On 21 December, BJP Punjab tweeted a photograph of a man in a pro-post about the new agricultural farm bills introduced by the central government. They also published a poster on their Facebook handle stating that the farmers in Punjab were happy with the support price. This comes after nearly a month-long protest staged by farmers and labourers at various borders in Delhi.
BJP Punjab’s poster includes data on government procurement of crops, including rice and pulses, featuring an edited and quintessential image of a farmer carrying a plough.
Soon after, the man in the photograph, Harpreet Singh aka Harp Farmer ridicules BJP for using his photograph in a pro-farm bill, while he’s protesting against it at Delhi’s Singhu Border. Singh is a farmer by profession as well as a Punjabi actor and film-maker.
Singh posted the same on his Facebook profile as well.
Many social media users spoke up in support of Singh. One such user’s tweet reads, “Embarrassing goof up – @BJP4Punjab uses picture of actor, director, producer, photographer Harp Farmer in its pro-Farm-Bills poster. He is sitting at Singhu border supporting the #FarnersProtest and also regularly posting stuff about the protest @harpfarmer ridicules @BJP4India”
Vice-chairman of the Delhi Jal Board, Raghav Chadha, tweeted about the same.
After the post went viral and became a heated discussion, BJP Punjab deleted their initial poster and published the one below.
NDTV in its story titled, “BJP Illegally Used My Photo For Farm Law Ads”: Protester At Singhu” states that Singh has been protesting at Delhi’s Singhu border for two weeks and that the Punjab unit of the BJP used his photograph to promote the new farm laws without his consent.
The article further states that Singh was notified about Punjab BJP’s post through a friend. “Now everyone is calling me a poster boy of the BJP. I’m not. I am the poster boy of the protesting farmer,” Singh told NDTV reporters.
On the other hand, OpIndia writes an article in a failed attempt to support the BJP, entirely missing the point of the debate. Singh’s profession is secondary when his actions and beliefs are in contrast to the usage of his photograph in this context. As far as his photographs being sold as stock images are concerned, Singh clarified this via a tweet stating that he doesn’t sell them as stock images.
Story From Both Sides
We reached out to both parties concerned, the BJP Punjab IT Cell and Harpreet Singh for their views on the matter.
In a phone conversation with us, Rakesh Goel, BJP Punjab IT Cell Convenor, said that Singh’s photograph in the initial poster was a mistake from their graphics team. They later took down the tweet and published a new one with a caricature of a farmer standing in front of a solar panel.
“We have no intention to use anyone’s picture randomly. It was a mistake, and we have corrected it. It is our job to inform people about the work that has been done. It was a mistake by the graphic designer which has been rectified” Goel added.
In our conversation with Singh, he confirmed that it’s him in the viral image and added that, “this picture is 6 to 7 years old and has been used against my will. This is not the first time my picture has been used involuntarily. Even before this, in the year 2017, the Congress used this picture and a company manufacturing submersible pumps in Jalandhar also used this picture but I never took legal action against anyone.”
You can listen to the conversation with Singh below.
Singh also mentioned that this time around he decided to take legal action as his photograph was being used for the (pro) farm laws when he was protesting against the same laws.
He’s issued a legal notice to the BJP through his lawyer Hakam Singh, which states that his photo was used against his wish and in the interest of the farm bills. It also states that the initial post tarnished Singh’s image in the farmers community and made him a topic of discussion on social media, which then became a form of mental harassment.
Singh’s legal notice further calls for an apology from the BJP. He’d like to reinforce to the farmers community that his photograph was used against his will.
Other images of Singh at the farmers’ protest at the Singhu border can be viewed here.
You can read our Punjabi fact-check on this here.
Preeti Chauhan, Shaminder Singh, and Saurabh Pandey contributed towards research for this article.
Direct conversation with Harpreet Singh
Direct conversation with Rakes Goel, BJP Punjab IT Cell convenor
BJP Punjab Facebook: https://archive.is/Pygzr
BJP Punjab’s Twitter Post (image posted above)
Harpreet Singh aka Harp Farmer’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/harpfarmer/status/1341202385591357440?s=08
Harpreet Singh aka Harp Farmer’s Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=227881648701599&id=100044392960744
Harpreet Singh aka Harp Farmer: https://twitter.com/harpfarmer/status/1341331533693534210?s=19
Harpreet Singh aka Harp Farmer’s legal notice to BJP (posted above)
Rozana Spokesman: https://www.facebook.com/RozanaSpokesmanOfficial/videos/393544875045437
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