Misleading news reports on shop vendor deploying bouncers to protect tomatoes in Varanasi.

Claim

Amid the recent spike in tomato prices, a vegetable vendor in Varanasi took the trouble of hiring bouncers to protect his precious perishables. “I have hired bouncers because the tomato price is too high,” the vegetable vendor, Ajay Fauji said.

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Explanation

The price of tomatoes has seen a surge in recent days across the country. It is being sold for Rs. 100-200 in most places. The price of other vegetables including onions is also on the rise. Amid the increasing prices of vegetables multiple media reports that a vegetable shop vendor hired two bouncers to protect the tomatoes.

Multiple mainstream media including Indian Express, The Tribune, Times Now, The Telegraph, and Mirror Now tweeted the same. The news video was initially tweeted by PTI and is amplified by other media outlets. PTI later deleted the tweet. Some of the media articles including The Tribune are found deleted.

https://twitter.com/ysathishreddy/status/1677992173483212801?s=46&t=kIszbQH_arRSG8kPbuGeZw

The video purportedly showing a shop vendor selling tomatoes with bouncers in front of the shop is also shared on social media platforms mentioning that the vendor hired bouncers to protect tomatoes as the price is soaring high.

What is the truth?

When we watched the viral video closely, we noticed a pamphlet mentioning ‘9 years of inflation’ in Hindi along with the other ones asking not to touch the tomatoes, and to pay for the products first. With further search, we found a tweet dated July 9 by Journalist Piyush Raj with the caption “In UP’s Varanasi, a local Samajwadi Party leader Ajay Fauji, in a viral video, can be seen deploying two bouncers to protect tomatoes at a vegetable shop in what is seen as a protest against skyrocketing prices of tomatoes.” He also posted a video of the bouncers reaching the vegetable shop along with Ajay Fauji.

We also found a few other tweets mentioning the act of deploying bouncers as a part of a protest against the surge in tomato prices. We noticed the person in the video using a red and green coloured scarf denoting the Samajwadi party. With further search, we found Akhilesh Yadav, Samajwadi Party Leader tweeting the same video of PTI demanding ‘Z Plus’ security for the tomatoes.

https://twitter.com/fabulasguy/status/1678033948688134144?s=46&t=kIszbQH_arRSG8kPbuGeZw

Another Twitter user quoted Akhilesh Yadav’s tweet that the person in the video belongs to the Samajwadi party. He also attached a video where the person is heard introducing himself as Ajay Fauji, Samajwadi Party. A photo of Ajay Fauji in a red and green coloured scarf standing near Akhilesh Yadav is also seen in the tweet.

Furthermore, we found Ajay Fauji’s Twitter profile in which his profile picture is also seen with the same scarf. His Twitter bio mentions him as a ‘Socialist thinker and Akhilesian by heart’. He also retweeted Akhilesh Yadav’s tweet of the video on his protest against tomatoes by deploying bouncers. We also found a tweet by PTI dated 1, July 2023 where Ajay Fauji is seen celebrating Samajwadi President Akhilesh Yadav’s birthday by cutting a tomato-shaped cake in Varanasi to mark high inflation in the country.

Press Trust of India is the first to report the viral news without mentioning that the vendor is a party worker and his intention behind deploying the bouncers. Later, PTI deleted the tweet and posted an update mentioning that earlier tweeted was deleted as it was posted without verifying the antecedents of the source for the story.

We also found tweets and news reports dated July 10 mentioning that the shopkeeper has been arrested and Ajay Fauji, a Samajwadi Party worker is absconding.

AajTak reported that the police in Varanasi have arrested the shop owner and his son who installed bouncers for the protection of tomatoes. Now the police are looking for SP worker Ajay Fauji who sells vegetables. A case has been registered against the SP worker in the Lanka police station.

Varanasi Police has registered a case under section 295, 153A, 505 (2) against three named and one unknown at Lanka Police Station. In fact, on Sunday in the Nagwa area, an SP worker did a unique demonstration by posing as a vegetable seller, after which SP chief Akhilesh Yadav also tweeted its video.

Conclusion

It is found that the reports published by media organizations appear to be misleading as the tweets and most of the news articles did not mention the protest by Samajwadi party worker Ajay Fauji against the tomato price rise, instead just covered the news of him deploying the bouncers.

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