Fake news report shared to level human trafficking charges against Indian politician Mahasena Rajesh

By: Rohith Gutta
September 29 2023

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Fake news report shared to level human trafficking charges against Indian politician Mahasena Rajesh

Screenshot of the viral post claiming Andhra Prabha leveled charges of human trafficking against Dalit politician 'Mahasena' Rajesh. (Source: X/Meta/Screenshot)


The Verdict False

Telugu newspaper Andhra Prabha did not carry any such report. The outlet confirmed that the viral newspaper clip about the TDP leader is fake.

Claim ID 826d72c3

What is the claim?

A user on X (formerly Twitter) named 'Tathvam-asi,' who has shared false claims in the past, recently posted an image of an article purportedly published by the Telugu newspaper Andhra Prabha. The headline of the news article read, "Supply of women to foreign countries in the guise of being a Dalit (roughly translated from Telugu)." The text, originally written in Telugu, under the headline, makes claims such as "Saripelli Rajesh is a pro in trafficking women," "Luring women in the name of religion," and "From a rowdy sheeter to the owner of Audi cars."

Saripella Rajesh, popularly known as 'Mahasena' Rajesh, is a Dalit politician and a member of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), the main opposition party in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The purported news report claims that Rajesh is allegedly "involved in supplying women to foreign countries" after "luring them in the name of Christianity" and has earned tons of money. The purported report also makes many other claims about his personal life. 

This image of the said news article was shared on X with the caption: "Now, as per this news, allegations are that he is a women trafficker and this anti-Hindu supplies women to foreigners. He traps women in the name of conversion. Once he satisfies his physical needs with them, then he will sell them to foreign countries". An archive of the post can be seen here

The same claim with the purported news article is also circulating on other social media platforms like Facebook. An archive of such a Facebook post can be viewed here.

Screenshot of the viral posts with the purported news report.(Source: X/Meta/Screenshots/Modified by Logically Facts)

However, Andhra Prabha did not publish any such report. The image is of a fake news article.

What did we find?

Using relevant keywords, we first looked for news reports published by Andhra Prabha making the same or similar allegations against Rajesh. However, we did not find any such news story.

We then examined the smaller text above the banner headline in the viral image. Two incomplete lines, each in Telugu, ran across four columns and read, "However, the forest department challenged the single judge bench order before the CJ bench," and "...the CJ bench stayed the single judge bench orders." We deduced that the text may refer to a news report about a case possibly being heard by the Andhra Pradesh High Court involving the state forest department. 

Text in the article above the purported article (Source: X/Meta/Screenshot)

We started combing through the archives of the online editions of Andhra Prabha to find if a news article involving the state-level judiciary and the forest department was published recently.

We soon came across a news report published on August 30 mentioning the same exact text about the forest department challenging a single bench order. The article was published on the second page of the newspaper's print edition. 

Screenshot of the newspaper page on which the article about the red sandalwood case was published. (Source: Andhra Prabha e-paper/Screenshot)

The title of the August 30 news report read, "Stay on SIT in red sanders smuggling cases." The report was about the Chief Justice bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court granting a stay on the order of a single-judge bench constituting a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to look into cases involving the smuggling of red sandalwood. 

Article about the Andhra Pradesh High Court granting a stay on single bench order in red sandalwood case published by Andhra Prabha in its August 30,2023, edition. (Source: Andhra Prabha e-paper/Screenshot)

The viral image made it appear as if the purported article about TDP leader 'Mahasena' Rajesh was printed below the Andhra-Pradesh-High-Court-granting-stay-on-single-bench-order article, however, the latter news report is the last one on the newspaper page. There is no other article below this one in the original e-paper of the August 30 edition.

Comparison of the text in the viral post and Andhra Prabha article. (Source: X/Meta/Andhra Prabha e-paper/Screenshots) 

We also reviewed every edition published between August 30 and September 20, when the viral claim about Rajesh first surfaced. However, we found no report making the aforementioned allegations about the politician in the newspaper. 

Logically Facts also contacted Andhra Prabha to find out if they ever published such an article. P Bhaskar, General Manager of Andhra Prabha, confirmed that the newspaper had never published anything like that. He also pointed out that while the outlet uses 'Mudrika' font on its newspaper pages, the font in the viral image is 'Pallavi.' 

'Mahasena' Rajesh, in a video uploaded on his YouTube channel on August 31, 2023, also refuted the charges leveled against him in the viral newspaper clip. He said Andhra Prabha had already clarified that it was not a clip from their newspaper. 

There are also no reports from any credible news organization regarding Rajesh being allegedly involved in trafficking women. 

This established that the viral newspaper clip's image is not of an actual story published by Andhra Prabha. The viral photo features a fake news report. 

The verdict 

A fake news article by Andhra Prabha is used to claim that TDP leader 'Mahasena' Rajesh is involved in human trafficking. Therefore, we mark the claim false.

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