How HuffPost tried to incite communal feelings by twisting a news report

On Friday, the India website of Huffington Post (now re-branded as HuffPost) came out with an article which was headlined “Three Muslim Cattle Traders Killed By Mob In Jharkhand On Suspicion Of Kidnapping Local Children”:

Communal color given by HuffPo India

The headline clearly tried to insinuate as if the religious and professional identity of the lynched men had some connection with the unfortunate incident where a frenzied mob became bloodthirsty.

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What drilled home home the point further is that Indian media recently has been focusing a lot on alleged incidents of cow vigilantism. The article mentioned incidents of cow vigilantism in the body, even though the incident had got nothing to do with it even by the article’s own account.

This headline was enough for the rogue elements in the mainstream media, who have been regularly found guilty of spreading lies, to indulge in further fear mongering:

Now that the propagandists have spoken, let facts speak up.

According to reports, two such incidents of lynching were reported on Thursday. In the 1st incident on Thursday morning, the three Muslims plus another of their associate named Sheikh Halim whose body was found on Friday were killed by mobs in tribal dominated area of Rajnagar near Jamshedpur after rumours of child lifting gangs spread in the area.

The second incident was reported from a nearby area of Bagpeda where Gautam Verma, his brother Vikash Verma and friend Gangesh Gupta were beaten to death by a similar mob after reportedly being accused of being child lifters as they were returning back to Jamshedpur in their car. Reportedly there were five persons in the car including their elder brother Uttam Verma who suffered serious injuries and their 80 year old grandmother who had to watch the whole ordeal.

Uttam while speaking to media persons in a Jamshedpur hospital claimed that they were just in the area to identify spots to put up hoardings of the Swaccha Bharat Abhiyan as they had started a toilet installation business. Uttam also claimed that the police had reached the spot as the mob was getting aggressive but did nothing to stop the attack.

So going by the reports there was no such ‘communal’ flareup which had prompted the attack. Even the police denied any religious angle in the lynching. Both Hindus and Muslims had died in such incidents, but HuffPost decided to ignore the death of Hindus and focus only on the Muslims.

This fact later (this morning) acknowledged by HuffPost which proceeded to change the heading to:

6 People Killed By Mob In Jharkhand On Suspicion Of Kidnapping Local Children

They also issued a clarification that:

An earlier version of this story, which said three Muslim cattle traders were lynched by a mob, has been updated with the latest details.

But the damage was already done before the article was edited. It was already spread on the social media as another cow related attack on Muslims in a BJP ruled state.

What is extremely unfortunate is the fact that the very serious matter of a frenzied mob going on a murder spree based only on rumours was provided a communal colour by a section of the media without addressing the grave issues at hand.

This isn’t the first time such lynching incidents have come to light from that area. Reportedly two men were killed under similar circumstances on May 12th and 13th in the nearby Jadugora and Asanboni areas, again suspected of indulged in child trafficking.

Jharkhand has since long been reported to have been one of the biggest victims of human trafficking. According to this report from 2015, around 4000 children have gone missing from the state in the last 10 years and 1000 of them hadn’t been traced until then. It was also reported that a massive 42,000 girls have also been trafficked from Jharkhand to various metropolitan cities in India.

With two grave issues at hand – human trafficking and mob justice – all some journalists could focus was on religion. With such communal spins becoming more routine, one wonders if there is an organised attempt to incite communal riots in the country for petty political and ideological gains.

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