A graphic photograph of two young men engulfed in flames lying on a street flanked by an angry mob–this image that surfaces periodically on social media is in circulation once again. It has been used, every time, to whip up rumours of atrocities against one community by another: It could be Hindus, Muslims or Christians.
A BOOM factcheck revealed that this image is almost nine years old and is often accompanied by allegations of a media conspiracy to gag the truth.
The image has also been used with stories of atrocities against various ethnic minorities in different parts of the world–the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and Christians in Nigeria.
The image is now doing the rounds on Twitter claiming ‘Hindus killed in Pakistan’ or ‘Hindus killed in Jammu’.
It was the Hindi newspaper NavBharat Times that debunked the story behind the image.
The photo was shot in Karachi, Pakistan, on May 14, 2008. A mob had lynched three alleged robbers, though the bodies of only two can be seen in the photograph. BOOM cannot independently verify the details of the incident.
News outlets in Pakistan including All Things Pakistan, The Daily Times, and The News reported the incident.
BOOM was able to trace back the original picture shot by AP’s Iqbal Swati. Here is the verbatim description of the scene captured in the photo:
“Residents stand around the burning bodies of three alleged robbers in a street in Karachi, Pakistan, Wednesday, May 14, 2008. Residents of a Pakistani apartment building attacked and set fire to three alleged robbers Wednesday, killing them all, police said. Police officer Amir Shaikh said residents of the building in the southern city of Karachi heard gunshots from an apartment where a neighbor had resisted robbers trying to steal his possessions. A mob of residents confronted the thieves and beat them with burning wood from the oven of a nearby bakery, setting them on fire. Shaikh said two of the men were dead when police arrived and the third died later. It was unclear if they died from the beating or the burns.”
(BOOM is an independent digital journalism initiative.)