A picture showing Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra hugging a woman has gone viral on social media with captions purportedly claiming that the woman in the photo is a naxalite who has been posing as a relative of the Hathras victim.
BOOM contacted the brother of the deceased victim who confirmed to us that the woman seen in the picture is his mother. We also contacted Dr Rajkumari Bansal, who the fake claim suggests is the woman in the picture, and confirmed that she was not present in Hathras on the day the Congress leaders visited the victim's family.
The picture is viral in the backdrop of a Dalit girl from Hathras, Uttar Pradesh succumbing to her injuries in Safdarjung hospital, Delhi on September 29, 2020. The woman had been allegedly gang raped and brutally assaulted by four upper caste men on September 14, 2020.
All the four accused have been since arrested. The state administration had faced a lot of criticism in dealing with the case. The Hathras Police was also accused of cremating the victim's body without the family's consent in the wee hours of September 30, a charge the police have denied.
The viral picture shows Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi embracing a woman whose back is towards the camera.
The Hindi caption with the viral picture translates to 'Remember this photoshoot? Did Priyanka know the naxalite bhabhi (sister-in-law)? Why did Priyanka hug only the naxalite bhabhi and not the mother? Why did Aaj Tak news interview only the Bhabhi? #CongressWithNaxals'.
(Hindi: याद है ये फोटोशूट ... क्या प्रियंका नक्सली भाभी को जानती थी ??? क्यों प्रियंका ने सिर्फ नक्सली भाभी को गले लागया माँ को नही ??? आजतक न्यूज ने भाभी का ही इंटरव्यू क्यों लिया #CongressWithNaxals)
View the viral post below and check its archived version here.
The picture is viral with similar claims from several social media platforms.
BOOM also received the picture on its helpline number with a request to check its veracity.
BOOM found out that the now-viral picture was clicked on October 3, 2020 when Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had visited the victim's family in Hathras.
The same photo published in ABP live on October 4 with PTI credit had been captioned 'Priyanka Gandhi hugged a kin of the grieving family, providing both an emotional as well as moral support to them. The Congress leader who steers the party in Uttar Pradesh was seen in driver's seat today steering her brother Rahul Gandhi to Hathras. (PTI Photo)'.
Since the PTI caption doesn't mention the relation of the woman with the victim, we decided to contact the victim's family.
BOOM contacted one of the brothers of the deceased who confirmed to us that the woman in the picture is his mother.
"The woman Priyanka Gandhi is hugging is no one else but my mother. There are several rumours about this picture which are not true," the victim's brother told BOOM.
We then asked him about the 'naxal bhabhi' claim viral on social media. He said that the woman who is being termed as the 'naxal bhabhi' is a doctor from Jabalpur. He also mentioned that she had arrived at their home in Hathras on October 4 and stayed with them for a few days before leaving for Jabalpur.
"She had read about the incident and come to meet us. She is a doctor in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh," the brother told BOOM.
BOOM then contacted Rajkumari Bansal, who, the viral posts claim is seen with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in the picture. Dr Bansal is a faculty at a medical college in Jabalpur.
Dr Bansal told us that she was not present in Hathras on October 3, when the Congress leaders had visited the family. "I reached Hathras on October 4 and stayed there for a couple of days. Also, I never wear saree or take ghunghat (put a veil over the face). After the administration asked the family to not allow anyone from outside stay with them, I left for Jabalpur," Bansal told BOOM.
She also clarified that she was not related to the victim's family in anyway and was visiting Hathras only on humanitarian grounds. "I was there because I was moved by the incident and was also worried for the family members. I returned on October 6," Bansal said.
Upon being asked about the naxalite-connection allegations leveled at her, she told BOOM she had no idea about how and where did this accusation come from. She also told us that she had filed a complaint with the cyber cell in Jabalpur.
BOOM has done a series of fact checks around the Hathras incident which can be read here.
Meanwhile, Dr Bansal was also served a showcause notice by the Medical College where she is currently posted. Read more about it here.
We also checked several videos showing Dr Bansal in the courtyard of the victim's family in Hathras and found her wearing a salwar-kameez in them.
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