The Varanasi District Administration has served the Janasandesh Time journalist Vijay Vineet with a legal notice for spreading misinformation with his article claiming that members of Musahar community in villages close to Varanasi were eating grass in the wake of lockdown ordered by PM Modi to combat the spread of coronavirus.
A news editor of Jansandesh time, Vijay Vineet had published a report on March 26 about families in Koiripur village (Baragaon block) eking out their existence on grass, accompanied with an image of poor children eating grass. The report was widely shared on social media and by other media outlets and invited criticism of the government.
However, according to the legal notice sent by the District Magistrate, Varanasi, the facts and claims made in the article did not correspond to reality. As per the findings of an investigation in the matter constituted by the DM, the grass which was being consumed by children in Janasandesh’s report was actually “akhri daal”, which according to the notice is usually consumed by the children there and that it was perfectly edible. It is a kind of wild pulse that grows in that area in the fields of wheat. The legal notice also added a picture of Varanasi DM Kaushal Raj Sharma himself consuming the “akhri daal” along with his family members.
“It is clear that the reporter associated with Janasandesh Time by describing the consumption of “akhri daal” as grass-eating is a gross attempt by him to cast aspersions on the Musahar community and spread misinformation among the masses at a critical time. I had sent you a Whatsapp message at 1:30 AM denouncing this baseless report but you still went ahead to publish the misleading article on the front page,” the notice signed by Varanasi DM read.
The legal notice ordered the concerned journalist and Janasandesh Time to issue clarification as to on what basis did they publish the report about the alleged grass consumption by the members of Musahar community. The notice asked the news daily to publish a report on March 27, denouncing the article published the previous day, failing which appropriate action will be initiated against them.
While Vijay Vineet was slapped with a legal notice for his false reportage tarnishing a community for its long-standing practise of eating “akhri daal”, there were other media outlets which co-opted Vineet’s article to peddle their anti-government propaganda but are so far unscathed from any legal action ordered against them.
Congress mouthpiece National Herald published the report asserting that Dalit children were forced to eat grass in PM’s constituency. The article stated that the hunger pangs following the lockdown order by PM Modi have forced the Dalit members of the village to eat grasses in sheer desperation.
Another habitual fake news peddler The Wire too picked up on the unfounded news of the Dalit kids eating grass to slake their hunger. Known for being critical towards the government, the article published in the Wire attempted to portray that the Prime Minister’s call for a lockdown has caused massive disruption in the food consumption of the underprivileged, forcing them, especially children, to eat grass amidst severe restrictions.