False: No, Punjab Police didn't release a photo of Amritpal Singh Sandhu with long hair

By: Praveen Kumar
March 27 2023

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False: No, Punjab Police didn't release a photo of Amritpal Singh Sandhu with long hair


The Verdict False

A morphed image showing Singh with long hair and "women-like" features is being circulated along with photos of him released by the Punjab Police.

Claim ID 66add06f


Amritpal Singh Sandhu— a self-styled preacher and a separatist Khalistani leader—is dominating the news in India. After Sandhu and his followers from his organization Waris Punjab De (Heirs of Punjab) stormed a police station in Amritsar in late February to release one of their associates (accused of kidnapping) and injured several police personnel, opposition parties questioned the law and order situation in the northern state of Punjab. The 30-year-old advocated for the establishment of Khalistan—a sovereign state in the Punjab region for Sikhs—much to the ire of the Indian authorities. Sandhu was declared a fugitive on March 18 by the police as they launched a state-wide crackdown on Waris Punjab De. While several of Sandhu's associates have been arrested, Singh has been on the run and has evaded the police so far. The central government has also alerted border forces that the pro-Khalistani leader "may" try to cross over to Pakistan or Nepal. The police had also suspended internet and SMS services in the state for multiple days to "curb the spread of misinformation" related to Sandhu and his followers. 

As the chase for Sandhu continues, photos of him released by the Punjab Police seeking the public's help to identify and arrest him are circulating online. These photos show Sandhu in different avatars: a mirror selfie of him with short hair, a mustache, and a trimmed beard; one with a clean-shaven face; and others in which he can be seen wearing different colored turbans. One photo, which shows Sandhu with long, straight hair sporting a clean-shaven look in a mirror selfie, is also circulating with the claim that Punjab police have released the photo. Users on social media also joked that Sandhu looked like a "woman" in the picture.

In Fact

On March 21, 2023, Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Sukhchain Singh Gill released an official set of seven photos to the press, which were also tweeted by the Indian news agency ANI. "There are several pictures of Amritpal Singh in different attires. We are releasing all of these pictures. I request you display them so that people can help us to arrest him in this case," Gill said, ANI reported. Several news organizations also published reports carrying the photos. However, this set of seven photos does not include the image of Singh with long, open hair.

The FaceApp watermark at the bottom of the image in question also raises questions about its authenticity. FaceApp is a "photorealistic editing" app available on Android and Apple platforms. One of the editing options available on the app is changing the physical traits of the person in the photo to those of the opposite sex. For example, an image of a male subject with short hair and facial hair in the picture can be edited to have longer hair, no facial hair, smoother skin, and some very light makeup. Using the clean-shaven photo of Singh released by the police, we tried FaceApp ourselves. The option "Female 2" gave us the same result as the viral photo. Although FaceApp is a free app to download and use, only its in-app purchases allow users to remove its watermark, which can be seen in the viral photo from the edited image. 

The Verdict

An edited image in which Amritpal Singh is made to look like he has long hair has been incorrectly shared as part of the photo set released by government authorities in an attempt to arrest him with public assistance. Therefore, we mark this claim false.

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