As the farmers’ protest against the three farm laws took a new turn after the violence at the Republic Day rally, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait's emotional speech on the evening of 28 January at the Ghazipur site, became a mobilising factor for the farmers of Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh.
Since Tikait has become one of the important voices for the farmers’ protest, several Twitter handles impersonating him, have cropped up.
While a spokesman from BKU (Tikait) confirmed to The Quint that @RakeshTikaitBKU is his official Twitter handle, here’s a look at a few fake accounts that have come up in his name.
FAKE ACCOUNTS RUN AMOK
The account (@rkeshtikait), which claims to be the ‘official Twitter account,’ began in December 2020 and has garnered over 12,800 followers since then.
After Tikait’s impassioned speech at the Delhi border, the account tweeted ‘जब तक जिंदा हूं किसान के लिए लड़ता रहूंगा।’ garnering over 48,000 likes at the time of writing this article.
(Translation: 'As long as I am alive, I will fight for the farmers.’)
In a similar vein, the account often tweets as Tikait, calling themselves Mahendra Tikait’s heir and reiterating the farmer leader’s stance of continuing to protest till the laws are repealed.
ANTI-BJP TWEETS, MISINFORMATION & BIDS FOR RETWEETS
The account regularly tweets against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party, taking an explicit political stance.
The tweets often attack PM Modi and other BJP leaders like Yogi Adityanath, deviating from the farmers’ protest, which Tikait has restrained from doing.
Another account, (@RakeshtikeitBKU) impersonating Tikait, which was made in January 2019, also has similar red flags.
This account also pushes anti-BJP tweets while retweeting Congress leaders.
We also noticed that the account was responsible for spreading misinformation. The user tweeted an image of an injured Sikh man, suggesting that he was a farmer. While debunking the claim, The Quint’s WebQoof team had found that the image dates back to 2019 when a tempo driver was thrashed by the Delhi Police.
Fake accounts usually crop up in a bid to gain followers, relying on the personalities’ fame for likes and retweets.
HOW DO WE KNOW THE ACCOUNTS ARE FAKE?
For the first account, we found out that its name has been changed from @KiranSingh_077 to @rkeshtikait. On going through one of the earlier tweets and the replies, we found that the account’s tweets showed this handle.
We then searched Twitter for @Kiransingh_077 and the search results come up with the same fake account (@rkeshtikait).
A google search of the handle also reveals that the Twitter ID of both the handles are the same.
We converted @rkeshtikait to its ID on TweeterId. The same ID (1334728554437701634 ) also appears in the search results of @Kiransingh_077.
ACCOUNTS CHANGE USERNAME TO IMPERSONATE TIKAIT
The other fake account, apart from having a wrong spelling of Tikait, spelt as ‘Tikeit,’ was earlier tweeting with the handle (@DivyaIYC).
A search of @DivyaIYC on Twitter, shows old tweets of the fake account (@RakeshtikeitBKU), asking people to follow a list of people associated to Congress. However, we're not insinuating that the account is run by Congress or its members.
A cursory search of Rakesh Tikait on Twitter reveals several other accounts claiming to be the BKU leader.
Most of these handles, claiming to be the ‘official account’ have misspelt names and while not all of them cater to large followings, impersonating a spokesperson of a protest can lead to misinformation and false narratives.