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As Amit Shah blames ideologically aligned journalists for making the 2002 Gujarat riots worse, here is how they impacted the entire media narrative

The unwritten rule of the Indian mainstream media ensures that we grow up with a strongly ingrained belief that a Hindu cannot be a victim of any injustice

(The following is an extract from the book ‘Sanghi Who Never Went To A Shakha’, and is being republished here in the wake of the recent interview by Amit Shah to ANI. In his interview, Amit Shah said that the riots and circumstances were exacerbated by the efforts of a nexus, which included opposition political parties, politically driven media reporters and journalists, and certain non-governmental organisations. 

Amit Shah stated that all the allegations against the government of Gujarat were fake and fabricated. He said that the sting operation by Tehelka was also fake and ideologically motivated. “All the sting operations were fabricated. The court has itself observed that efforts were made to put a bad tag on the state government. It was we who agreed to constitute the SIT. Why there was no SIT after the 1984 riots in Delhi?” Shah remarked fiercely when asked about the BJP’s denial of the SIT.

Interestingly, all the lies that Amit Shah busted in his interview were peddled by the media and he, in his interview, also mentioned that the riots were made worse by the media. The following excerpt from the book only confirms how the media functions. This experience of the author of the book as a young journalist goes on to confirm how the Lutyens media tried its best, historically, to peddle lies and propaganda to defame Modi and Shah).

Following is the excerpt from the book reprinted here:

The horrific attack on the train at Godhra took place in the morning that day, at around 8 AM. At that time, I was on my way to catch a DTC bus from Ber Sarai to Jhandewalan, where Aaj Tak had their office. By the time I reached, it was already making headlines. The initial news reports didn’t term it as a terror attack or even an incident of violence. Information was still trickling in. I too assumed that it could have been an accident, maybe the pantry car of the train caught fire.

Within an hour, as reporters from Gujarat started sending more information, everyone in the newsroom knew that it was not an accident. As the reporters talked to the authorities and other people who were travelling on the same train, it became clear that the fire was set by a mob. Curious to know the details of what had happened, I filled a paper cup with tea from the vending machine in the office and stood near the desk where a bunch of copy editors typed away information that would be either made into news reports (‘package’ as they were called) or read out by the news anchor, while visuals played on-screen (‘voice-over’).

Copy editors received information from what was known as the ‘input desk’, which in turn got raw information and reports from reporters in the field or from news agencies. I saw one input guy standing next to one such copy editor while the news of the Godhra incident played on the TV sets in the newsroom. Assuming that they will have the latest information, I sneaked up to them and stood there to overhear their conversation as I pretended to watch the news being played on the nearest TV set.

Pata chala kaun kiya?’ (‘Do we now know who did it?’), asked the copy editor to the input guy, who immediately replied ‘Musalmaan sab aur kaun?’ (‘The Muslims did it, who else?’) in a hushed but disgusted tone.

After a brief pause, the copy editor said, ‘Ab yeh toh nahi likh sakte na.’ (‘Now, we can’t really write this.’)

I furtively tried to have a look at the input guy. He didn’t say anything after this. Anger was discernible on his face and so was the disgust. His eyes met mine and I immediately averted them, lest he thought I was trying to spy. He then walked away, leaving some fax or photocopies at the desk of the copy editor, presumably the raw reports sent by the reporters from the ground. I too walked back to my desk, silently.

This conversation of barely ten seconds, which would include some uncomfortable pauses too, revealed so much in retrospect. The mainstream can write headlines like ‘Frenzied Hindu mob brings down sixteenth-century mosque’ and ‘Dabang Rajputon ne Dalit dulhe ko ghodi se utaara’ (when some men from the Rajput community force a Dalit groom to alight from the horse during a wedding procession), mentioning the religion or caste of the perpetrator of a reported crime in some cases, but it feels greatly uncomfortable about mentioning the religion when the perpetrator of the crime is a Muslim — this when religion was clearly the main element in the crime committed at Godhra.

‘Muslim mob sets a train carrying Hindu pilgrims on fire’ is not seen as a legitimate or ‘responsible’ headline, even though it is factual. It is a template that Indian journalists have religiously internalized over decades. Any attempt to break away from this template is seen as losing your ‘moral compass’.

Highlighting and shouting about caste is seen as fighting for justice, while hiding and keeping mum about religion is seen as indulging in responsible behaviour, except of course when the religion of the perpetrator is Hindu and the victim a Muslim. In which case, the same journalists shout with double the intensity and even exaggerate the incident with made-up claims about ‘beef’ and ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans.

This unwritten rule or the moral compass of the Indian mainstream media ensures that we grow up with a strongly ingrained belief that a Hindu cannot be a victim of any injustice or hate crime, unless he belongs to the so-called lower castes (and in that case the perpetrator has to be a Hindu too). The Hindu–Muslim relationship in this country has been presented as that of the oppressor-oppressed, where Hindus by default are the oppressors.

This induces an element of guilt in an average Hindu, who tries to go an extra mile to appease and accommodate Muslims, including and invariably the ones with an Islamist mindset. That’s what we saw when thousands of Hindus came out in the streets to oppose the CAA, standing shoulder to shoulder with those who idolized Jinnah and the leader of the Moplah massacre.

I can literally give hundreds of examples from just the past few years where the Indian mainstream media has indulged in such glaring double standards, and this is in the era of social media where people have other means to know the ugly truth. You can imagine how skewed the reporting and beliefs would have been almost two decades earlier. This is the ‘truth’ that was fed to unsuspecting consumers by the media, and when people started speaking up and show showing the other side, the media talking heads invented the term ‘post truth’.

For now, I’ll go back to 27 February 2002 and that moment in the newsroom. The conversation between the copy editor and the input guy, which lasted barely 10 seconds, showed that most journalists knew within an hour that the Godhra incident was not an accident but an organized act of violence. They knew that it was veritably a terror attack by an Islamist mob against helpless, unarmed Hindus. Yet, around two and half years after the carnage, when the Congress returned to power in the Centre, cobbling up a post-poll alliance, and when it announced the formation of a commission to declare the carnage an ‘accident’, hardly any journalist protested saying it was a mockery of justice.

What that short conversation also showed was how a journalist, even if he wanted to speak the ugly truth, would have to surrender to the moral compass. Since he won’t be able to control the narrative, he would be left to control his anger and disgust, failing which he will be branded a Sanghi and unprofessional and whose career path would be cut short.

(The book ‘Sanghi Who Never Went To A Shakha’, authored by Rahul Roushan, was published by Rupa Publications and released on 10 March 2021. The link to buy the book is here.)

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Rahul Roushan
Rahul Roushanhttp://www.rahulroushan.com
A well known expert on nothing. Opinions totally personal. RTs, sometimes even my own tweets, not endorsement. #Sarcasm. As unbiased as any popular journalist.

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