A number of photos showing what seems like the cremation of a body in an electric crematorium are being shared with the claim that they show an organ trafficking racket that is taking place amid the coronavirus pandemic in Maharashtra.
However, The Quint found that they actually show a Lucknow-based woman carrying out the cremation of an unclaimed body.
The photos, which show a woman and two men carrying out a cremation while one seems to show the body wrapped in a sheet, are being shared with the narrative that there is an organ racket taking place under the guise of coronavirus in Maharashtra.
According to the viral message, which tells an elaborate story, "There was no case of coronavirus in the Gorai area of Bhayandar. But, in the last few days, a man with mild cough and cold went to a hospital for treatment and was forcibly admitted and told he has tested positive (for COVID-19).”
The post then goes on to say that this man died and that the body was about to be cremated when the family members demanded to see the body, which is when they found out that all the organs were missing.
Further, the post accuses doctors of carrying out ‘such heinous acts’ when they are ‘seen as a form of god’ and wonders ‘how many such incidents have happened before’ and says a CBI investigation should be carried out.
We found many people sharing these photos with the same message on Facebook and Twitter.
WHAT WE FOUND
On running a reverse image search on the photos, we were led to a website called Delhi Crime Press, which had carried the photos along with the same claim as in the viral posts as a story.
We found that the story was credited to an Om Shukla, who is Special Crimes Investigator, according to his Facebook bio.
Then, on Facebook, we ran a keyword search with Shukla’s name, along with ‘'मानव अंगो की तस्करी’ (human organ trafficking) and came across a post by a Lucknow-based woman by the name of Versha Verma.
According to her post, dated 21 July, she was the woman seen in the viral photos. In her post, she calls out Shukla for misusing her photos to falsely claim that an organ racket was taking place in Maharashtra and clarified that she and her colleague Deepak Mahajan, through their NGO Ek Koshish Aisi Bhi, cremated unclaimed bodies.
We also found a post by her dated 18 July in which she had uploaded the viral photos, with a message saying that they had cremated (after post-mortem) the unclaimed body of a 43-year-old woman who had been brought to Lucknow’s Civil Hospital but died during treatment.
She added that they had, so far, cremated 17 such unclaimed bodies during the lockdown. A glance through her profile showed us that she had also filed an FIR with the Cyber Cell asking for action to be taken against Shukla.
The Quint also got in touch with Verma, the chairperson of the NGO, who confirmed that the viral photos were indeed from a cremation done by her on 18 July in Lucknow.
She also told us that she had taken the advice of her advocate and filed an FIR with the Cyber Cell and the police station in her locality against Shukla and was also planning to file a defamation case against him.
On being asked whether she had spoken to Shukla, Verma claimed that she had contacted him through others and had been told that while he accepted that it was false information, he would not take the story down since it was bringing good traffic for his website. However, Shukla had agreed to take down the post on his Facebook wall.
The Quint also reached out to Shukla, who accepted that he had been told that it was false information but claimed that the matter was not completely clear yet. He also claimed to have deleted the post from his website but on being told that it was still available, said he would check and delete again.
We also checked Shukla’s Facebook profile and found that he had uploaded a status on 22 July, asking people not to share a news update regarding coronavirus in Maharashtra, ostensibly referring to the same story.
दोस्तों अभी कुछ दिन पहले कोरोना को लेकर महाराष्ट्र का एक न्यूज अपडेट हुवा था कृपया उसको शेयर न करें उसकी सत्यता की जांच में वो न्यूज़ गलत पायी गयी है । धन्यवाद।Posted by Om Shukla on Wednesday, July 22, 2020
It is clear then that unrelated photos of members of an NGO carrying out the last rites of an unclaimed body are being shared with the false narrative that a human organ trafficking racket has been uncovered in Maharashtra.
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