Photo shows Indian activist after ink attack in 2015, not the Sri Lankan chief justice

·3 min read

A photo of a man's blackened face has been shared in Pakistani social media posts that claim it shows the Sri Lankan chief justice after being assaulted for "giving an illegal ruling". However, the photo has been used in a false context -- it in fact shows an Indian author who was attacked by members of a far-right group in 2015.

The photo was posted here on Facebook on April 19, 2022, and has been shared over 1,600 times.

“When the Sri Lankan chief justice gave an illegal ruling the public caught him within twelve hours, beat him and blackened his face then paraded him around the city,” the post's Urdu-language caption reads.

Screenshot of the false post taken on April 20, 2022.

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

It circulated days after cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan became the first Pakistani premier to be removed through a no-confidence vote.

Khan initially attempted to sidestep the vote by dissolving parliament but the Supreme Court, deeming his actions illegal, ordered parliament to reconvene and vote -- AFP reported on the story here.

The post's reference to an "illegal ruling" is an apparent nod to the court's decision.

Users' comments suggest they think Pakistani judges should face a similar fate to the alleged chief justice in the picture, with one saying: "We should do it.. enough is enough."

Another Urdu-language comment says: "This should also happen in Pakistan."

However, the photo has been shared in a false context, and does not show a Sri Lankan judge.

India 'ink attack'

A reverse image search found the same photo published in this report by the Times of India on October 13, 2015.

Reports in Indian media at the time identified the man as Sudheendra Kulkarni, an activist and columnist who was attacked by members of far-right Hindu nationalist group Shiv Sena as he headed to a launch event for an ex-Pakistani minister's book.

"Sudheendra Kulkarni, whose face was blackened on Monday, continues to face Shiv Sena's ire," the Times of India report reads.

Below is a screenshot comparing the photo in the false posts (left) with the image from the Times of India (right):

Screenshot comparison of the image in the misleading posts (left) and the Times of India photo (right)

Other photos of the incident can be seen in reports by India's First Post and New Delhi Television (NDTV), as well as by British broadcaster the BBC.

"Far-right Hindu nationalists in Mumbai have doused the head of an Indian think-tank in black ink in protest at the launch of a book by a former Pakistani foreign minister. The Shiv Sena party said the ink attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni was a form of 'peaceful protest' against Pakistan," the BBC report states.

An AFP report on the incident at the time quotes Kulkarni saying: "A group of 10 or 15 Shiv Sainiks mobbed me, they stopped my car, asked me to come out, they caught me, started abusing me, they said we had ordered you to stop the launch this evening, you didn't listen to us, this is what we'll do with you."

AFP was unable to find any recent reports of Sri Lankan chief justices being attacked in this manner.

Khan's ouster has sparked a wave of misinformation, debunked by AFP here and here.

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