Yesterday, some media channels suddenly started reporting that the Indian Army has conducted a cross-LoC strike on terror launchpads in PoK. There was a lot of buzz regarding the nature and magnitude of the so-called strike though no verified evidence was shared. However, soon, the Indian Army clarified that no such strike has been made and it has been a media speculation.
Soon after, some media veterans started peddling sermons on Twitter about how over-enthusiastic news channels are so quick to share unverified news. Shekhar Gupta was one of them.
Shekhar Gupta tweeted, “PTI files a vague story, the warrior TV channels jump the gun & declare war on Pakistan. Now Army HQ is made to clean up the mess with rebuttals. It will be sad if the next war is set off by fake news. It might just happen.”
However, his tweet did not go down well with former Army Chief VK Singh. The former COAS reminded The Print’s editor of his own history of peddling a fake news story about an imaginary army coup in Delhi in 2012. He wrote, “This (lecture) coming from a wise journo, who peddled a fake coup story… An expert at the game can surely tell.”
The baseless military coup story by Shekhar Gupta
In a contentious article in the Indian Express authored by Shekhar Gupta, Ritu Sarin, and Pranab Dhal Samanta, the journalists had claimed that an attempted military coup was underway in Delhi on an intervening night between January 16-17 in 2012. The report stated, “…It is a story of a most unusual night when Raisina Hill was spooked as never before in peacetime.” It claimed that an infantry contingency of 33rd Armoured Division, commanded by Lt. Gen AK Singh and a large contingency of airborne 50 Para Brigade began heading towards Delhi, unnotified.
While it was a part of a routine exercise, the report claimed that Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) were not followed and the Ministry of Defence was uinformed about the movement of the soldiers. The report alleged that the unusual movement of troops towards the National Capital raised alarms, especially the timing of the movement. “The Army’s explanation that it was all a simple fog-time exercise was then viewed with scepticism at the highest level. The question: Why was the well-set protocol, that any military movement, at any time, in the NCR (National Capital Region) has to be pre-notified to MoD (Ministry of Defence) not followed?” Shekhar Gupta had claimed in the article.
The report further added, “But so strained has the political-military relationship been these weeks, that nothing is easily dismissed as a routine misdemeanour. The timing of the Chief’s petition on his date of birth was filed on the morning of January 16 did not help. Sources speak of confusion and unease in the government. To be fair, the MoDs considered view now seems to be that it was a false alarm, caused by some non-adherence to Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) by the Army and an alarmist civil/political reaction on a, particularly distrustful day. “
Indian Army had rubbished ‘coup’ report
The report was rubbished by both the Indian Army and Ministry of Defence. “Such reports are completely baseless and we categorically deny the same,” reiterated the then Defence Ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar. While speaking about the potential military coup story, Maj Gen S L Narasimhan clarified that the troop movement was a part of the routine exercise, which did not require authorisation from the Defence Ministry. He had also revealed that the Ministry of Defence had not asked for any written reports from the commanders and that the troops were recalled when directed by the government.
As such, the report could not prove anything but did cast aspersions about the integrity of the Indian Army, at a time when the UPA regime was busy demanding for the age proof of the then Army Chief VK Singh. But, even after 8 years since the story was originally published, both Shekhar Gupta and the Indian Express has remained unapologetic about the far-reaching effects of their baseless story. Unperturbed by his lack of journalistic ethics, Shekhar Gupta continues to patronise other media publications about how they should conduct themselves in the current state of affairs.
VK Singh had lambasted Shekhar Gupta earlier too
In a Facebook post on February 6, 2019, VK Singh took a dig at Shekhar Gupta, by calling him ‘Coupta’ – an infamous buzzword often used in social media circles to define Shekhar Gupta for planting a fake coup story against the Indian Army when Singh was the army chief, and also asked him to be honest to the post of the editor even if he cannot be honest to his professions.
He stated, “When Mr Coupta was recruited by the powers-behind-the-scenes to cleverly imply I was planning a coup, their objective was to not only spook the good Doctor (Dr. Manmohan Singh) and his Italian handler (Sonia Gandhi), it was also the time honoured tactic that had been in vogue to set Nehru versus Thimayya, Shastri versus Chaudhuri, or Indira Gandhi versus Manekshaw. However, earlier these were usually just whispers… which was damaging enough.”
Further lambasting Couptaji, VK Singh had added, “Even today, though six years have passed, there should be a detailed enquiry and the guilty brought to book. The age old saying that truth must always prevail is timeless. It’s a shame so many people who played games and falsified news, are even today not accountable. In the interest of our country’s future where fake news is such a major threat, it is imperative to take action at the very root of this evil especially when all the evidence is there in the public domain.”
How Shekhar Gupta’s The Print had advocated ‘deliberate fake news peddling by opposition parties’
It is indeed an irony when Shekhar Gupta virtue signals other media outlets for sharing unverified news. In May this year, Shekhar Gupta’s The Print had published an article by Shivam Vij, urging liberals and opposition parties to embrace fake news in their war against Prime Minister Modi.
Calling for curbs on freedom of expression of individuals and crackdown on political opponents, The Print had suggested that the opposition parties should attack the Modi government with a chain of lies. The moral depravity to actively support the spreading of misinformation and fake news, especially by a media venture controlled by the Chief of the Editor’s Guild had caused a huge furore across social media.
Calling Shekhar Gupta as ‘Coupta’ again, General VK Singh had called out the open endorsement of fake news peddling, by a person no less than the chief of Editor’s Guild of India.
General VK Singh had than asserted that ‘Coupta’ is indeed living up to his name.
The former COAS had lambasted ‘Coupta’, stating hat Shekhar Gupta is again highlighting to the world that he is sold out.