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‘Media watchdog’ Newslaundry peddles casteist propaganda on Jagannath Temple, Puri

Left-leaning website Newslaundry, which likes to call itself a ‘media watchdog’ is back to peddling propaganda, this time, the casteist propaganda that President Kovind and his wife were ill-treated by the priests at Jagannath Temple, Puri because of his caste. In an article titled ‘The media’s blind eye to President Kovind’s humiliation’, Newslaundry tries to ‘analyse’ why a ‘Dalit president’s insult by Brahmin priests’ inside a temple is not a newsworthy story.

Which is interesting tweet to link a propaganda piece, considering we at OpIndia had already busted the ‘Brahmin priest’ theory which was earlier peddled by coup theorist Shekhar Gupta. A narrative was built to say how Brahmin priest misbehaved with President Kovind because he is a Dalit.

Newslaundry questions why a Dalit president’s insult by Brahmin priests inside the temple, not a newsworthy story? First of all, many major publications as well as well as politicians picked up the story. So the claim ‘Apart from one or two media houses, the story wasn’t even printed, let alone debated on prime-time news hours.’ is incorrect.

Next the article states that on ‘on March 18, a servitor (a Brahmin priest performing rituals) did not give the president proper space. Some servitors even “nudged” the couple while they were having darshan.’ The fact is, that among 36 types of servitors, nijoga as it is called, most of them are not even Brahmins. For example, the servitors who prepare the earthen pot for cooking Mahaprasad are potters (Kumbhara). In fact, the class of priest who enjoys the highest privilege, Daitapati, are descendants of tribals. They enjoy some exclusive privilege and access during the annual Rath Yatra and Nabakalebara when the Lord takes a new form leaving His old body.

There are many other classes of servitors like the Suara, Bhoi, Bimanabadu, Bishoi etc who are not Brahmins and enjoy equal privilege inside temple performing some duty of the Lord. So, this imaginary theory that President was ill-treated because he was a Dalit falls flat.

Newslaundry article then states a ‘fact’, ‘The fact that President Kovind went public with his insult, and issued a notice to the temple administration, shows this is not a trivial issue, like evading personal space or simple pushing.’ The President’s office has categorically denied such an incident having taken place. Press secretary to the President tweeted that the incident mentioned in Newslaundry article is ‘fictional’.

This is not the first time Newslaundry has peddled propaganda and bigotry. Earlier a journalist with Newslaundry had even seemingly conjured up a ‘media person’ to further her own narrative about the Northeast. Earlier, during the Gujarat elections, a columnist with the portal was caught spreading propaganda using Twitter, by plugging an old video of the Prime Minister and passing it off a current video. The portal had also deliberately misquoted the Prime Minister to turn his statement into an ‘anti-Dalit’ joke. In fact, even their “fact-check” on PM Modi’s interview with Arnab Goswami was fact-checked by us.

Ironically, Newslaundry at one point, wanted to ‘keep news real’.

Update: The article by Newslaundry now stands ‘suspended‘ since ‘the incident it was commenting on has been denied to have occurred’.

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OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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