the University. We went to her house in a procession. At first, we were asked to drop her a message and leave but we persisted to meet her,” Joshi (70) further informed.
“When she found students were outside her doors, she stepped out to listen to our demands. In this picture, Indira Gandhi is not standing in JNU premises,” he added.
Yechury neither apologised nor was he beaten up
“Sitaram read out a memorandum and on that basis, we requested her to resign. She asked if we wanted her to react immediately. The picture shows the reading of the memorandum and not an apology letter,” Joshi confirmed.
Speaking with India Today, Yechury stated the same and added that he wasn’t beaten up in the rally.
All three claims made using the viral photograph are false. The image does not depict former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi forcing CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury, to resign as the JNUSU President during the emergency, The image was shot in September 1977, after the emergency was lifted months ago in January. Furthermore, neither does it show Gandhi inside JNU premises not was Yechury beaten up in the rally.
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.