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The problem with media headlines in the case of a Hindu man, Ankit, who was murdered by Muslim men for dating their sister

It is greatly problematic that the media chooses to highlight the Dalit identity of a victim instead of his Hindu identity when the perpetrators are Muslim. The issues become far worse when only the Dalit identity is mentioned in the headline and the media deliberately omits the Muslim identity of the perpetrators from the headline.

On August 29, Basti Police (Uttar Pradesh) arrested two brothers identified as Irfan and Irshad and their cousin Israr for murdering a 19-year-old Hindu boy Ankit as he allegedly was in a relationship with their sister Ameena Khatun. The sister was also found dead under mysterious circumstances, as per reports. 

The incident took place at Padriya Chet Singh village in Ruthauli Police Station area on August 26, and the dead body of the deceased Hindu boy was found the next day. The arrests were made following the post-mortem of Ankit that confirmed he was killed by strangulation.

On August 26 (Friday), Ankit received a call from Ameena’s brothers, who asked him for a meeting. He left the house after receiving the call. When he did not return till late in the evening, his family members went to the girl’s house to ask about him. “The brothers told us that they had no information about Ankit. We immediately started looking for him. In the wee hours of Saturday, we came to know from the villagers that the girl had died, and the family was burying her dead body in the village,” Ankit’s elder brother said. Suspecting foul play, when the family started looking for Ankit, they found his dead body tossed just 100 meters from their house.

The corporate, mainstream media, overall, often ignores cases where Hindus are hacked to death by Islamists simply because of their Hindu identity. Victims are often made not by the perpetrators of the violence against them, but the media and the establishment that chooses to play up the case of certain victims they can use to build their own motivated narrative, while ignoring rampant and regular crimes against those they wish to demonise. As far as Hindus are concerned, the crimes are documented infrequently and if they are, the severity of the crime, the nature of the crime and the religious hatred that drives Islamists to commit such crimes are often pushed under the rug with carefully crafted headlines that are bound to get missed by most.

In the case of Ankit, the Times of India seems to have pulled a similar feat. Their headline in the Ankit murder case was problematic on several levels. Their headline is, “Uttar Pradesh: 3 brothers arrested for killing sister’s Dalit boyfriend in Basti”.

Times of India headline

First and foremost, one must appreciate the Times of India for at least covering the news of a Hindu man being killed by Muslim men because he dared to date their sister. However, as is the nature of corporate media, it is almost infuriating that the Times of India, while covering the news, downplayed the incident and slyly attempted to mislead its audiences by the virtue of its headline.

There are two fundamental problems with how Times of India chose to craft their headline.

Mention of the ‘Dalit’ identity of the victim with no mention of the Muslim identity of the perpetrators

In the Times of India headline, the ‘Dalit’ identity of the victim, Ankit, is prominently mentioned. One could safely say that the Times of India made his Dalit identity the peg of their reportage – a peg being the central point that the news revolves around. However, the Muslim identity of the perpetrators is conspicuous by its absence.

Given that Indian media and the Left ecosystem is obsessed with caste faultlines within the Hindu society, at first glance, an unsuspecting reader would assume that a Dalit, a “lower caste Hindu” was murdered by “upper caste Hindus”. You see, the media has long peddled the narrative that the faultlines within the Hindu society are far more detrimental to Hindus compared to the Islamist violence that the Hindu community is subjected to. They further peddle the narrative of Jai Bheem Jai Meem, which essentially claims that Dalits and Muslims are in some sort of an alliance, given that both are troubled by the “Hindu majority” – Dalits due to casteism, Muslims due to majoritarianism. To peddle these motivated narratives, every crime by Muslims against Hindus or even Dalit Hindus has to be watered down – God forbid the real victims are recognised and the cacophony of fake victimhood by the second largest majority is summarily busted.

The headline of the Times of India either by design or chance does exactly that. When they highlight the Dalit identity of the victim and miss mentioning the Muslim identity of the murderers, an unsuspecting reader would assume that the “Dalit” man was killed by “Upper caste Hindus” and not that they were actually Muslims who had killed him because he was a Hindu man in love with their Muslim sister.

Was Ankit killed because of his “Dalit” identity or his Hindu identity

It is often noticed that the caste identity of a Dalit victim is mentioned by the media and the Left while reporting crimes. The non-Left has theorised that this is perhaps to drive a wedge in the society and further the narrative that in Hindu majority India, Dalits and lower castes are brutalised on a regular basis and therefore, further the ‘Muslim-Dalit unity’ trope that would then help ‘secular fronts’ electorally. 

While that may be the agenda for several media houses and Left intelligentsia, the rationale behind highlighting the caste identity of Dalit victims has a separate origin altogether. The theory essentially believes that the victim would have been at a lower risk had her identity not been that of a Dalit and hence, mentioning the caste identity is essential as even if the crime is not motivated by caste animosity, the victim was at a higher risk by virtue of her caste.

In this case, the Times of India could potentially believe that Ankit was at a greater risk of violence because of his Dalit identity and therefore, mentioning his Dalit identity was of paramount importance. However, we must critically analyse these crimes to understand which identity of Ankit made him vulnerable to being murdered by Muslim men.

Irshad, Israr and Irfan murdered Ankit because he was in a relationship with their sister, Ameena Khatun. The question that we need to ask ourselves is simple – Would Ankit be spared his fate if he was, say, a Brahmin instead of a Dalit? If not, what was the primary identity due to which the Muslim men decided to murder Ankit?

The truth is that for the Muslim men, it was Ankit’s Hindu identity that was the cause of their religious hatred and it was his Hindu identity that put him at risk the moment he started dating Ameena Khatun. His caste identity would not put him at risk or save him from the crime. So he was not particularly murdered for being a Dalit, since we understand by precedent, that he would not have been spared had he been a Brahmin. Therefore, the fact that the Times of India mentions his Dalit identity instead of his Hindu identity is only a testament to the fact that the media either deliberately ignored ground realities to peddle a set narrative or they are woefully unaware of the reality of Islamist crimes.

When we talk about religious identities, one must also acknowledge in no uncertain terms that Hindus and Muslims have been co-existing in India but the historicity of that relationship is strained and blood-soaked at the very least.

Hindus have seen over 800 years of Islamic rule where they were beaten, raped, killed and converted. Where their temples were trampled upon and their identity as Hindus was under siege. Post the Islamic rule, in Independent India, the atrocities committed by Islamists have not stopped, whether the Left likes to believe it or not. If we take Kashmir, for example, India’s only Muslim-dominated state, the picture becomes evident. The Hindu minority of the state were beaten, raped, murdered and cleansed from the state. The slogans that emanated from the mosques of Kashmir in the 90s said that Hindu men should leave the valley but leave their women behind for the Islamists. The chants also asked the Hindus to either convert to Islam or leave the valley.

With these examples alone it is acceptable to conclude that Hindus have been historically in a disadvantaged position with respect to Muslims in India and have often been victimised, brutally, by Muslims. Therefore, a Hindu man, regardless of his caste, is at a greater risk of violence when the perpetrator is a Muslim and is oppressed because of his Hindu identity, not Muslim identity. Once we understand that, it becomes greatly problematic that the media chooses to highlight the Dalit identity of a victim instead of his Hindu identity when the perpetrators are Muslim. The issues become far worse when only the Dalit identity is mentioned in the headline and the media deliberately omits the Muslim identity of the perpetrators from the headline.

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