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India's tourism board is fighting to salvage the country's reputation after graphic photos of "decomposed dead bodies" and garbage piling up in the Ganges river appeared in the Chinese blogosphere.
A travel blog on Sina entitled “Went to democratic India for a holiday, spat my way back home” went viral over the week and featured a series of gruesome photos reportedly taken in India by the blogger, Happy Zhangjiang.
The photos were also accompanied by an unflattering blog about filthy living conditions in the country.
India’s tourism industry has been battling a spate of negative publicity since a 23-year-old female student died after being gang-raped on a New Delhi bus last year.
On Sunday, five villagers confessed to gang-raping a Swiss tourist in central India. The incident drew international concern about tourism and women's safety in the country.
In January, a 23-year-old Chinese national was reportedly raped in New Delhi. Beijing urged the Indian government to do more to ensure the safety of mainland visitors.
The blog's photos depicted heavily polluted city streets with wild animals roaming freely, people with leprosy, dirty open-air toilets and the river banks of the Ganges littered with rubbish. A few photos appeared to be human bodies floating in the water.
“India is the dirtiest country I have been to, some say worse than both Pakistan and Bangladesh. It was beyond the scope of my imagination,” the travel blog read.
The blog was forwarded on Sina Weibo more than 120,200 times and had attracted more than 37,000 comments since it was first posted last Tuesday.
The Indian tourism bureau’s official weibo account, Incredible India, was bombarded with comments, negative and positive.
Reaction to the travel blog on Chinese social media was mixed. Some expressed shock and disgust at the graphic images.
“Dead floating pigs in a river is a small thing compared to this…,” one user on weibo commented, referring to thousands of dead pigs still being fished out of Shanghai's Huangpu river.
Many Chinese netizens however, criticised the post for attacking India when conditions in parts of China were similar.
“China likes to subjectively judge other country's conditions, but does not realise its own are the most pathetic. This is just way too sad,” one user commented on the original blog post.
A few also noted that some of the photos were not originals taken by the blogger and claimed the blog was a hoax. One of the photos appeared to be accredited with to “Benares, India 1977, Copyright 2006".
“First of all, the article is a patchwork of plagiarism. Secondly, a large number of the photos are disrespectful to the dead and not suitable for public viewing…India has many beautiful places and a fantastic culture,” a weibo user said on the Incredible India account.