1978 Image From Amritsar Shared as Bhagat Singh’s Funeral
The viral photograph was of the funeral pyres of 13 Sikhs killed during clashes with Nirankaris in April 1978.
A black and white picture of funeral pyres surrounded by hundreds of people has gone viral with a claim that it shows the last rites of freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru.
However, we found that the image showed the funeral pyres of 13 Sikhs killed during clashes with Nirankaris in 1978 in Amritsar. We also reached out to Bhagat Singh’s nephew Abhay Singh Sandhu, who told us that the image was not from the funeral procession of the freedom fighters.
The image was shared by many social media users on Facebook and Twitter. The image was shared with a caption in Hindi that read, “ये तस्वीर शहीद भगत सिंह , सुखदेव और राजगुरु के अंतिम संस्कार की है । हो सके तो इसे हर भारतीय तक पहुँचाने की कोशिश करें ।”
[Translation: This picture is of the last rites of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru. If possible, try to ensure that it reaches every Indian.]
We found that a similar photo, first posted in 2013 on Twitter, had been shared with the same claim that it showed the funeral of Bhagat Singh.
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
When we conducted a reverse image search of the image, we found that the image was shared in reports and blogs that talked about the 1978 massacre and the clashes between Sikhs and Nirankaris in Amritsar.
Nirankaris, a sect of Sikhism, are followers of Baba Buta Singh, who founded the Sant Nirankari Mission in 1929. According to a report in The Indian Express, the group claims to be a “secular, spiritual sect, unaffiliated with any religion, and deny that Sikhs have any authority over them”.
According to reports, clashes broke out between the Sikhs and Nirankaris on 13 April 1978, during the yearly Baisakhi celebrations in Amritsar. The gathering was organised by Akhand Kirtani Jatha (AJK), a group dedicated to the Sikh lifestyle. During the clashes,13 AJK activist were killed and several others were injured.
The group had published a book, called ‘Kurbani’, about the incident . The book carried the viral image on page 71. According to the book, the clashes began when the Nirankaris allegedly raised slogans against the Guru Granth Sahib and the Sikh religion.
The book also carried an image similar to the one shared in 2013. On comparing the two, we found that the image was also from the 1978 clashes and not of Bhagat Singh’s funeral.
An excerpt from the book, ‘The Execution of Bhagat Singh: Legal Heresies of the Raj’ by Satvinder Singh, published by The Print, read: “After hanging the freedom fighters at Central Jail, Lahore, the jail authorities dragged their bodies along the dirty passageway, chopped into pieces and stuffed into sacks.” They were then “loaded onto a funeral pyre to burn fiercely in the eerie silence of the night”.
“The dismembered bodies were then incompletely burnt and the charred remains were thrown into the river. After this, the villagers retrieved the body parts and cremated them properly,” the excerpt said.
The Quint’s WebQoof team reached out to Bhagat Singh’s nephew Abhay Singh Sandhu, who told us that the viral image was fake and it was from 1978. He, too, said that the villagers did arrange for a proper cremation, which was attended by a huge crowd, but the viral photo was not from the 1931 funeral of the freedom fighters.
Evidently, an image showing funeral pyres of Sikhs killed in 1978 during clashes with Nirankaris in Amritsar was shared with a false claim that it showed the funeral of freedom fighters and revolutionaries – Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru.
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