Doctored photo of Bangladeshi PM 'receiving vermilion' misleads online

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on February 8, 2023 at 09:58
  • Updated on February 8, 2023 at 10:33
  • 2 min read
  • By Mohammad MAZED, AFP Bangladesh
A doctored photo has been repeatedly shared on Facebook that appears to show Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina -- a Muslim -- receiving a Hindu vermilion on her forehead. But the original photo was taken during her visit to India in 2012 and does not show her taking part in the ritual.

"People know this well who are the actual religion trader," reads the Bengali-language claim shared here on Facebook on January 27, 2023.

The claim was accompanied by two photos, one showing Hasina praying in a black hijab and the other appearing to show her receiving a traditional vermilion mark on her forehead.

A screengrab of the misleading post taken on February 7, 2023.

Married Hindu women often wear the vermilion -- or sindoor -- on their foreheads.

A similar photo of Hasina performing the Hindu ritual was circulated online in 2022 -- including here -- to accuse her of being pro-India to secure her rule after Bangladesh's government refused to condemn comments made by a spokesperson for India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Nupur Sharma on the Prophet Mohammed in May that year.

AFP reported that several countries, including Qatar, Iran and Kuwait, described Sharma's remarks as "Islamophobic" and summoned their Indian ambassadors to lodge protests.

But despite rallies in Bangladesh demanding the government to lodge similar protests, information minister Hasan Mahmud said Sharma's remarks were largely an "external issue" for Bangladesh and refused to raise the matter with India.

The picture was also recirculated ahead of the country's general in 2018 here and ahead of Hasina's most recent visit to India in September 2022 here and here.

However, the photo of Hasina receiving a traditional Hindi vermilion on her forehead has been digitally doctored.

Doctored image

A reverse image search on Google found the original photo published in a report by The New India Express on January 12, 2012.

The caption of the photo -- credited to the Associated Press (AP) -- reads: "Another shot of Sheikh Hasina inspecting a guard of honour in Agartala."

A separate keyword search found the original photo on the AP website archive taken on January 11, 2012.

The caption of the AP photo reads: "Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inspects a guard of honor in Agartala, in the northeastern Indian state of Tripura, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)."

Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo in the misleading post (L) and the AP photo (R). AFP circled corresponding features in red.

Screengrab comparison of the photo in the misleading post and the photo in AP’s archive.

The photo on AP's website does not show the woman that appears to apply the vermilion seen in the picture in the misleading posts.

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