HYDERABAD: A set of two pictures is viral on social media.
One of the pictures shows a priest consuming liquor, while the other allegedly shows the same priest standing on an idol. "The man in the picture is Thomas Rajan, a Christian man. He has been appointed by the government of Tamil Nadu as a priest in a temple," reads the message.
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NewsMeter found that both the images are old and are falsely linked to the present Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government in Tamil Nadu.
Reports of the man in the viral picture appointed as a priest by the Tamil Nadu government surfaced after Chief Minister MK Stalin handed over orders to 208 persons including 24 trained archakas of all castes, for an appointment at temples being managed by the Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE).
It means that all persons of all castes could become priests at temples. However, not just archakas (pujari) at temples but staff and officers of the HR&CE department who are expected to discharge only secular functions are all ONLY from the Hindu community. According to Section 10 of HR&CE, people who are practicing Hinduism only could be appointed for the postings. Whoever is appointed for fulfilling the purpose of the Act has to be a Hindu. (Read more here)
Clearly, the priest in the viral image is not a Christian.
Furthermore, the pictures have been falsely linked to the HR&CE Act and to the present DMK government in Tamil Nadu. The pictures have been on the internet since 2017 and 2020, long before MK Stalin was sworn in as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu
Image 1: NewsMeter performed a reverse image search and found a Youtube video posted in July 2017 that showed the same man as in the viral image. The viral visual can be seen at 0:39 in the YouTube video. The man identifies himself as Sankhar who is from Kodambakkam, Chennai. Clearly, he is not a Christain priest. Moreover, his attire also indicates that he is a Hindu priest and not a Christian priest.
The video has been on the internet since 2017.
Image 2: NewsMeter performed a reverse image search and found that the same picture has been circulating since 2020. The archived version of the posts from 2020 can be viewed here. Although we were unable to find more details of the image, it is clear that the pictures were not recently taken.
NewsMeter couldn't independently verify the identity of the people seen in the viral images. But it is clear that the pictures are not linked to the present DMK government in Tamil Nadu. MK Stalin was sworn in as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu on May 7, 2021, long after the viral pictures had surfaced online.
Evidently, the pictures are not linked to the current government in Tamil Nadu.