Screengrab of TV 18 anchor Aman Chopra during a programme. Photo: Twitter/AmanChopra_

By Alishan Jafri / The Wire

Lucknow: On Thursday night, News 18 anchor Aman Chopra devoted an entire show to what he claimed was a ‘conspiracy’ to launch mob attacks on sadhus on the suspicion of kidnapping children. The channel ran the hashtag #SadhusUnderAttack on air during the programme. Ironically, his broadcast the day before had actually celebrated vigilante ‘justice’: the public flogging of Muslim men by policemen before a crowd of cheering spectators in Gujarat.

In his opening monologue, Chopra insisted that sadhus were being attacked as part of a conspiracy. “Keep noting and listen very carefully,” Chopra urged his viewers as he mentioned six recent mob attacks on Hindu holy men suspected of child lifting. As Chopra read the list of incidents, the channel’s ticker ran the suggestive texts ‘Sanatan se badla, Sadhuon par lagatar hamla’ (Revenge against Hinduism, serial attack on Hindu seers) and ‘Baccha chori ke afwah, nishane par bhagwa’ (child lifting rumours, Saffron being targeted).

“Had it been one, two, three, four, or even five incidents in a month, we’d have thought that this is a coincidence but more than six such cases were reported in a month”. As Chopra said this, the sixth and perhaps most notable case on his list –the lynching of two sadhus in Palghar in April 2020 – flashed on the screen.

In none of these incidents has there been any evidence that the victims were targeted because of their religion, and Muslims were part of the attackers in only one of these. Yet, Chopra asked, “Just as targeted killings of Hindus happened in Kashmir, are seers being target lynched?” The ‘Kashmir’ reference was a familiar dog whistle for his audience that helped drive home the message of who was to blame.

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