On September 23, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted an image of first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi amidst a huge crowd of people. Taking a jibe at ‘Howdy Modi’, Tharoor claimed that this photograph was shot in the US in 1954 “without any special PR campaign, NRI crowd management or hyped-up media publicity.”
The online magazine of Indian Youth Congress also shared the image with identical claim. “1954 में जब नेहरू जी अमेरिका गए थे तब की ये तस्वीर है, तब ना कोई पीआर एजेंसी काम कर रही थी इनके लिए, ना कोई ब्रांडिंग हो रही थी और ना ही सोशल मीडिया पर कैम्पेनिंग!लेकिन मोदी जी और उनके अंधभक्त लोगों को बताएंगे कि 2014 से पहले हिंदुस्तान और उसके प्रधानमंत्री को देश के बाहर कोई जानता नही था! (This image was shot when Nehru visited the US in 1954. There was neither any PR agency working for him, any branding in place nor was there any social media campaigning. But Modi and his blind followers will tell you that no on former Prime Minister has ever stepped out of the country before 2014.)”
Several social media users ‘fact-checked’ this photograph and claimed that it was shot when former PM Nehru had visited USSR in 1956. The tweet below was posted by @IndiaHistorypic and was liked more than 10,000 times at the time of writing this article.
Social media influencer Prashant Patel Umrao also claimed that the image was shot in Moscow in 1956.
Swarajya Editorial Director R Jagannathan, journalist Kanchan Gupta and IAS officer Sanjay Dixit also made identical assertions.
OpIndia published an article on Tharoor’s tweet and also claimed that the photo was taken in Moscow in 1956.
NEITHER 1954, NOR 1956
A simple reverse-image search on Yandex throws up multiple Russian websites which say that this photograph was shot when Nehru had visited Magnitogorsk in 1955. “In August 1955, Jawaharlal Nehru came to Magnitogorsk with his daughter Indira Gandhi. The car – an open “Victory” – was “cut off” by the people from the motorcade,” reads an article in MagMettal.
MagMettal had uploaded another photo of the event.
A keyword search of ‘Jawaharlal Magnitogorsk’ in Russian (Джавахарлал Магнитку), threw up Russian news reports that carried more images from the day. A reverse-search image led us to a similar photo (as the second image uploaded by MagMettal) shared by fotosoyuz74, the Chelyabinsk regional branch of the all-Russian public organization “Union of Photographers of Russia”. This was earlier fact-checked by Boomlive.
Russian newspaper Magnitogorsk Worker had uploaded a newspaper archive of Nehru’s visit to the city. According to the media outlet, Nehru had visited Magnitogorsk on June 17, 1955 and not in August as claimed by MagMettal. The former Indian Prime Minister’s visit was reported by the newspaper on June 18, 1955.
A report in The Hindu confirms that the former Indian Prime Minister had visited USSR in June 1955. His trip lasted for a little over two weeks – from June 7 to 23. “He came there after Stalin died in 1953 and, on the back of the Sino-Indian agreement on Tibet of 1954,” the media outlet quoted Srinath Raghavan, author and military scholar.
It is noteworthy that among other states and cities covered during his trip, Nehru had also visited Moscow but the viral image pertains to when the former PM was in Magnitogorsk in June 1955. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted a half-hearted clarification after several people pointed that the image was shot in USSR and not the US.