“Rahul Gandhi dumbfounded in Dubai by little girl’s questions,” reads the headline of a story on the My Nation portal. The article claims that during the Congress president’s visit to Dubai last week, a 14-year old girl asked him two questions that stumped him. According to the article, the questions embarassed the Congress President who “dismissed it with a smile” and the live telecast was cut by Congress.
The first question according to the article was “Congress prides itself for having ruled India for several decades. The welfare and development that were not achieved then, will be done now?” According to the article, “The girl went on to say that it’s only after Modi came to power that India got its recognition across the world. She advised him to seek votes with the promise of providing corruption-free governance instead of bringing in caste distinctions. The public was stunned and the entire place resounded with thundering applause.”
The article has no accompanying video to back its claim. Quite predictably, the article was soon found circulating on social media. Notable among those who shared it was addtional RBI director, Gurumurthy who has a penchant for falling for hoaxes.
Rahul Gandhi dumbfounded in Dubai by little girl’s questions https://t.co/i8M8NFoK5D
— S Gurumurthy (@sgurumurthy) January 13, 2019
The fake news website Postcard News was also at the forefront sharing the news. The Postcard News article titled, “Deadly Dubai” made the same claim of the broadcast being stopped because Rahul Gandhi could not answer a 14-year old girl.
Three year old image
Alt News found that the claim originated from a Tamil website and was picked up by My Nation followed by Postcard News and Rightlog. A picture of a girl was circulated in all the articles and in social media posts.
Using reverse image search, Alt News found that the picture of the girl was taken from a three-year-old Youtube video titled, “SAVE GIRL CHILD Powerful Speech by SIDDHI BAGWE.” According to the description, this video was shot at St Joseph’s High School in Vikhroli, a suburb of Mumbai.
What is the truth?
The My Nation article stated that at a convention, Rahul Gandhi “addressed the crowd and was all set to take on questions from the public. A 14-year old lifted her hand…” Alt News found that Rahul Gandhi addressed one public event at a stadium. There were two other events: he spoke to university students in one and workers at a labour camp in another.
At the event at the stadium, he made a speech and took no questions. In his interaction with university students, he first took questions from the students and then addressed them briefly towards the end of the event. In his interaction at the labour camp, he addressed the audience and then heard grievances of the people attending the meeting.
His interaction with the Indian diaspora at the stadium was broadcast live and is also available on video. In this interaction, Rahul Gandhi does not take any questions from the audience, and walks away at the end of his speech. The only evidence of interaction with the audience is when he refers to a woman from Andhra Pradesh, who might have been in the audience, and promises to give special status to Andhra Pradesh if Congress is voted to power.
The second interaction that Rahul Gandhi had was with university students at IMT Dubai University. During this interaction, Rahul Gandhi took questions from the students, and addressed the students briefly. The whole event was broadcast live, without any interruption. The questions from the 14-year-old girl as claimed in the My Nation article did not feature in this session.
The third interaction at the labour camp did not feature any questions from any 14-year-old girl either.
All the events were covered extensively by the media, however, there was neither a video of the 14 year old girl asking questions nor any mention of it in any credible media publication. Even though in the absence of a supporting video, the claim would seem to be prima facie false, Alt News decided to investigate it further.
Alt News spoke to two journalists who covered Rahul Gandhi’s Dubai trip and were present at all his public interactions. Elvis Chummar, who heads Jai Hind Middle East was one. He told us that this is “100% fake news”. Raju Mathew from Manorama also denied that any such question was raised.
Later, My Nation updated the story to add a new sentence: “During a private event where Rahul Gandhi interacted with children…” The backup of the older version of the story can be found here. However there was no such event that included interaction with children on Rahul Gandhi’s itinerary.
The misleading claim continues to be viral on social media with many pro-Bharatiya Janata Party handles sharing it with an identical narrative, with the editor of My Nation, Abhijit Majumder himself tweeting the claim. Others who tweeted this claim include Ashutosh Muglikar, a contributor to OpIndia, and Gaurav Pradhan who we have shown has put out misinformation multiple times in the past.
This article first appeared on AltNews.