Photo does not show arrest of Rana Ayyub at protest

·3 min read

As protests broke out across India over a ruling party official's controversial remarks about the Prophet Mohammed, an image of a woman being pulled away by a police officer was shared thousands of times in social media posts that claim it shows a Muslim Indian journalist being arrested at a demonstration. But the claim is false; the photo shows the arrest of a student leader during a protest on June 12.

The photo -- which shows a woman in a hijab being taken away by a police officer -- was shared on Twitter here on June 14.

"Jinnah was always right.. what a brave girl.. salute to her courage @RanaAyyub may ALLAH be with her," the caption reads.

Rana Ayyub is a Muslim Indian columnist for the Washington Post. She has frequently been targeted by social media users for being a critic of right-wing communalism and India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The post also references the ideology of Pakistan's founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who believed in the need for a separate Muslim nation on the Indian subcontinent.

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on June 21, 2022.

The post was shared as violent protests broke out across India and in other Islamic countries over controversial remarks by BJP official Nupur Sharma. The BJP has since suspended her.

The photo was shared alongside a similar claim in posts by Pakistani and Indian social media users, such as on Facebook here and here; and on Twitter here and here.

But the claim is false: the woman in the photo is not Ayyub.

Student leader

Reverse image searches found the same image shared on June 13 on the official Facebook page of the Fraternity Movement Kerala, the student wing of the political party Welfare Party of India.

The image is captioned: "Police arrested Fraternity Movement National Secretary Aysha Renna N and lathi charged many other members after blockading Natonal (sic) highway at Malappuram, Kerala."

Lathi charge is an Indian English phrase used to describe a large group of police charging forward with their sticks.

Below is a comparison of the photo shared in the false posts (left) and the one shared by Fraternity Movement Kerala (right):

Screenshot comparison of the photo shared in the false posts (left) and the one shared by Fraternity Movement Kerala (right)

Renna, the student leader, confirmed she had been arrested.

"The picture is mine and the claim being made with it is false.

"We were protesting against the communal bulldozer policy of the Uttar Pradesh government when we were arrested by the police," she told AFP.

Renna had organised a June 12 protest in Malappuram city in the state of Kerala after authorities in Uttar Pradesh state had bulldozed the houses of anti-Sharma demonstrators -- whom they accused of rioting.

Local news outlets reported on the protest and Renna's arrest here -- where a similar photo of her being detained can be seen -- and here.

A video of her arrest was also posted to Instagram by Maktoob Media on June 12.

The same policewoman can be seen pulling a woman dressed in the clothes that Renna is wearing in the photo.

Below is a comparison of the photo of Renna's arrest (left) and the Instagram video (right), with similarities highlighted by AFP:

Screenshot comparison of the photo of Renna's arrest (left) and the Instagram video (right), with similarities highlighted by AFP

A similar video of her arrest can be seen in a report by news channel Mediaone TV on June 13.

The video's description reads: "State-wide fraternity protests; National Highway blocked in Malappuram."

A spokesperson for the local police told AFP Renna had been detained after the students were prevented from blocking the highway.

"Later an FIR has been registered against 45 accused along with Ayesha Renna," the spokesperson said.

As of June 23, AFP has not found any official reports of Ayyub being arrested.

AFP has previously debunked misinformation about Ayyub here and here.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting