By: Chandan Borgohain
September 27 2023
The viral press release has been falsely attributed to ITLF. (Source: X/Modified by Logically Facts)
This is not an authentic press release and is fabricated. The Indigenous Tribal Leader's Forum (ITLF) is not organizing any such event.
The strife-torn Indian state of Manipur has again been gripped by unrest after photographs of two students, reportedly missing since July 6, surfaced online recently. The pictures of the two slain Meitei students have triggered protests in the northeastern state, which had been on the boil since May after clashes between the Kuki and Meities communities broke out. Mobile internet service, which resumed on September 23 after a long hiatus, has been suspended again, and schools will remain closed until at least September 29.
What is the claim?
Amid the unrest, a photo of a press release, purportedly published by the Indigenous Tribal Leader's Forum (ITLF)— a joint body of various tribes— stating that the forum will organize a "Mega Poppy Flower Sale" is circulating on social media. The press release states that the event will last three days, from September 30 to October 2, and will be held in Peace Ground, Lamka, in Churachandpur district. The letter is viral on Facebook and X. Archived versions of the posts sharing the press release's photo can be viewed here, here, here, and here.
Posts sharing the viral press release. (Source:X/Facebook/Screenshot)
The statement surfaced within days of Manipur lawmaker LM Khaute reportedly saying in an interview that some Kuki people cultivate poppies because "they are ignorant" and they think these are "beautiful flowers." A species of the poppy plant is the source of opium, and several tribes in Manipur reportedly rely on poppy cultivation.
Sharing the viral press statement along with a photo of Churachandpur MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly), an X user wrote, "To support LM Khoute's (Retd. DGP & incumbent MLA) 🍪 claim that cultivate poppy only for flowers, the apex body is all set to organise a mega poppy flower sale! (sic)"
A post sharing the viral press release. (Source: X/Screenshot)
However, the viral press release is fabricated. The ITLF has not published any such statement.
What is the truth?
We checked ITLF's website and social media pages and came across no such press release. The viral press statement was dated September 26, whereas the latest press release on ITLF's website, which addressed a news report on the disposal of unclaimed bodies amid the ethnic conflict in Manipur, was published on September 25.
We also noted that all the press releases by ITLF carry a watermark of the organization's logo; however, no such watermark is visible on the viral image of the press release.
Comparison of the viral press release with an original one issued by ITLF. (Source:X(L)/ITLF Website(R))
Logically Facts reached out to Ginza Vualzong, an ITLF spokesperson, whose name appears on the purported press release as the figure who issued it. Dismissing the claims about ITLF organizing a "Mega Poppy Flower Sale," Vualzong said, "This is a fake press release. ITLF has made no such statement. All genuine press releases by ITLF are available on its website; any press release that is not on our website is fake."
The ITLF has not published any press release about an upcoming "Mega Poppy Flower Sale" in Manipur. The viral press release shared by social media users is fabricated and has been dismissed by the organization as 'fake.' Therefore, we mark the claim false.