Some of these are harmless but some have had serious consequences.

Fed up of Jayalalithaa health rumours Seven more fake tales from the past
Features Rumours Tuesday, October 04, 2016 - 17:57

In the age of social media, the game of Chinese Whispers takes on a new dimension. Distorted information flies fast and rumours are spread in a matter of minutes.

The number of stories regarding Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa’s health that have been circulating on social media is a recent example. From taking a photograph of a female patient in Peru and claiming it to be that of the CM to making cryptic statements about “riots” that are about to break out in Chennai, there has been plenty of irresponsible rumour-mongering in the state.

What’s worse is that the public finds such unverified information more believable than official news communicated through authorized sources. But then, a rumour is more interesting than the staid truth.

Here are some popular rumours from the past: some harmless, some with consequences.

Delhi’s Monkey Man

The Monkey Man was a “monster” who supposedly roamed the streets of Delhi and attacked people in mid-2001. Eyewitnesses could never agree on what the creature looked like. Some said that it was about four feet tall and covered in thick black hair with metal claws, a metal helmet and glowing red eyes. Others claimed that it had a snout and was as tall as eight feet!

Since this was before smartphones flooded the market, there were no pictures of the Monkey Man.

But there were mobile phones and the rumours flew fast and thick. The police received numerous fake calls from people who claimed that they had spotted the Monkey Man. Due to the sheer panic that gripped the city, a few persons even died when they leapt from buildings or fell down stairwells, thinking that they’d seen the attacker.

The police believed that anti-social elements were making use of the hysteria to loot people or play pranks. To date, the existence of the Monkey Man remains a mystery.

Aarushi Talwar was adopted

 There were several rumours about the sensational double murders that took place in Noida in 2008, but the one that Aarushi Talwar was adopted had to be among the strangest.

The rumour was propounded by a number of people, from the UP police to writer and socialite Shobhaa De, turning the public mood decisively against Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, Aarushi’s parents who were later convicted of the murder of their daughter and domestic help Hemraj by a special CBI court.

Nupur, who appeared on a television show soon after the murders and did not cry, was especially targeted for her “lack of emotions” which was seen as unnatural.

The rumour that Aarushi was not their biological daughter was discussed on social media forums as a possible “motive” for the murders. The Bollywood film “Rahasya” which is loosely based on the double murders also went with the theory that Aarushi was not Nupur Talwar’s biological daughter.

NASA has released an image of India on Diwali day

This photograph went viral on social media. It first appeared in 2011 and continues to resurface every Diwali since!

So popular was this rumour that NASA released an actual picture of India on Diwali day the next year to put an end to the story. But tough luck, NASA, this is one rumour that refuses to die down no matter how many times it’s exposed as a fake. 

Swathi’s murder was “love jihad”

The brutal murder of Infosys techie Swathi by her alleged stalker in Chennai earlier this year, sent tongues wagging and there were numerous rumours and conspiracy theories doing the rounds on social media.

The ugly face of communalism rose in the midst of the tragedy, with several people, including celebrities like actor Y Gee Mahendra accusing a Muslim friend of the victim’s to be the murderer. The murder was termed an act of “love jihad”.

The accused, Ramkumar, was nabbed by the police and he recently committed suicide when in prison – an incident that has once again stirred the cauldron of rumours. It was Swathi’s birthday last week and her sister wrote a moving letter of remembrance which also mentioned the trauma that the family has faced because of rumour mongers.

UNESCO’s Best National Anthem and Best Prime Minister

A hoax email which claimed that UNESCO has declared India’s National Anthem to be the best in the world first emerged in 2008 but keeps resurfacing every now and then despite attempts to quell it. WhatsApp messages entreating Indians to be proud because of this “achievement” appeared even towards the end of 2014.

Another fake UNESCO award that many Indians celebrated was the “Best Prime Minister in the World Award” which was reported to have been won by Narendra Modi. Even billiards champion Pankaj Advani fell for it and tweeted his congratulations to the Indian PM!

National anthem is a salutation to the British

While Indian people celebrate UNESCO’s non-existent award for the Best National Anthem, many also believe that “Jana Gana Mana” is really a song that praises Emperor George V.

This is not a new rumour and was around even in Tagore’s time. In fact, he was asked about it and this was his reply, “I should only insult myself if I cared to answer those who consider me of such unbounded stupidity as to sing in praise of George IV or George V as the Eternal Charioteer leading the pilgrims on their journey through countless ages of the timeless history of mankind.”

However, with the Internet and social media, this old rumour has got new life and continues to circulate among the new breed of “nationalists”. In reality, Tagore was asked to sing a song in praise of the monarch and he flatly refused to do so.

Crocodiles escaped during Chennai floods

While fish, frogs and even snakes entered the homes of people during the Chennai floods of December 2015, crocodiles did not make an appearance. However, there was a rumour that crocodiles had escaped from the Madras Crocodile Bank.

Fake images like this one were circulated on social media, adding to panic and confusion in the city.

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