Two unrelated and old images - one of a priest drinking beer and another of a priest standing on the idol of a Hindu deity - are viral with false and communal claims that the man is a Christian.
The two images being shared as a collage are viral with a caption that claim they are recent and that the priest drinking beer is a Christian who has been appointed as a priest in a Hindu temple by the Tamil Nadu government.
The photos have gone viral after an order by the Tamil Nadu government appointing archakas (priests) from all castes in temples across the state. According to media reports, 24 out of the 208 newly appointed priests are not brahmins and have been waiting since 2007 for their appointment to temples as priests. The move heralded as breaking long held caste barriers, led to severe criticism for the government from various Hindutva groups in the state and from existing Brahmin priests.
The caption in Hindi translates to, "Thomas Rajan, the person seen drinking alcohol in the photo, is a Christian. Who is appointed as a priest in a temple by the Tamil Nadu government. Will governments take this step to occupy our temples now? Is this kind of interference in Hindu temples right?"
(Original text in Hindi - फ़ोटो में दारू पीता दिख रहा व्यक्ति थोमस राजन, एक ईसाई है। जिसको तमिलनाडु की सरकार ने एक मन्दिर में पुजारी नियुक्त किया है। क्या हमारे मन्दिरों पर कब्ज़ा करने के लिए अब सरकारें यह कदम उठाएगी? क्या हिन्दू मन्दिरों में ऐसी दखल अंदाज़ी ठीक है?)
BOOM found that the two photos are old and not related to each other and being spread with false claims that the person is a Christian named Thomas Rajan.
Photo Of Priest Drinking Beer
A reverse image search on the image showed us results for a video on YouTube uploaded on July 9, 2017 with the title, 'Priest drinking beer'
The 1.57 seconds video shows the same man dressed in robes resembling that of a temple priest and holding an alchohol bottle. The man is being questioned in Tamil by the person recording the video as to why he is drinking next to late former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's poster.
At the 1.10 second counter, the man recording asks him who he is and where does he reside. To this the man drinking alcohol says he is "Shankar from Kumbakonam but staying in Kodampakkam". Kumbakonam is a city in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu and Kodampakkam is in Chennai.
Watch video below
Nowhere in the video does the man identify himself as Thomas Rajan or is questioned for being a Christian dressed in priestly robes.
Photo Of Man Standing On Idol
A reverse image search on the video led us to results from 2020 with various captions in Tamil and Hindi. None of the captions provided any details about the origin or context to the photo.
BOOM could not independently verify the photo of the priest standing on the idol of a Hindu deity.
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