“Fancy Dress Farmers”: Social Media Sherlocks are Having None of ANI’s “Farmer Interviews”

Social Commentary

“Fancy Dress Farmers”: Social Media Sherlocks are Having None of ANI’s “Farmer Interviews”

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

Protests have been raging against the Farm Bill in large parts of Punjab and Haryana. While some digital publications have picked it up with enthusiasm, the issue is still playing second fiddle on TV to the Sushant Singh Rajput case. The Government has struggled to convince even some of its own allies, including the Shiromani Akali Dal, on the merits of the bill.

In an attempt to present the “other side” news agency ANI interviewed four farmers from Kanpur who voiced their support in favour of the bill.

However, social media found the interviews suspicious and in the times of Internet Sherlocks, there’s no hiding away. Pratik Sinha, founder of the fact-checking website Alt News pointed out that although ANI made it seem like these farmers were from different areas of Kanpur, they were all sitting around the same tree. He also pointed out that the same gamcha was being used by multiple people in different ways.

Appreciation poured in for whoever was directing this spectacle.

Is that a farm? Or is that a park?

For many, it brought back memories of Dibakar Banerjee’s Khosla Ka Ghosla. In a famous scene from the movie, Khurana (Boman Irani) visits a land for “inspection”, where Khosla’s father (Anupam Kher) and some of his friends from a theatre group wear the typical red gamcha and pretend to be labourers to make their act seem genuine.

To be fair, at least they did their homework.

One social media user also pointed out that a tea drinker Shashank, who had been earlier interviewed by ANI during demonetisation looked eerily similar to one of the farmers being interviewed in Kanpur.

ANI Editor Smita Prakash responded to the criticism stating that “the copy paste artistes don’t know fact from fiction”. She claimed that the picture is not of the same person.

Vaibhav Vishal pointed out that all the farmers being interviewed look like “fancy dress farmers”, with brand new gamcha and ganjees. “This may not be a reflection on your journalism, you are doing good work, but you do need to question your team!” he added.

Smita Prakash stood her ground and said “Sorry (not really) that a farmer, among the millions in this country, doesn’t fit your Bollywoodian image of a starving emaciated kisan.”

While the accusations continue, the ANI Editor is clearly standing behind her story and interviews.

Just another day, in the Indian news cycle.