Journalists caught inventing incidents and data around caste atrocity ahead of elections

2014 was a watershed year in Indian politics. Not only did a non-Congress backed coalition gain an absolute majority (comfortably at that), it did so by traversing through one of the trickiest and most rewarding political terrains in India. For decades, Uttar Pradesh, has been ridden with caste-based politics. The two prime regional parties are both founded and popular solely based on the caste arithmetic and no other reason. Given the ground realities of caste-arithmetic and poor organisational base, BJP did a stellar job picking up 73 seats from UP (along with its ally), out of the possible 80, decimating its opponents.

Post poll analysis showed that BJP won, because it succeeded in uniting the fragmented vote, which was always divided on caste lines.  As study after study showed, BJP and its allies enjoyed a very strong vote share from across cross-sections of the society, from Dalits to Upper Castes.

Come 2016, we are now are very close to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. And the traditional foes of BJP have woken up. Having licked their wounds from 2014, they have learnt their lesson and their strategy is out in the open. For Delhi 2015, it was the fake “Christians under Attack” routine which was eventually demolished by investigators. For Bihar 2015, it was the “Award Wapsi” season, which sank without a trace the very day the elections were over. For UP 2017, the idea is clear: break-up the united castes of UP.

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A dangerous game is now being played, that of turning castes against each other. Atrocities against Dalits are being highlighted by some interested parties. Yes, the backward castes of India are indeed in many places under-privileged, and any genuine atrocity against them needs to be dealt with, but this time we are seeing a new wave of manufactured outrage.

Congress Social Media cell operators are digging out videos from 2011 and blindly labelling them as atrocities against Dalits. How once can figure out who are Dalits and who are not, just from a grainy video is beyond comprehension. These are then spread by a select coterie of journalists. AAP leaders, who were formerly against caste politics are now openly batting for caste-related outrage.

It may be argued that it is expected of political parties to be playing this game, but now we have media also giving a helping hand. The unfortunate attack on Dalits in Una by “cow vigilantes” was hyped and discussed to no end on mainstream media, so much so that even PM Modi was forced into condemning Gau Rakshaks who took law into their hands. But no media house is hyping the fact that one of these cow-loving criminals was a Muslim.

Earlier, we had shown how a journalist working with the Times of India lied on social media, trying to give a casteist angle to a crime. He had claimed that “dalit boys” were beaten by “upper caste”, which was then reported as gospel truth by many media houses, and was used for political propaganda. It was later revealed that 4 Dalits were among the people arrested for the crime. The Times of India reporter had by then deleted the tweet, but the news reports still exist.

Now, Times of India, is running a full-fledged campaign titled “Dalit Fury”. Every few days one sees a full page or at least a half page worth of articles, news reports, opinion pieces focusing solely on the above issue. If you see the caption on top of the page, you will see the words “Dalit Fury”. This of course has nothing to do with the news pieces in Times of India itself where they report how a Times of India owned University has been approved by the Samajwadi Party Government in UP. Conflict of Interest is of course not applicable to media houses.

Hacks from The Indian Express, are desperately trying to spin any event related to Dalits to Cows and Cow vigilantes. Regional journalists are left to clarify the facts:

Fiction vs Fact

The attack this time, is not one-sided though. It is not only “Dalits under attack”. Bigots masquerading as media persons have now left all pretence behind. Editor of The Telegraph, has taken to openly baiting lower castes by promoting enmity against Brahmins, all this based on shoddy data:

Every-time he was asked about the veracity of the figures, he claimed that the data was “metaphorical”.

First we had “Mahaul is more important than Data” from the ever-disappointing Madhu Trehan of Newslaundry, then we had NDTV’s Sunetra Choudhury proclaiming that “news is always subjective”, now another journalist claims “Data is metaphorical”.

As columnist Rupa Subramanya pointed out, Sakarshan’s “data”, comes from an article written by Khushwant Singh way back in 1990! Not only is this “metaphoric data” more than 26 years old, it does not even come from an authentic source. By no stretch of imagination is Khushwant Singh any sort of authority on such data, and neither does he mention any reliable source for his assertion. This is the intellectual and moral bankruptcy journalists in India are ready to plummet to, only to make a point in a set narrative.

All this points to only one thing: There is a clear, concerted effort by some in politics and in the media, to split India along caste fault-lines, primarily for the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections, and as they would hope, even for any other electoral battles in the future. On the one hand manufacturing of atrocities against Dalits, and on the other, manufacturing hate for upper castes.

In all this, the biggest casualty will obviously be the real crimes happening against lower castes and dalits. By creating fake data and fake news, media will eventually trivialise the issue, leading the reader to be sceptical about every such event. Where media and civil society should have been fighting earnestly against atrocities on Dalits, we will now see a situation where exaggerated and false reports from media will take away the importance from the real issue.

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