Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra (BJY) — which began in September 2022 — has been at the centre of disinformation over the past four months.
The Quint's WebQoof team has debunked at least 26 pieces of such misinformation, which were peddled by the Opposition party members including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) IT department head Amit Malviya.
Let's take a look at some of the top fact-checks around the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
Tryst With Misinformation
The march started from Kerala on 8 September 2022 and so did the string of misinformation. On 10 September, Union Minister of Women and Child Development Smriti Irani accused Gandhi of not paying tribute to Swami Vivekananda while launching the Yatra in Kanyakumari.
However, we found videos and photographs that proved that Irani's claims were false and Gandhi did pay tribute at the Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Kanyakumari.
BJP Leaders Involved in Sharing Misinformation
Apart from Irani, several other (BJP) leaders such as the IT department in-charge Amit Malviya, BJP members such as Manjinder Singh Sirsa, Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga, Chetan Bragta, CTR Nirmal Kumar and Priti Gandhi, spokespersons Sambit Patra and Brijesh Rai and Darbhanga MLA Murari Mohan Jha shared claims around the yatra.
Malviya shared at least four pieces of misinformation around the march and Gandhi. Most recently, he shared a video of Gandhi claiming that he refused to wear a turban since no cameras were around.
But after speaking with other people in the video, we found that Gandhi was saying no to a woman who was constantly asking him to take a picture with her and not to tying a turban.
Earlier in the month, he shared two clipped videos of Gandhi to create a false or misleading narrative. In one video, he misspoke and referred to India's population as "140 crore rupee.". While he corrected himself immediately, Malviya and other leaders shared a clipped portion of the video to mock Gandhi.
The viral portion of the video can be seen at the 01:45 minute mark into the live stream above.
The other clipped video was shared with a claim that Gandhi said he had a problem with priests. The longer version of the video gave the complete context of Gandhi's address.
BJP member Priti Gandhi, who has been fact-checked on several occasions, also shared false claims around the yatra. In September 2022, she shared the photo of a young woman with Gandhi to claim that the latter met with Amulya Leona Noronha, a student from Bengaluru, who was arrested in 2020 for chanting she chanted 'Pakistan Zindabad' slogans.
However, we found that the photo showed Miva Jolly, the general secretary of the Kerala Students' Union (KSU) for the Ernakulam district, with Gandhi and not Leona.
This prompted Congress to initiate legal action against Priti Gandhi and four others for allegedly "spreading fake and divisive news to disrupt the Bharat Jodo Yatra."
Apart from BJP leaders, supporters of the party and its ideology also shared similar false claims.
Right-wing propaganda channel Sudharshan News' Editor-in-Chief Suresh Chavhanke shared a video of a group of people, walking with banners and green flags with a crescent moon and a star, is being widely shared on social media to claim that it showed Pakistan's national flag being waved during the yatra in Kerala.
However, we found that the flags in the video are those of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), and are not the Pakistani national flag.
Edited Photographs Used to Create Misinformation
An edited image of Gandhi was shared during the first half of the Yatra to claim that the party was trying to make him look like Karl Marx and look older in an attempt to gain votes.
Similarly, a purported photograph, showing Gandhi dressed as a Hindu saint with a bun and beads around his neck went viral in December, claiming that he dressed as a saint to appease the Hindu majority.
Shortly after Irani made the false claim about Gandhi, a digitally altered photograph of her sitting with a laptop showing Gandhi along with a glass full of golden-coloured liquid was shared. The claim with it said that Irani was closely following the Yatra.
Later in October 2022, a photograph showing a young girl gifting a portrait of Gandhi to him was altered to claim that the girl gave Gandhi a portrait of former Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan Sachin Pilot.
Unverified Congress Handles Share False Claims Supporting the March
During the course of the march, several handles claiming to be associated with Congress and some individuals supporting the party also, indulged in sharing misinformation to claim that the yatra was a success.
A collage of two photographs was shared with a claim that it shows the crowd at the yatra in Karnataka's Ballari district.
While the Yatra did see a massive turnout, the two pictures that were shared were old and unrelated.
A similar claim was shared by accounts linked to Congress to to show a massive crowd in the Yatra in Jhalawar, Rajasthan. However, we found that the images were of a mass gathering at Jai Gurudev Ashram, Mathura in Uttar Pradesh.
Gandhi is due to end his 3,500-kilometre journey next week. The fact-checks above shows that it was not only supporters of the BJP but several senior leaders who targeted Gandhi by using m/disinformation in an attempt to mock and discredit the leader and the Yatra. These included doctored videos, edited images and sometimes depending on old archival videos.
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