Since March 2, an image of a young woman who had made a distress video from Ukraine has been shared with a false quote attributed to her. The quote attempts to mock the student’s plight. It reads: “Indian Embassy dropped me at Mumbai Airport, from there I got no help. I waited for 30 mins but no one was there from Indian Embassy. I called embassy no one picked up my phone. Then I had to book a cab by myself and reach home. which costed me 234 Rs.”

Twitter user @IamGmishra shared a screenshot of an Instagram story by the account ‘Pokershash’ which shows the viral image. It is worth noting ‘Pokershash’ is one of the prominent accounts that shares misinformation in India. Alt News has documented multiple instances of misinformation by this account. This tweet has over 6,000 likes.

Twitter user @Shilpa_cn also tweeted the Instagram story and deleted it after it gained over 10,000 likes.

Using CrowdTangle, a social media monitoring tool by Meta, we found that several high network Facebook accounts have shared this post. Some of these accounts are: Growing INDIA [16 Lakh followers], Guru Ghantal [close to 9 lakh followers]; Aap Ch*tiye hai [over a lakh followers]; ArtKrafter [over 20K followers]; Bajrangi Dal [over 34K followers]; and Troll Guru [over 4 lakh followers]. You can view other accounts who shared this in this PDF.

Tasteless mocking of an Indian student stuck in Ukraine

Alt News reverse searched the student’s photo on Google and found that a website called ‘Star of Mysore‘ had carried it. As per its February 28 report, the woman in the video is Mysore-based Gnanashri Singh. She is a medical student in Ukraine who had uploaded a video seeking help for Indians stuck in Ukraine. In the video, she stated that about 300 students were taking shelter in a hostel bunker close to the Russian border.

The video was aired by NewsFirst Kannada.

Alt News spoke with a Mysore-based journalist who connected us with Gnanashri’s father, Ganesh Singh. Over a telephonic call, Singh told Alt News, “My daughter reached Poland on March 2. We are hopeful that she will return in a day or two.”

Unlike most viral posts, Bajrangi Dal describes the photo as “satirical”. However, it would be unfair to classify it as anything short of tasteless mockery especially when the ‘humour’ was lost on many.

Columnist Bikram Vohra penned a report for News9 where the post was referred. He wrote, “She whines that there was no one from the embassy to receive her at Mumbai nor anyone official at the airport exit to greet her. She had to catch a taxi all by herself; and it cost her Rs 230-odd, the equivalent of $3. Poor orphan Annie!”

Vohra called the students seeking help from the Indian government “entitled millennials”.

India’s stand on the Russian invasion of Ukraine has attracted polarising views. However, the government’s delayed response has left students fending for themselves – trying to reach the borders of neighbouring countries to make contact with Indian officials.

A Karnataka-based student told The Times of India upon returning from Ukraine, “Those in eastern Ukraine are still stuck. If they are still coming, it is due to their own efforts. Not a single embassy official is there to help or guide.” He told TOI that buses were allowed passage because they had Indian flags but nothing was done by the government. “Ministers are showing off and taking credit for nothing. If they have the guts, the government must evacuate students from Kharkiv and Sumy,” he said.

Several students have been subject to trolling for criticising the government’s delayed and inadequate response. On March 2, Alt News debunked a video of Vaishali Yadav, a medical student and SP leader’s daughter who was stuck in Ukraine. Her video was shared with the false claim that Yadav was “pretending” to be in Ukraine and created the video at her father’s behest in order to defame India.

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About the Author

He joined as an intern in 2019. Until June 2022, his work primarily focused on fact-checking. Now his primary responsibilities include catalysing all aspects of organisational growth — from fundraising to development of new projects at Alt News. He attended the Asian College of Journalism (2015-16) and The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda (2012-2015). In past, he worked at The Hindu and Zee Media's WION.
Tipline Bling: archit@altnews.in