Thursday, September 29, 2022
HomeOpinionsThe tale of two NDTV headlines: Mohammad Shalik's murder vs Ankita, murdered by Shahrukh

The tale of two NDTV headlines: Mohammad Shalik’s murder vs Ankita, murdered by Shahrukh

This is not a new practice in the Indian media industry and is unlikely to change any time soon.

In a horrific incident from Dumka in Jharkhand, young student Ankita Kumari was burnt to death by Shahrukh Hussain. After Ankita refused the advances of Shahrukh, he threw petrol on her while she was sleeping and then set her on fire. Ankita later lost the fight for her life in the hospital and died during the early hours of Sunday.

It was interesting to note how this horrific crime was covered by “liberal” news outlets like NDTV. While they have never shied away from naming religions of the people involved in the headlines in the past, even for crimes where no communal angle was involved, this time not only did they avoid mentioning the religions, but even stopped short of naming the accused in the headline.

In fact, the headline only referred to Shahrukh Hussain as “the stalker” and Ankita as “Jharkhand schoolgirl”. The report titled “Jharkhand Schoolgirl Dies After Stalker Set Her On Fire: Police” was published by NDTV on Monday, 29th of August.

It would not have raised any eyebrows if this was the standard style guide for NDTV where they avoided mentioning religions or the names of the people involved in such incidents. However, as we can see in this report, from the same state of Jharkhand, the news channel hasn’t shied away from highlighting religion when their own report, later on, says that there was no communal angle to the crime.

The double standards of NDTV while reporting such incidents were very visible to the people online, and quickly got highlighted.

This is not an arbitrary decision to highlight religion in the headline in one case, and hide it in the other case. It is regularly done by mainstream Indian news channels to reinforce the narrative that the victims can only belong to one religion, and the aggressor always comes from one particular religion. If the victim is Hindu, the mention of religion disappears from the headlines but reappears when a Muslim ends up being the victim.

Apart from this selective mention of religion in the headlines, sometimes the media selects a new name for the aggressor when he is a Muslim. India Today, for example, today changed the name of Shahrukh Hussain in this case to Abhishek while reporting about the incident. Online outrage forced them to correct the name in their report and quietly update it.

This is not a new practice in the Indian media industry and is unlikely to change any time soon. If we are expecting consistency in reporting for all crimes, I am afraid it is going to be a long wait.

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Amit Kelkar
Amit Kelkar
a Pune based IT professional with keen interest in politics

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