Old photo recirculates with misleading claim about India’s presidential transition

·2 min read

An image of former Indian president Ram Nath Kovind and his successor President Droupadi Murmu performing a Hindu ritual has been repeatedly shared alongside the claim it was taken during the presidential transition. However, the claim is misleading. The image predates Murmu's election to the largely ceremonial post by at least two years; it has previously circulated in news reports from 2020 about Kovind's visit to India’s eastern Jharkhand state, which Murmu formerly led as governor.

The image was shared on Facebook on July 22, 2022.

Its Hindi-language caption translates in part as: "See the transfer of the presidency. Political formalities will continue, [a Hindu ritual] is being done first. Now this nation will get religious and spiritual peace."

The post circulated online as Murmu was sworn in as India's president, making her the first person from one of the country's marginalised tribal communities to serve as head of state.

Murmu's win was considered a certainty because of the strength of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies in the parliament and state assemblies, AFP reported.

She succeeded Ram Nath Kovind, the second president from the Dalit community, the bottom of the Hindu caste system.

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post, taken on July 26, 2022

The same image was also shared alongside a similar claim on Facebook here and here.

However, the image has been shared in a misleading context.

   Meeting in Jharkhand

A reverse search on Google led to a report published by the Hindi-language newspaper Prabhat Khabar here on February 29, 2020.

According to the report, the image was captured as Kovind offered prayers at the Baidyanath Temple in Deoghar in Jharkhand state.

The headline of the report translates as, "President Ram Nath Kovind worshipped Baba Baidyanath in Deoghar, wished for the country's happiness and prosperity".

The report states that he was accompanied to the temple by Murmu, who was governor of the eastern Indian state at the time.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image shared in one of the false posts (left) and the image published in the Prabhat Khabar report (right):

The same image was also published in local media reports here and here from February 29, 2020.

It also corresponds to a video about Kovind's visit to the Baidyanath Temple posted on the official Twitter account of the Deoghar district government on February 29, 2020.

Photos showing Kovind and Murmu, when the latter was sworn in as president on July 25, are available on AFP's photo archive here and here.

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