On the 7th of January, The Hindu published a report that claimed that ‘scholars’ at IIT-Kharagpur had issued a statement in solidarity with the students of JNU. However, as it turns out, it was a gross violation of journalistic principles on part of the mainstream media. In the report, the ‘scholars’ were, as expected, against the government and the Delhi Police and it was a unique opportunity for the media to run its conventional anti-BJP campaign.
The entire report published by The Hindu is based on a statement that was not issued by any official organisation within the institution. We were told by sources that the statement was most definitely not issued by the Research Scholars Council as it claims.
In fact, several members of the Council, we are told, came to know of it long after it was issued. It condemned the “unprecedented violence and terror” in the JNU campus led by “hooded-armed mobs.”
The statement said, “Such act of terror has no place in any civilised world, least of all in the sphere of learning. We, at IIT Kharagpur, feel this terror more keenly as we have also been part of various movements in the past.” It added, “In JNU, the attacking mob were protected by the Delhi Police who stated that they cannot enter the campus without permission. However, the same police did not wait for permission when they assaulted students inside other university campuses, turning them into war zones.”
If one notices, interestingly, the so-called statement that The Hindu published had no signature or any official stamp. Essentially, any media house would be expected to confirm whether the statement was, in fact, issued by the appropriate authorities.
If the Research Scholar’s Council of IIT-KGP had indeed issued this statement, the council would have to take approval at multiple levels to ensure that the statement, with the official signature, can be released to the press. We have learnt that no such approval was taken and this was unilaterally released to the press by a handful of Left students from the University. It was thus gross malpractice for The Hindu to trust and unverified, unsigned statement as authentic and paint it as the voice of the entire Research Council.
Emails were also written by a research scholar of the institution to the Editorial Board of The Hindu demanding an answer for the factual inaccuracies in the report. These emails have been accessed by OpIndia. The first email was sent on the 10th of January. It said, “On behalf of the research scholars, IIT Kharagpur Research Council didn’t release any official solidarity statement related to incidents happened in JNU. Therefore, the whole report lacks factual authenticity.” It adds, “Publication of an unverified statement like this has maligned the reputation of the research community as well as the whole institution.”
The email demanded that the report be withdrawn and sought an immediate response over the matter. Five days passed but still, there was no response from the editorial board of The Hindu.
The second email sent on the 15th of January, again requested the newspaper to correct its mistake. It said, “Further silence on this matter will only lead to the confirmation that this was a politically motivated by The Hindu which lacked authenticity.” Five days have passed since the second letter and ten days since the first letter was sent and yet, The Hindu hasn’t bothered to correct its obvious bit of fake news.
We can confirm that a statement was issued on the 9th of January by the Students’ Senate, the official student representative body of IIT-Kharagpur. The statement, which is clearly in response to the earlier unverified statement peddled by The Hindu, is completely politically neutral unlike the previous statement and makes it clear that the Students’ Senate is the only official body authorized to make a statement on behalf of the students of IIT-Kharagpur.
The statement by the Students’ Senate condemns the violence but neatly avoids any blame game over the matter like the unauthorized statement engaged in. It reiterates that this was the only statement issued by the students of IIT-Kharagpur over the JNU Saga.
One must note that The Hindu had published a report attributing the wildly strong and sweeping to the Research Scholar’s Council. The unverified statement, which was found to have been not released by the Council even went on to blame sweepingly blame the police for it. The actual statement, which was issued only to dispel the fake news spread by The Hindu has been released by the much larger Student’s Senate and has taken requisite approval from the various authorities in IIT-KGP. The statement of the Student’s Senate is also extremely neutral in nature and does not assign blame, only condemned violence in generic terms.
The shoddy reporting by The Hindu is further evidence of the fact that it is the mainstream media that is more interested in the ‘student movement’ against the CAA and NRC and the JNU saga than the students themselves. We have documented extensively the manner in which the mainstream media has struggled hard to build the narrative of a ‘student movement’ against the government despite the fact that no such movement existed on the ground. In the current instance, The Hindu used an unauthorized unverified statement by motivated individuals within IIT-Kharagpur to build the narrative that the entirety of IIT-Kharagpur was against the government over the violence at JNU.