No, these photos do not show Hindus being attacked by 'goons' working for an Indian state's chief minister

Copyright © AFP 2017-2023. All rights reserved.

Photos of people with bloody head wounds appear in a post shared nearly 30,000 times on Facebook. The post claims the images show a purported attack on Hindus by workers of West Bengal's chief minister Mamata Banerjee at a rally in Kolkata in eastern India. The claim is false; the pictures are from two unrelated protests in 2018.

This Facebook post, published on February 9, 2019, and since shared 29,000 times, claims that workers employed by Banerjee attacked a group of Hindus at a rally for India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The post's caption says: "In Kolkata, Mamata Banerjee’s goons attacked Hindu brothers. BJP needs to win in 2019."

Banerjee is a member of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) party, which holds power in West Bengal. General elections are set to take place in India by May 2019.


Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post

Other online posts carrying the same three images have made the same claim, for example here on Twitter.

In fact the pictures were taken at two different protests – one demonstration on November 2, 2018 in the city of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh state (around 900 km from Kolkata) and another at a school near Kolkata following sexual assault allegations in October 2018.

The largest image in the misleading Facebook post, of a young man with his face and chest covered in blood, is overlaid with white text.

The text contains a copyright symbol and the name "Ashutosh Tripathi", as shown in the screenshots below:


Screenshots highlighting text containing the photographer's name. The top image is from the misleading Facebook post; the bottom image is from a post containing the same picture in higher resolution on Ashutosh Tripathi's own Facebook page (AFP) (AFP)

AFP contacted Ashutosh Tripathi, a photographer who sells pictures to Indian media outlets including Times Now.

Tripathi said he had taken the photos at the top and bottom-left of the misleading Facebook post.

He said: "I shot two of the pictures that are being misused as fake images. These images were from teachers' protests in Lucknow in 2018 and were tweeted by many politicians and journalists as well to condemn the incident. These definitely do not belong to any clashes in Kolkata as claimed by fake posts."

Tripathi posted the original image of the young man here on his own Facebook page on November 2, 2018.

The photographer's images appeared in local media reports on the Lucknow protests, for example here and here. They were also posted in this November 2, 2018 tweet by Times Now journalist Prashant Kumar, and in this November 3, 2018 tweet by Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi.

In this video report on the Lucknow protests by Indian news channel Mirror Now, dated November 3, 2018, green gates with a distinctive cross structure can be seen.

These gates are also visible in Tripathi’s picture of the young man, as highlighted in this composite image:


Composite image containing screenshots from Mirror Now video report and Tripathi's photograph (AFP)

The third picture, in the bottom-right corner of the misleading Facebook post, shows a young girl wearing a white scarf bleeding from her forehead.

A reverse image search found that the image appeared in this local media report on clashes at a school near Kolkata following sexual assault allegations, dated October 9, 2018

It was also published in this report by Bengali news site, dated October 10, 2018, on the same clashes at the school.

Neither report mentioned Hindus or Mamata Banerjee.

Part of the report says: "In a prominent school in South Kolkata, a teacher was accused of molesting a seven-year-old following which a ruckus ensued.

"Students along with their guardians were present in large numbers protesting and demanding the accused be handed over to them. Following this, police officials visited the spot and arrested the accused teacher."