Multiple social media posts claiming protesting farmers removed the Indian tricolour at the Red Fort and replaced it with a flag of Khalistan, are false. BOOM found that protesters hoisted the Nishan Sahib, the Sikh religious flag and the flag of the Kisan Mazdoor Ekta, a farmers union collective on an empty flag pole and that the Indian flag elevated at the centre of the monument was untouched.
The farmers protest took a violent turn on January 26, Republic Day, when farmers participating in Kisan Tractor Rally clashed with the police at multiple locations in Delhi while a large group of protesters breached a section of the iconic Red Fort.
Some posts claimed that the protesting farmers removed the Indian tricolour from the flag pole to hoist their flag.
BOOM found that both the claims are false. Visual footage shows that the farmers did not remove the Indian tricolour and nor did they hoist the Khalistan flag but the Sikh relgious flag - the Nishan Sahib and the flag of the Kisan Ekta Mazdoor, a farmers union.
CLAIM 1 - FARMERS REMOVED INDIAN TRICOLOUR
We scanned through Facebook live videos uploaded by some of the protesting farmers and found that the flag pole where the farmers hoisted the flags did not have the Indian tricolour on it.
A Facebook live shows farmers arriving at the Red Fort in their tractors and singing and dancing and raising slogans. The video shot from the outer wall of the Red Fort shows the whole of the fort in the background with the flag pole where the farmers later hoisted the flag, clearly visible. The flag pole is empty with the Indian tricolour visible only in the centre behind the small white domes forming the front facade of the Red Fort and nowhere else. The two smaller red domes on the side also don't have a flag hoisted on them.
Below is a screenshot from the same video -
One can watch the full video here where in all scenes the pole does not have a flag hoisted on it.
We further found another Facebook live which shows security personnel standing right below the flag pole observing the gathering farmers. At the 3.34 second counter one can see the security personnel at the empty flag post with farmers standing below the red fort. At the 11.03 counter, the farmers start running and reach the flag pole with one of them holding a yellow triangular flag. In both the scenes, the pole does not have a flag clearly showing that the farmers did not remove the Indian tricolour to hoist the flag.
At the 13.22 mark the first protesting farmer climbs up the flag pole with a flag in an attempt to hoist it and it is clearly seen that there is no flag on it. This is followed by a second failed attempt at 16.45 by two protesters to hoist the flag, which is still empty. Finally at the 23.42 mark one can see a man hoist an orange/yellow flag on the pole and the crowd cheering in response.
We marked the three sequences below to show that the flag pole was empty the whole time.
The same video can be watched below
Even in the footage tweeted by wire agency ANI, the flag pole does not have the Indian tricolour.
We further contacted Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) official who confirmed that the flag pole did not have the Indian tricolour hoisted on it for the occasion of Republic Day. The ASI official said, "The big flag at the Red Fort is the one hoisted everyday. Apart from that the smaller white domes that you see have small Indian flags hoisted on the occasion of Independence Day. The said flag pole where the farmers hoisted their flag did not have the Indian tricolour on it." The official not wanting to be named condoned the act by the protesting farmers and said, "While them entering the area like this is illegal, they did not remove any flag from the premises," he said.
CLAIM 2 - FARMERS HOISTED THE KHALISTANI FLAG?
BOOM found that the protesters hoisted the Sikh religious flag called Nishan Sahib and later the flag of Kisaan Mazdoor Ekta, a farmers union.
We found a tweet by ANI which showed both the hoisted flags and compared each of them to the official flag of the Khalistan movement and found that both do not match it.
We compared the orange triangular flag visible hoisted at the Red Fort first with the Nishan Sahib and then with a Khalistan flag found on Getty images. The orange flag hoisted today looks similar in shape and colour to the Sikh relgious flag also called the Nishan Sahib. The Khalistan flag seen in Getty Images is the one used by several Sikh seperatist groups and is square and yellow in colour with the Khanda visible in the center and the words, 'Khalistan' written below it.
What is the Nishan Sahib?
The Nishan Sahib is a religious flag used by the Sikh community and usually hoisted outside a gurdwara. Sikh religious blogs desrcibe it as a flag holding great significance for the community and the same is mounted on a steel pole, which is also covered with a saffron-coloured cloth.
THE SECOND FLAG
BOOM reached out to farmer unions protesting in Delhi who said that the second flag is the Kisan Mazdoor Ekta's flag. The Kisan Mazdoor Ekta is the collective formed by many of the protesting farmer unions. We could not find any verified Facebook page or Twitter handle for the union to compare but found a news story published on January 25, 2021 in the Indian Express about several businessmen in Punjab hoisting the farmer union flags. The story carried an image of a flag seller and some of the flags in the photo resembled the one hoisted at the Red Fort.
Further, Deep Sidhu, an actor turned farmer who was present at the Red Fort and is also said to have allegedly handed over the flag to be hoisted put out a video saying that India's flag was not removed from the flagpole and they only hoisted the Kisan Mazdoor Ekta's flag and the Nishan Sahib.
(Additional reporting by Anmol Alphonso)
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