The official Twitter account of the High Commission of India in Ottawa, Canada falsely claimed that a signboard at the Shri Bhagavad Gita Park in Brampton, Ontario was vandalised over the weekend.
BOOM found the claim to be false. We found that photos circulating as 'before' and 'after' and claiming to show proof of vandalism actually show two different signboards - one a temporary signboard used during the inauguration seen on a blue coloured basketball court and the other a permanent signboard placed at a different part of the park.
Furthermore, BOOM found that the photo circulating online as 'proof' that the signboard was erased is actually the reverse side of the permanent signboard which never had any lettering on that side but only displayed an outline of a rose, which is the official logo of Brampton.
Additionally, Peel Regional Police said on Twitter that there was no evidence of vandalism to the permanent sign or any other park structure.
The Indian High Commission in Ottawa tweeted a collage of two photos -- one of a signboard with the words Shri Bhagavad Gita Park on it and another a blank signboard with only an outline of a rose on it and claimed that there was "hate crime" at the park in Brampton.
The tweet urged Canadian authorities and Peel Police to investigate and take prompt action against the perpetrators.
Following this, several Indian news outlets picked up the allegation and ran the story citing the Indian High Commission's tweet condemning the incident. Times Now went a step further and claimed the vandalism occurred in the form of someone erasing the words Shri Bhagavad Gita Park and replacing it with an outline of a flower.
The channel also aired a graphic highlighting the same boards as tweeted by the Indian High Commission with 'Before' and 'After' insinuating that the blank board showed that the name of the park - Shri Bhagavad Gita Park had been erased.
The channel published an article about the same with the headline - 'Canada's Shri Bhagavad Gita Park sign vandalised days after renaming, Indian High Commission condemns 'hate crime'.'
NDTV also carried a story with the Indian High Commission's condemnation tweet and cited a tweet by Patrick Brown, Mayor of Brampton which said, "We are aware that the recently unveiled Shri Bhagavad Gita Park sign has been vandalized." Other news channels that only cited the Indian High Commission's tweet and carried the story about the alleged vandalism were - News18, Times Of India, Hindustan Times and Amar Ujala.
Two Indian origin Canadian Members of Parliament - Chandra Arya and Sonia Sidhu - issued statements condemning the alleged vandalism. Arya called the incident a "hate crime" and Sidhu claimed that it was a "insidious and heinous act of vandalism that took place at Bhagavad Gita Park in Brampton."
Further, all news stories which quoted Patrick Brown, Mayor of Brampton did not update their stories or highlight that he had since deleted his tweet and tweeted several updates saying there had been no vandalism.
The fake claim comes within a fortnight of the Indian government issuing a safety advisory for its citizens in Canada citing "incidents of hate crimes, sectarian violence and anti-India activities in Canada." In September pro-Khalistan graffiti was spray painted on the entrance sign of the BAPS Swaminarayan Temple in Toronto.
BOOM spoke to locals who stay around the park in Brampton who confirmed that the photos show two different signboards and that the photo of the blank signboard is the reverse side of a permanent signboard at the front of the park which did not have any lettering until Monday morning.
We first read through all the news reports about the alleged incident and found that all of them only quoted the Indian High Commission's tweet condemning the alleged vandalism at the Bhagavad Gita park but offered no evidence to support the claim.
The channels showed a collage of two photos - one with the name Shri Bhagavad Gita Park seen on the board and another photo which showed a blank blue board with a faint outline of a rose on it
A simple search for Brampton, where the park is located shows that the flower design is actually the logo of the city of Brampton and can be seen on all of the city's social media accounts.
The official website for the city of Brampton is called the 'Flower City of Canada' and that the logo, "is a yellow rose centered in a blue rectangular shape with a white-lined petal on each edge."
It is the same logo that can be seen on the blank blue board and was highlighted by Times Now and other news channels as proof of vandalism.
We then checked the Twitter account of Patrick Brown, the Mayor of Brampton and found that the tweet where he first acknowledged the alleged incident had been deleted. Brown, after deleting his previous tweet, shared a screenshot of a statement from the Parks department of Brampton City which stated, "Following yesterday's report of the vandalism of the recently unveiled Shri Bhagavad Gita Park, we took swift action to investigate further. We learned that the reported blank sign was installed by the builder as a place holder until the permanent Shri Bhagavad Gita Park sign can be replaced tomorrow"
We further found that jurisdictional police Peel Regional police also tweeted from its official account saying, "There was no evidence of vandalism to the permanent sign or any park structure."
The tweet by the Peel regional police further explained that the blank sign, "was a temporary sign used in the park naming ceremony" and that the "permanent sign is still waiting for lettering to be applied".
Mayor Brown while retweeting the Peel police tweet, added lines from a statement from the Community Services and Communications department of Brampton stating, "...on the confusion over resident complaints about Gita Park sign. We learned that the sign was damaged during the original install & a city staff member brought it back for unplanned maintenance and to reprint." In another tweet, he added, "The blank sign was left up during repairs. This is not usual process as we never remove a sign unless damaged or its name changes."
The Peel Police, the Brampton Community services, Brampton Parks department and the Mayor of Brampton all explained that the blank signboard was the permanent one which did not have any lettering on it and that this signboard had not been vandalised.
Temporary Signboard Creates Confusion
It is important to point out that the images tweeted by the Indian High Commission are not of the same signboard. This is established by looking at the surface on where the board stands. While it is seen on a blue surface in one of the images, the signboard is seen on a grass lawn in the other image.
BOOM was able to ascertain that the signboard seen on the blue basketball court was a temporary signboard used during the inauguration.
To ascertain the same, we checked Facebook lives of the inauguration shared by local residents and found that the board on the blue turf was indeed a temporary one.
A Facebook live by resident Sanjeev Malik shows the two signboards clearly at the 0.03 counter. One is placed on the blue turf and the other installed into the ground at the back of the park.
Both the temporary signboard on the blue basketball court and the permanent signboard are visible in the video.
Similar visuals can be seen in another Facebook live of the event by a resident here.
We then reached out to the resident Sanjeev Malik a businessman who heads the 'Uttar Pradeshies In Canada' organisation. Malik visited the park and sent BOOM visuals which showed that the photos tweeted by the Indian High Commission in Canada were of two different signboards. The visuals further proved that the signboard with the outline of a rose shared as proof of 'after the vandalism' is the reverse side of the signboard and not the front side.
Speaking to BOOM, Malik said, "there were two signboards during the unveiling ceremony. The one kept on the basketball court (the blue turf) was the temporary one and brought to the park only for the purpose of unveiling. The permanent one is bigger and dug into the ground."
Malik shared two photos with BOOM which showed that the Indian High Commission in Canada tweeted a photo of the reverse side of the permanent signboard which carries an outline of the rose and no lettering.
Malik sent BOOM the photo on the left of the back of the signboard. The photo on the right is the one tweeted by the Indian High Commission.
The placement of the streetlight, the lines demarcating the footpath from the garden and the tree are the same in both the pictures.
Malik also sent us a video from the location which shows that if a person is facing the front of the signboard, the background is not the road and the houses but the basketball court and the park itself.
The video shows the name Shri Bhagavad Gita Park on the front side of the permanent signboard.
Watch video below:
BOOM then spoke to another resident who stays opposite the park who explained that there was no vandalism and that the viral collage of photos is being shared to make a false claim.
"The photo of the sign kept on the blue turf is from the unveiling event and it was a temporary sign brought to the park on the morning of the event on September 27. They took that temporary sign back the same day, when the unveiling event ended. The other one, the permanent signboard which is still at the park was built and placed there many weeks ago. It was blank with no lettering even on the day of the unveiling,"said Nirbhay Singh, an IT consultant who stays 50 metres from the park.
Singh said the park is the community park for residents and used everyday by residents around. "My children and I go for walks everyday to the park." When asked whether the permanent signboard had the name Bhagavad Gita park written on it and later the same was vandalised, Singh said, "There was no vandalism that occurred. The permanent signboard was blank when I was out for my evening walk yesterday evening and today morning I saw that the name of the park was done. They must have painted the name today morning. Till yesterday it was a blank board," he explained.
BOOM was able to establish that the Indian High Commission in Canada tweeted a photo of the temporary signboard used in the inauguration and compared it with the reverse side of the permanent signboard which never had any lettering to begin with but only the outline of Brampton city's rose logo.
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