Pics or it didn’t happen?
At a news conference on June 5, Indian police officers Dinesh and Tarakeshwari Rathod announced that they had climbed Mount Everest, the tallest peak in the world. By early June, multiple news outlets reported on the climb, which was believed to be the first time an Indian couple had ascended the peak together.
The Rathods were joyous, with the Hindustan Times reporting that the couple had put off having kids to pursue their dream climb. “We were committed that we would not give birth to a child until we climb Mt. Everest," Dinesh Rathod told reporters at the June 5 news conference. "With pride now, we want to become parents."
Unfortunately for the police officers from Pune, the limelight didn’t last long. By late June, reporters, climbers, and social media users began to pick apart the couple’s claims. Buzzfeed rounded up several of these alleged inaccuracies in a post that questioned the couple’s timeline and lack of preparation, as well as showed blatantly photoshopped photos.
Bangalore resident Satyarup Siddhanta posted some of these photos to Facebook. The photos, which depict Siddhanta's Everest climb, appear to have been taken and posted as proof that the Rathods had climbed Everest. One photo supposedly depicting Tarakeshwari at the summit appears to simply be one Siddhanta’s photos with Tarakeshwari's face and an Indian flag edited onto it
“This is so so so amazing!!!!!!!! They took my pics and photoshopped their image of summit... And got certificates too,” Siddhanta said in the post. “Shame on you officers from Pune!”
Since the news conference and allegations of fraud, the Rathods haven’t spoken to the media, save for a brief statement from Tarakeshwari Rathod to the BBC saying that they “climbed Everest.” Kathmandu-based touring company Makalu Adventure, which organized the climb, has defended the couple, with representatives confirming that two of the company’s sherpas did indeed take the couple to the summit.
Though faking a climb does not amount to a criminal offence, Nepalese authorities are reportedly investigating the claims of fraud. If found to be fakers, the couple could be banned from climbing in Nepal.