On the occasion of Janmashtami this year, several social media users tweeted visuals of celebrations at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk in Kashmir.
Gujarat in charge of Hindu Yuva Vahini Yogi Devnath tweeted that this happened after 32 years and thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah. His tweet got over 4,000 likes,
32 साल बाद कश्मीर में निकाली गई श्रीकृष्ण जन्माष्टमी शोभायात्रा। ‘श्री कृष्ण गोविंद हरे मुरारी’ की धुन से गूंज उठा श्रीनगर का लालचौक… धन्यवाद आदरणीय श्री @narendramodi जी @AmitShah जी
— Yogi Devnath (@YogiDevnath2) August 30, 2021
Sudarshan News head Suresh Chavhanke, along with rightwing propaganda website OpIndia, and news outlets Zee News, News18, Nai Dunia, VTV Gujarati and RSS mouthpiece Organiser made the same claim.
News18’s Ahmedabad bureau chief Janak Dave and Dainik Bhaskar journalist Himanshu Mishra amplified the claim.
Shaurya Doval, son of Ajit Kumar Doval KC, current National Security Advisor, tweeted the video shared by others and wrote this has only been possible under the able leadership of PM Modi. Author of the book ‘The Tattoo on My Breast’ Ravi Rai quote-tweeted Doval thus amplifying the claim.
And today, people of the Hindu community are able to conduct their religious proceedings at the same location. It has only been possible under the able leadership of PM @narendramodi Ji.
मेरा देश बदल रहा है, आगे बढ़ रहा है। जय हिन्द, जय भारत। 2/2
— Shaurya Doval (@shaurya_doval) August 30, 2021
BJP MLA Indu Tiwari, Member Advisory Committee at Indian Council for Cultural Relations and Ministry of External Affairs Varun Puri, former social media manager Minister of Commerce and Industry Abhishek Mishra and pro-government Facebook page ‘I Support Arnab Goswami’ posted along the same lines: either thanking PM Modi or implying that 2021 celebrations mark a cultural shift.
A similar claim was widespread last year in March when several BJP office-bearers falsely suggested that Srinagar’s Shankaracharya Temple was lit after decades for Maha Shivratri celebrations. Similar to this, the claim that the 2021 Janmashtami celebration in Srinagar took place for the first time in 32 years is false.
We found images of the celebrations dating back to at least 2004 on stock images websites like Getty Images (2004, 2013), Reuters (2005 and 2006) and Alamy (2007 and 2012). The complete search result on each of the sites can be viewed here – Getty Images, Reuters and Alamy.
There are also several reports of the celebrations held in 2018. A local told Greater Kashmir that Janmashtami has been taking place at Lal Chowk since 2004.
However, in 2007, Hindustan Times had reported, “For the first time since militancy broke out in Kashmir in 1989, a Janmashtami procession organised by Pandits passed through the famous Lal Chowk.”
Alt News spoke with Srinagar-based Sanjay Tickoo, president of the Kashmiri Pandit Sangarash Samiti (KPSS).
He said, “I remember that the Janmashtami festivities took place each year until 1988. That year Janki of Lord Krishna was taken out in Srinagar and other districts of Kashmir Valley. However, the next year, it had to be stopped due to the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley. A few years later in 1992, a small procession was taken out by non-migrants from Karan Nagar to Kak Sari in Srinagar. To the best of my knowledge, the festival has been celebrated each year since 2003 except in 2008 (Amarnath land row), 2010 (murder of Tuffail Mattoo), 2014 (floods), 2016 (death of Burhan Wani) and 2019 to 2020 (reading down of Article 370 and COVID-19).”
Tickoo also connected us with Sandeep Koul, a member of the ISKON group. The group has been organising Janmashtami celebrations since 2007. Koul told Alt News, “Our group organised the 2021 celebrations at Lal Chowk. The social media claim that Janmashtami is being celebrated in Kashmir after 32 years is totally false.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was, therefore, thanked for the Janmashtami celebrations organised in Kashmir even as the festival has been observed in the Valley for decades. Sudarshan News and RSS mouthpiece Organiser falsely claimed that such celebrations happened after 32 years in Kashmir which is not true.