India has registered its best-ever performance in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Olympic medalists like Neeraj Chopra, Ravi Kumar Dahiya, Manpreet Singh belong to farmer families, and thus #FarmersShineInOlympics began trending on Twitter along with the hashtag #FarmersProtest.
Shortly afterwards, a few Hindi tweets purportedly made by Olympic gold medalist in the javelin throw, Neeraj Chopra, began to surface on social media. The tweets read in Hindi, "130 करोड़ भारतीयों का दिल से धन्यवाद ये जीत मेरी नहीं मेरे किसान भाइयों की हैं". (Heartfelt thanks to 130 crore Indians. This victory is not mine but of my farmer brothers.)
"ये गोल्ड मेडल मेरी और मेरे कोच की वर्षों मेहनत का नतीजा है। मोदी जी को इसका क्रेडिट देने की कोशिश ना करें ". (This gold medal is the result of years of hard work by me and my coach. Don't try to give credit to Modi Ji.)
Netizens have been sharing a screengrab of these tweets and claiming that Neeraj Chopra, a farmer's son himself, has been openly supporting the farmers' protest against the new farm laws.
Netizens also claim that Modi Ji is so fond of taking credit for every good thing that Neeraj Chopra had to clarify by tweeting that his medal has nothing to do with PM Modi; it belongs to him and his coach's hard work. The screengrabs of these tweets are widely circulated on Facebook.
Neeraj Chopra tweeted in favour of farmers and denied any credit to PM Modi for his Olympic win.
Neeraj Chopra became the first Indian track and field athlete to win a gold at the Olympics. Every Indian celebrated his victory. But it was suspicious to observe such an honorary athlete have only 24k followers on Twitter with an unverified account as @neeraj_chopra_. The account profile says it became active on Twitter in December 2020 and has only two tweets so far.
So, we searched on Twitter and found another account in the name of Neeraj Chopra. This account @Neeraj_chopra1 was verified by Twitter and had around 435k followers. The account states it joined Twitter in June 2017 and has several tweets and pretty good engagement.
While observing the tweets addressed to @neeraj_chopra_, we found a Twitterati reply that mentioned that the account was earlier active with handle ZARA @zara_sharif_.
However, when Twitter searched for the account @zara_sharif_, we found that it does not exist anymore. We found an archived version of this account whose bio read, "Student jamiya millia islamia - Anti CAA NRC protestor... No Dm".
While searching for the handle @zara_sharif_ on Twitter, we came across various tweets mentioning the handle @neeraj_chopra_.
In some tweets, people addressed @neeraj_chopra_ as Zara.
We also looked for Twitter IDs for both the handles, @neeraj_chopra_ and @zara_sharif_. Twitter ID is a unique ID assigned by Twitter to each user while joining the network. A user can change the Twitter handle, but the Twitter ID remains the same. Using the social media tool Tweetbeaver, we found that both the handles @neeraj_chopra_ and @zara_sharif_ have the same Twitter ID 1339895042933104642.
We also observed the original Twitter account of Neeraj Chopra, @Neeraj_chopra1, to see whether he made any tweet crediting farmers for his win or discrediting PM Modi for his victory. Still, we could not find any such tweet on his Twitter timeline. Had he made such a tweet, it would've been covered by the Indian media outlets.
Therefore, it is clear that the tweets viral on social media are made by a fake account in the name of Neeraj Chopra, which netizens believed was shared by the Olympian gold medalist himself.
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