Altered image of India's Modi with 'shaved head after mother's death' misleads online

After the death of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's mother on December 30, a digitally altered image was shared hundreds of times in social media posts that falsely claimed it showed the leader with a shaved head. While some Hindus traditionally shave their heads following the death of a close relative, the Hindu nationalist leader had not done so, as of January 5. The doctored image was taken from a photo of the leader which shows him with a full head of hair.

"Prime Minister Narendra Modi shaved his head after his mother's death as per Hindu custom. #PMModiji,” reads a Hindi-language Facebook post from January 2, using an Indian honorific to describe the leader.

"Heartfelt tribute to mother Heeraben."

Modi's mother Heeraben died on December 30, local media reported.

Head shaving upon the death of a close relative is a Hindu custom.

A screenshot of a Facebook post sharing the altered image, captured on January 10, 2023

The image was also shared on Facebook here, here and here; and on Twitter.

Some social media users appeared to believe that the picture was a genuine photo of Modi.

"Modi is a real Hindu and a historically great Indian PM. We are proud of him," one user commented.

Another wrote: "Modi ji has made Hindu society proud by following the ethos. Long live Narendra Modi."

However, the image has been altered from a photo of Modi taken in 2017.

Altered image

A reverse image search on Russian search engine Yandex found the original photo in an article from December 15, 2017 by financial news website Moneycontrol.

The photo caption reads: "Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the media on the first day of the winter session of Parliament, in New Delhi."

The photo is credited to Indian news agency PTI.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the altered image (left) and the original photo (right):

Screenshot comparison of the altered image (left) and the original photo (right)

The photo is available in the PTI's archives.

Screenshot of the original photo found in the PTI's archives, taken on January 5, 2023

The altered image has circulated online since at least 2021 in posts on ShareChat and Reddit, where the original and edited images are shown side-by-side.

Photos posted on Modi's official Twitter account on January 5 show that he had not shaved his head.

Screenshot of a tweet from January 5, 2023 showing Modi with an unshaven head

Photos of Modi attending his mother's funeral on December 30 published by The Hindu and the Deccan Herald newspapers also show that he had not shaved his head.