Posts falsely claim Indian wrestler Babita Phogat attended protest against federation chief
False posts in India have criticised wrestler Babita Phogat for supposedly attending a protest demanding the arrest of the sport's federation chief over sexual harassment allegations when she had earlier criticised another protest in the country. But Phogat has not attended the wrestler protest as of May 23, 2023 according to one of its organisers, while the photos shared in the posts actually show two other wrestlers.
"This is Babita Phogat ji," reads the Hindi-language caption of a photo showing two women crying that was shared on Facebook on April 30, 2023. The post does not say which of the women is supposed to be Phogat.
"Some time back, she called the women protesting in Shaheen Bagh as women with a daily workers wage of rs 500. Now the same has happened with them, tell how much daily wage they are getting? Although we condemn what is happening to them," it goes on to add.
"Shaheen Bagh" is a reference to a months-long protest that began in late 2019 against legislation that offers a fast-track to Indian nationality for persecuted religious minorities from neighbouring countries but excludes Muslims.
At the time, Phogat, a member of India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, appears to have tweeted against the protest.
Similar posts were shared on Facebook here and here and on Twitter, while a similar claim was made in another Facebook post featuring a different set of photos of the women crying.
The false posts surfaced as top Indian wrestlers have protested on the streets of New Delhi, demanding the arrest of the sport's federation chief over allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation.
Wrestling Federation of India president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, also a BJP lawmaker, has denied the allegations, claiming a conspiracy to smear his reputation and force him out of India's parliament.
The Indian Olympic Association formed a panel in January to investigate the claims against Singh, but the athletes say there has been insufficient action since then.
Mandeep Singh, one of the organisers of the wrestler protest which began in April, told AFP Phogat has not attended the protest as of May 23, 2023.
She met with the wrestlers in January but was "not associated in any way" with the protest, he said.
Moreover, reverse image searches on Google found the photos shared in the posts do not show Phogat. They were in fact published in news reports that say they show fellow wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik.
One photo was published in the English-language newspaper Economic Times on April 28 (archived link). Its caption reads: "Indian wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik react during a press conference regarding wrestlers' protest at Jantar Mantar."
Another photo was published in a Firstpost article on May 4 credited to the Press Trust of India (PTI) agency (archived link). The caption with the image says: "Wrestlers Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat broke down in tears after a scuffle broke out between protesting wrestlers and the police at Jantar Mantar. PTI."
Finally, the last photo was taken from a PTI video uploaded on the agency's Twitter account on May 4 (archived link).
"More visuals from Delhi's Jantar Mantar where a scuffle broke out between protesting wrestlers and cops at midnight," the tweet reads. The tweet does not identify the two persons in the video but they are dressed the same way and have the same hairstyles as those in the Firstpost picture.
Below are screenshot comparisons of the photos shared in the false posts (left) and the pictures published in news reports about the wrestler protest:
AFP has previously debunked misinformation about the wrestler protest here.