In a horrifying incident, on the 13th of October 2020, a woman self-immolated in front of the Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Sabha. She has now reportedly succumbed to her injuries. The victim had set herself on fire on the 13th outside the Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Sabha due to harassment by her in-laws. The victim, Aisha, whose original name was Anjana Tiwari was married to one Akhilesh Tiwari. After getting a divorce from Akhilesh Tiwari, she fell in love with a person named Asif. She married Asif after converting to Islam and changing her name to Aisha.
According to the woman, Asif left for Saudi Arabia soon after their marriage. She accused Asif’s family of harassing her. She said that she had made an unsuccessful attempt of filing a complaint against her in-laws in Maharajganj police station. She wanted to meet the Chief Minister, therefore, she set herself on fire in front of the Vidhan Sabha.
As per a report in Zee Hindustan, the woman, in her complaint letter to the DIG had stated that she was working in a shop with her sister where she had met Asif. As per the woman’s letter, Asif had raped her and had later, to escape rape charges, had convinced her to get married. Asif had allegedly called a maulvi to get married to Anjana and the couple had been living in a rented house in Maharajganj. As per the report, Asif had soon left to work in the Gulf and from there, he had been pressurising her to convert to Islam. The woman’s complaint had also stated that Asif’s family had rejected Anjana. Asif had also stopped sending money to Anjana to sustain herself and when she approached Asif’s family, she was rejected and harassed by them. She had also alleged that Asif’s family had forced her to convert to Islam.
In a turn of events, the Uttar Pradesh police arrested a Congress leader named Alok Prasad, reportedly the son of Congress veteran and former governor of Rajasthan Sukhdev Prasad. Alok was arrested by Lucknow police on inputs from Maharajganj police for allegedly provoking the woman to set herself on fire. According to the information provided by the police, Alok was also in the vicinity near the place of the incident at the Vidhan Sabha when the woman set herself on fire.
As is the norm with the media, this story was mostly lost in the cacophony of televisions news and political correctness. The mainstream papers that did cover this heinous incident, watered down the incident to hide the identity of the woman and her in-laws.
For example, the Times of India published two reports on the incident. In the first report, their headline had no indication that the marriage was an inter-faith marriage and that, The Hindu woman who had converted to Islam was harassed to a point where she had to set herself on fire.
In the first report, the headline simply read, “Women tries to immolate self in Lucknow”.
In the article copy, the only sentence that revealed the identity of the victim and the fact that it was an inter-faith marriage, was one sentence buried deep in the report.
The second report of Times of India where they covered a Congress leader being arrested for abetment and inciting the woman to set herself on fire, also only makes a passing reference of this material fact that can easily be missed by a reader.
Only in passing, does Times of India mention how the woman got married in 2014, but later separated from her husband and “started living with a man from another community”.
The fact that the woman was a Hindu and the man from “another community” was a Muslim is completely hidden. If anyone reads the Times of India report, they could very well think that the woman was a Muslim woman who was living with a Hindu man.
On the contrary, when the Times of India is often more than happy to identify victims by the religious or caste identity if the victim belongs to either the Muslim community or the Scheduled Caste.
While Times of India has no problem in identifying the victim by their religious or caste identity when the victim is a Muslim or a Dalit, the paper has shied away from identifying victim Aisha, whose original name was Anjana Tiwari.
Clearly, it is not only the identity of the victim but also the identity of the perpetrator that matters to the media. When it comes to shielding the identity of the accused who belong to the Muslim community, the media often falls over each other to write benign headlines and leave out essential details from their articles to peddle their agenda.
Indian Express actually went a step further and covered this case in a manner far worse than the Times of India.
In an article that covered how the victim had succumbed to her injuries after she had burnt herself in front of the Vidhan Sabha, Indian Express covered how a Congress leader had been held for abetment. So far so good.
But here is the catch – in their headline, instead of identifying the victim or the perpetrators with their religious identities, that would actually give an accurate picture of the incident, Indian Express identified the Congress leader with his Dalit identity.
The Indian Express headline read, “UP woman who set herself afire dies, Dalit Cong leader held for abetment: Police”.
In the entire article by the Indian Express, there was absolutely no evidence that a Hindu woman who had converted to Islam had burnt herself to death after harassment from her Muslim in-laws. The name of the victim was absent from the entire report.
This was their entire report:
The aim of identifying the Dalit identity of the Congress accused was simple – to how how the Yogi Adityanath government persecuting Dalits. This has been the pet subject of the establishment and it went to extreme lengths to peddle this narrative during the Hathras Case as well, which as it turns out, was not as simple as the media had first projected.
It is interesting, however, that Indian Express chose to identify the Dalit identity of the accused Congress leader but not of the victim or the in-laws who drove the woman to burn herself to death.
The establishment often identifies Dalits by their identity because they believe that by virtue of them being Dalits, they are at a greater risk of being oppressed than, for example, Brahmins or any other factions of the Hindu society. They also identify the identity of Dalits because, despite atrocities heaped on Dalits, by virtue of them being Hindus, by Muslims, they wish to further the ‘Jai Bheem Jai Meem’ trope that essentially says that Dalits and Muslims are brothers in arms against oppression by Hindus.
In this case, Indian Express has tacitly tried to peddle a Dalit victimhood narrative by identifying the caste of the accused Congress leader and shielded the Muslim perpetrators that drove a Hindu woman who had converted to Islam to suicide by harassment.
By all accounts, this was a deeply sectarian crime since Asif, the husband of the Hindu woman had first raped her and then forced her to marry him to escape charges of rape. Then, the woman had also alleged that she was forced to convert to Islam.
After all these material evidence, Indian Express deliberately left out the identity of the victim or the Muslim perpetrators and instead, chose to highlight the caste identity of the Congress leader who has been accused of abetment of suicide and instigating the woman to self-immolate in front of the Vidhan Sabha.
Clearly, the media in on a crusade to whitewash heinous crimes against Hindus, shield the Muslim perpetrators and create caste divide between Hindus and the Indian Express article is a prime example of it.