Old photo of Indian funeral pyres shared in misleading context

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A photo of funeral pyres has been shared repeatedly in Facebook and Twitter posts alongside captions about a surge in Covid-19 deaths in India. The photo has been shared in a misleading context: it has circulated online since 2012 and does not relate to the coronavirus pandemic.

The photo was shared here on Facebook on April 19, 2021. 

It was posted alongside an image of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi

The photo’s Hindi-language caption translates to English as: “People are dying, funerals happening across but [Modi’s] political parties are busy fighting elections. They are hiding covid reports in Bengal but until when? After elections, it will become clear how the government posed covid threats for the public. People are dying but the government is silent.”

A screenshot of the misleading post, taken on April 30, 2021.

The photo circulated online as crematoriums in India struggled to cope with rising Covid-19 death tolls, AFP reported.

The photo was also shared alongside a similar claim here and here on Facebook; and here on Twitter.

But the photo has been shared in a misleading context.

Reverse image searches on TinEye found the image has circulated online in posts that predate the Covid-19 pandemic.

A similar photo was published in this blog post in 2012.

The post is titled: “Banaras (Varanasi) The Most Ancient City of the World and still Alive (Manikarnika Ghat of Varanasi)”.

Funeral pyres burn all day in Varanasi as the city is believed to be sacred, according to this report by National Geographic.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo in the misleading posts (L) and the photo in the 2012 blog post (R):

Photographer Krishna Sharma, who the blog credits for the photo, said social media users were "misusing" his photo in 2021. 

“I have clicked that photo [at the end of] 2011,” Sharma told AFP in an email on April 30, 2021. 

“People are misusing it and I feel bad about that.”  

An identical photo was published in this news report by the Gujarati Times on April 6, 2018.

The first confirmed Covid-19 case in India was detected on January 30, 2020, according to this research article.