In the run-up to the Bihar elections, media reported many atrocities and crimes taking place all over India, and most of such stories which were heavily highlighted by media related to crimes against minorities and dalits. As the dust settled though, much like the unfolding of the “church attacks” bogey, many of these stories revealed some alternate versions which question the premise of rising intolerance and communal violence
A facebook page named as “DALIT Parivar – The Rising Shudra – dedicated to Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar” posted a video claiming that a Dalit family in UP was stripped by police. This was first picked up by a site called Daily Sikh Updates, (who later deleted the story) and later by news sites like The Hindu and DNA . The video in fact was inconclusive and could not prove that the family had been forced to strip. DNA did mention this in their piece, but only as a byline. India Today however carried a story that the family had stripped on its own accord, as a sign of protest. A ground report from Caravan also supported this theory and also revealed that Sunil Gautam, a member of the family was commonly found doing such antics. Eventually SP Noida also clarified that the family was not stripped by the cops but it was done by themselves. We had covered this in our “Media lies” post for October.
2. Dadri Mob lynching of Akhlaq over beef
We are all too familiar with this news, which was a sort of inflection point for the entire “intolerance” debate. We were told that a lynch mob, on the basis that a Muslim had eaten beef, attacked him and beat him to death. Today a story has emerged from Dadri, with an eyewitness saying beef may not have been the reason. He says the murder was orchestrated by a handful of people and not a mob. He says the main motive was some personal enmity. He asks why Akhlaq’s son Danish, who had suffered injuries and was the prime witness, hasn’t been approached by the cops even though he is out of hospital now. He asks why the piece of cow hide was so far away from “beef eater” Akhlaq’s house. While this may not be enough to conclusively prove anything, these are pertinent questions which raise doubts about the original narrative.
Amnesty International, the human rights group, hosted a petition to help 2 dalit sisters in UP, who were apparently ordered to be raped by a Khap Panchayat. According to a news report, one of the sisters also moved court. But after the story gained much international traction thanks to Amnesty, some issues began coming up. BBC visited the said village and the villagers said there was no such order passed. The local police also said that their investigations revealed that there was no such order passed. The village council also denied such allegations. When asked, Amnesty spokesperson Gopika Bashi said:
“We have not been on the ground, we have not visited the village, We still believe that whatever has occurred, regardless of allegations being thrown back and forth that it’s very important that the family is safe and the girls are safe.”
Apparently Amnesty’s petition, which went viral all over the world, was based solely on the application made by one of the sisters to the court. In such cases it is hard to say which version is the truth, but fact remains that it wasn’t a clear cut case as it was made out to be by Amnesty.
This story said that the headmaster of a school, Md Hasmad Ali was beaten to death after he was seen with a calf that was missing from the shed of one of the villagers. This lynching story was picked up even by NY times to further their anti-India propaganda. Even though the media had made up its mind, Ali’s elder son said something different:
It’s a cold blooded murder because of some land dispute. The murderers shift the blame on another community and take advantage of the (sensitive) functioning of the society.
The son further blamed his father’s death on a personal land dispute with his neighbour and also distant relative, Mohammad Amu, and Amu’s brother. The family said that Amu tried to mask his personal enmity by using communal overtones to shift the blame elsewhere even as he was settling scores with his enemy. Also, the “Meeteis” have been characterised as Hindus, by national media, who killed a Muslim. But a member of the Meetei ethnic group staunchly opposes being homogeneously identified with being Hindu or Hinduism. In his detailed account of the incident, he mentions how no-one in the village bought the cow story and that Ali, the deceased, was a well to do, respectable citizen who would never need to steal a calf.
News channels went into overdrive discussing this revenge murder of dalit children by upper caste Rajputs. TV debates were centred around growing intolerance and rising incidents of violence. An angle was dug which said this murder was a revenge for the children’s family being involved in some murder, a year back. But a few days later, as investigations went ahead, initial theories were trashed. Forensic experts who investigated the crime scene concluded that the “origin and source of fire was from inside the room and not from outside”. They found a half-burnt kerosene oil plastic bottle under the partially burnt bed and a burnt matchstick lying on a slab next to the window of the room. The report also apparently mentioned that there were “no traces of outside entry” into the premises. There are many other inconsistencies between the forensic report and the version which was publicized. Again, too early to say either ways but premature outrage won the battle.
The story claimed that an old Dalit man was killed because he tried to enter a temple in Uttar Pradesh. This was subsequently picked up by various media outlets. But other media houses reported that the Dalit man was in fact killed by a drunkard. They reported that the Dalit man was going to the temple, when he was asked for money by a drunkard. When he refused, the drunkard hit him with an axe, and later burnt his body. This was also confirmed by the District Magistrate. Indian Express also confirmed the money angle and further reported that the deceased was in fact coming out of a temple and that too a temple built by members of the SC community. So the bogey raised by Hindustan Times was proved to be totally untrue. We had covered this in our “Media lies” post for October.