India-Canada row: 2021 image of protestors burning Kannada flag shared to mock BJP

By: Ankita Kulkarni
September 26 2023

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India-Canada row: 2021 image of protestors burning Kannada flag shared to mock BJP

Social media posts claiming that a group of BJP members in Uttar Pradesh burnt a Kannada flag amid India-Canada row. (Source: X/Facebook/Screenshot/Modified by Logically Facts)


The Verdict False

The image shows Shiv Sena workers burning the bicolor flag. It is not a recent photo of BJP workers burning the Kannada flag instead of Canada's flag.

Claim ID 5b40a6aa

Following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's September 18 speech accusing India of potential involvement in the killing of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, diplomatic tensions between the two countries have reached an all-time high. In light of the ongoing row, several misattributed videos and images are going viral on social media.

What is the claim?

An image showing a group of people burning a red-and-yellow flag is being shared on social media platforms with the claim that members of the reigning Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh burnt the unofficial flag of Karnataka instead of Canada's flag amid the ongoing diplomatic dispute.

One post on Facebook (archived here) sharing the image wrote, "Below is the reason for Modi's win in Hindi territories (translated from Tamil)." The text inside the image, also written in Tamil, roughly translates to: "Burned the Karnataka flag in U.P. BJP people Uttar Pradesh's Gorakhpur district BJP members burnt the Karnataka state flag instead of the Canadian flag following the deterioration of India-Canada relations."

Archived links of other posts making the same claim mocking the BJP can be viewed here, here, and here.

Screenshots of claims circulating online. (Source: Facebook/X/Screenshots/Modified by Logically Facts)

However, we found the claim to be incorrect. 

  • Firstly, the image shows workers of the Shiv Sena party in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, and not BJP workers in Uttar Pradesh.

  • Secondly, the image is old and unrelated to the India-Canada row.

What are the facts?

On conducting a reverse image search on a screenshot from the viral clip, we came across a video report uploaded on December 16, 2021, by News 18 Kannada, a Karnataka-based regional media outlet. Between 3:03 and 3:37 timestamps, the left panel on the video screen shows a group of people holding the bicolor Kannada flag (the de facto Karnataka State flag in use since the 1960s) and burning it as the video progresses. The video title, originally written in Kannada, reads, "Karnataka flag set ablaze in Maharashtra; protests in many places, actor Jaggesh said traitors should be punished."

According to the video report, Shiv Sena members had burned the Kannada flag in retaliation to ink being thrown at a Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) activist in Belagavi for holding a rally against the winter session of the Karnataka legislature. 

Comparison between the viral image and a video report by News 18 Kannada. (Source: Facebook/ YouTube/Screenshot)

The same people seen in the viral image can be spotted in the video report. Looking closely at the two visuals, one can see that the scarves donned by the men read 'Shiv Sena' in Marathi, indicating they are not BJP members.

We also found a Facebook post shared by Smita Sawant, who seems to be an active member of the Shiv Sena in Kolhapur, on December 14, 2021. The post contained a video and pictures from the incident where, once again, the same people can be seen as in the viral image. The post caption, translated from Marathi, reads, "Protest on behalf of Kolhapur Shiv Sena in protest against Deepak Dalvi of Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti being inked by Kannada Vedika hooligans."

Smita Sawant’s post on Facebook with visuals of the protest. (Source: Facebook/Screenshot) 

We also came across another video report on the same incident posted on Facebook by Lokshahi Marathi, a local media outlet in Maharastra. Shared on December 14, 2021, the report stated that Shiv Sena members burned the Kannada flag in Bindu Chowk, Kolhapur, and raised slogans against the Karnataka government. 

We geolocated Kolhapur's Bindu Chowk on Google Maps and found that photos of the spot match the location as seen in photos shared by Smita Sawant on Facebook. This confirms that the incident is from Kolhapur in Maharashtra, not Uttar Pradesh. 

Comparison between Smita Sawant’s Facebook post and a Google image of Bindu Chowk. (Source: Google (L)/ Facebook (R)/Screenshot)

What was the protest about?

The Lokshahi Marathi report said Shiv Sena workers had organized a protest in response to MES activist Deepak Dalvi being smeared with ink in Belagavi, Karnataka.

A report by Deccan Herald on December 14, 2021, stated that a Kannada activist smeared Dalvi's face with black ink. Dalvi was reportedly holding the 'maha melava,' a convention opposing the winter session of the Karnataka legislature. The incidents had occurred in the background of a long-run border dispute between the state of Karnataka and Maharastra. 

Another report by a local media Kannada outlet, Udayavani, also reported on the flag-burning protest in Kolhapur and noted that it was in response to the ink-smearing incident. 

The verdict

An old image of Shiv Sena members burning the Kannada or the Karnataka flag in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, in 2021 has been shared with a false claim and wrongly linked to the India-Canada diplomatic rift. The photo does not show BJP members burning the Kannada flag in Uttar Pradesh instead of Canada's flag. Therefore, we mark the claim false. 

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