The government on Thursday denied releasing any photograph of the Indian Army's strike against northeast militants "along the India-Myanmar border", issuing a clarification after photographs believed to be of the operation went viral.
After at least three such photos showing soldiers flashing victory signs and carrying guns started doing the rounds on social media, defence ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar tweeted that the ministry had not released any photos of the operation "so far".
"A Clarification: MoD has NOT issued any photo relating to Indian Army action along Indo-Myanmar border in the North East, so far," Kar tweeted.
One photo showed around 20 soldiers sitting before an army helicopter and posing for the camera. Captions tweeted along with this photo said these soldiers had carried out the offensive against a group of militants.
Two newspapers also carried this photograph on their front pages.
A Clarification: MoD has NOT issued any photo relating to Indian Army action along Indo-Myanmar border in the North East, so far.— Sitanshu Kar (@SpokespersonMoD) June 11, 2015
The photos surfaced on the internet after being tweeted by ANI news agency and was soon used by different media outlets. In the tweets, ANI categorically said these images were of the team which carried out the operation and the faces of the jawans were erased to protect their identities.
"The image was duly authorised for use by the ADG PI (Additional Directorate General of Public Information)
of the Army, with the specific request that the faces of the persons be morphed, which we duly did before release," ANI multimedia head Sanjay Mehra told HT in an email.
ADG PI rejected ANI's claim. "No such permission was given by us. We did not release any pictures of our special forces involved in the operations, nor do we intend to do so," said a senior officer of ADG PI office.
Army team that destroyed militant camp in Myanmar. No casualties. Faces blurred to protect identity. pic.twitter.com/fXAVAmxLSM— ANI (@ANI_news) June 10, 2015
Army team that destroyed militant camp in Myanmar. No casualties. Faces blurred to protect identity. pic.twitter.com/67QY56Ehjf— ANI (@ANI_news) June 10, 2015
Army team that destroyed militant camp in Myanmar. No casualties. Faces blurred to protect identity. pic.twitter.com/7XOKNLqxum— ANI (@ANI_news) June 10, 2015
Numerous social media users re-posted the photos on Facebook and Twitter.
Before the defence ministry's clarification, some online activists had pointed out that the images were actually from unrelated army operations available on other websites.
This is a fake pic, https://t.co/Hnabok7Pav— Chandru (@ChandrusWeb) June 10, 2015
Some social media users claimed a search through Google's reverse image showed that the images had appeared on websites in 2009-2013. A search by HT on Google of one of the photos showing three soldiers standing before a hovering helicopter threw up results from September 2009. Mehra declined to comment on this.
India's army attacked separatist rebels just over the border with Myanmar on Tuesday, a rare cross-border strike that the government said showed its resolve to fight terrorism beyond the country's borders.
The raid on two groups of militants was carried out in retaliation for the killing of 18 soldiers in an ambush in Manipur last week, the heaviest losses for security forces in the northeast state in two decades.
(The author tweets at @saha_abhi1990)