In February this year, many parts of Haryana saw violent protests by the members of the Jat community, who were demanding reservations in government jobs and educational institutes for themselves.
Although Jat leaders had been putting forward such demands for long, the agitation was triggered by the perceived “success” of Hardik Patel, who got the Patidar community to agitate in a similar fashion in Gujarat.
Hardik became a household name and was promoted as a fiery “student leader” challenging the “establishment”. He received support from many political leaders and the media was soft on him as they saw in him a challenger who could defeat BJP in Gujarat, Narendra Modi’s home turf.
With this background, Jats too decided to renew their reservation demands with similar protests in Haryana, where BJP had formed government for the first time. In around 10 days, the protests became violent and witnessed widespread destruction of government and private property. At least 30 people were killed too as police forces tried to stop the rampaging protesters.
Apart from arson and loot forming part of these violent protests, there were claims that the protesters had raped some women who were travelling in private vehicles at Murthal in Haryana on the Delhi-Ambala national highway on the night of 22nd February.
The claims, mostly spread through the social media and dismissed as rumours by the police, got in national limelight when the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted about it:
Murthal gangrapes are shocking and shameful. Strongest punishment shud be given to the culprits.
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) February 26, 2016
The police, however, denied such incidents taking place. They claimed that there were no credible evidences that hinted at such a gruesome crime taking place. But seeing the gravity of the matter, the Haryana government formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe into the alleged incidents of rapes.
Meanwhile two reports published in the mainstream media claimed that there were credible evidences and eyewitnesses to the alleged rapes.
First one was published in The Tribune, which quoted owner of a dhaba saying that a victim had come to his dhaba in naked condition. However, when ABP News asked him about the same, he denied being a witness to any such incident.
Another eyewitness, a truck driver, also claimed that he had seen nothing and was in fact asked by the media persons to claim otherwise. This was analysed in detail by the website Media Hitjobs in this article. You can watch the relevant videos there.
The other report was published by Firstpost.com, which was more explosive as it claimed to have account of a rape victim. Filed by a reporter named Tarique Anwar, the report narrated a depressing and shocking story of gangrape. It quoted the victim, her husband, her mother, and even police officers.
Firstpost had published the story on 29th February, and the tweet about the same still exists on their official Twitter page:
— Firstpost (@firstpost) February 29, 2016
However, when we tried to access the story today, we found that Firstpost had removed it.
We accessed this story after a newsbreak informing that Punjab and Haryana High Court
had permitted was suggested by its Amicus Curiae to prosecute of a journalist who had fabricated evidence in the Murthal gangrape case. A Facebook post by a lawyer claimed that the concerned journalist was Firstpost’s Tarique Anwar, who had recorded voice of his female friend and passed it off as the account of a rape victim’s mother.
To confirm this claim, we talked to the Firstpost’s editorial team, and got to know that Tarique Anwar was indeed found guilty of malpractices during an internal inquiry and was removed from his job in April this year.
Firstpost suspected his credentials when an SP quoted in the report denied ever speaking to any reporter named Tarique Anwar. As it turned out, he had made up the entire report with imaginary quotes! An archived version of the report can be read here.
To the credit of Firstpost, the report by Tariqe Anwar was withdrawn and a clarification cum apology was issued subsequently that read as:
“REPORT WITHDRAWN: On 29 February, 2016, Firstpost published a report by a staff correspondent headlined “Cops told us to be quiet for sake of honour’, Survivors of Murthal violence describe their ordeal.” After a detailed internal inquiry, following a strong denial of the report by the local police, we were unable to corroborate the claims of the women quoted therein. Consequently, we are withdrawing the report with apologies to our readers. – Editor”
Not just the report was withdrawn, the reporter was fired from his job by Firstpost too. When asked where Tarique Anwar was employed currently, Firstpost couldn’t confirm his current status. But after some investigations we could find out that Tarique Anwar is currently employed with the Times Group. A profile on IndiaTimes.com confirms him being associated with the Times Group, with his latest report published only yesterday.
The incident proves how unreliable and risky the mainstream media has become. Not only did a reporter invent quotes of victim and policeman to support a narrative he wanted to build, but even after being caught and fired for this unethical behaviour, he could get a new job. Ethics don’t matter in the mainstream journalism?
Nonetheless, looks like the law will catch up with the lying reporter, as the High Court’s Amicus Curiae has suggested prosecution of Tarique Anwar for misleading the court. SIT constituted by the state government had also found no proof about what this reporter claimed. Further, reports suggest that Anwar admitted to his crime of fabricating evidence in the court.
But will the media allow one of its own to be taken to task? Or will they cry “Emergency” and “Attack on Press freedom” if the charges are framed against the lying journalist?
After all only a few days back, many leading Indian journalists had shared the following article by the leftist propaganda blog Scroll, which tried to indirectly shield acts of a journalist who was found guilty of defamation by a court:
(note: this article was updated after Times of India corrected its tweet about the possible prosecution of the journalist)