Fact Check: Did UPA Invite Taliban Leader To Speak At Think Fest In 2013?

The Logical Indian Crew Delhi

December 12th, 2017 / 6:55 PM

Credit: Boom Live | Image Courtesy: Twitter, Twitter

A photograph of P Chidambaram with a Taliban leader went viral yesterday leading to huge media uproar. This picture was taken during Think Fest 2013 organised by Tehelka. They have been clicked in the same frame but they are not facing each other.

This image was first tweeted by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in 2013. This was revived by Times Now and an exclusive story was made out of it. In the story, they claimed that “UPA invited Taliban leader to speak at the Think Fest 2013”. As a part of the tweets, Times Now also used a hashtag, #CongTalibanTango.

Tweet by Defence Minister, back in 2013:

Tweet by Times Now:

Tweets by other BJP leaders:


Invitation by Tehelka

This image comes while Gujarat elections are on. This image is enough to stir a fresh controversy and BJP leaders have been widely tweeting this image. But contrary to the claims, it was not upon UPA’s invite that Mullah Abdul Zaeef had come for Think 2013. He was invited by the Think 2013 organisers, Tehelka. Think is “Tehelka’s signature annual event, hosted in partnership with Newsweek magazine,” says the About section on the official website of the event. Zaeef was invited among 80 speakers who had attended the event that year and he participated in two different sessions on the 2nd and the 3rd day of the event.


Clarification by Tehelka

When Boom live spoke to the managing editor Shoma Chaudhury who was in-charge of moderating these sessions, she confirmed that it was she who invited Zaeef. This was in accordance with the tone of the event which aimed at bringing diverse voices from all sections of the society including politics and international diplomacy on a common platform. Zaeef was listed on a platform with America’s former counter-terrorism head with the Central Intelligence Agency, Robert Grenier.

Chaudhury clarified that the man speaking to Zaeef is none other than Grenier. “This picture was shot in the Speaker’s lounge as they got ready to take the stage and if you look into the image, Mr Chidambaram is looking in front while Mr Zaeef is speaking to former CIA Chief. It is a ridiculous conspiracy theory ahead of the elections,” said Chaudhury.

Though, Boom hasn’t been able to verify independently whether Chidambaram and Zaeef had any interactions with each other, it is highly unlikely for the media to miss the session had it happened in public. Sessions list on the website of Think shows that both her sessions with Chidambaram and the Taliban leader were scheduled to close to each other.

A screen shot of the list
A screenshot of the session list

This is what the senior Congress leader tweeted:

Similar examples of fake news:


The Logical Indian Take

This photograph is circulating once again after four years after the event took place due to the pitched political battle between the Congress and the BJP ahead of the second phase Gujarat polls. Zaeef’s invitation to Tehelka’s event had generated quite some controversy in 2013 itself.

Creating or sharing fake news is never justified. We have a responsibility to verify everything that we post on the internet. To ensure that our national debate is healthy and well-informed, each and every one of us has a responsibility of treating what we read with a pinch of salt, a spoonful of doubt, and a flood of research.

The Logical Indian urges its community members to not consume news without checking and verifying the facts. Videos and pictures should not be circulated without the knowledge of the accurate information.


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Written by : Swarnami Mondal (Intern)

Edited by : Bharat Nayak

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