During an event at Haridwar in Uttarakhand, Hindu seers called for genocide of India’s Muslims. | Picture: Screengrab

By Sami Ahmad | TwoCircles.net 

BIHAR — Hindi press’s coverage of two recent issues concerning the Muslim community–the controversial Dharam Sansad’s and auctioning of women online–has been dismal, shows an analysis by TwoCirles.net.

During the Dharam Sansad (religious parliament) held on December 17-19 in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, Hindu leaders called for “genocide of India’s Muslims”. In another similar gathering in Raipur, Chhattisgarh on December -26, a Hindu leader Kalicharan from Maharashtra used derogatory language for Mahatma Gandhi.

Around the same time, media reports emerged about an app called Bulli Bai which was conducting online auction of Muslim women.

TwoCircles.net monitored six Hindi newspapers Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar, Hindustan (sister concern of Hindustan Times), Amar Ujala, Nav Bharat Times (of the Times group) and Prabhat Khabar to assess the coverage of these developments in terms of the number of articles and content.

None of the six newspapers carried any opinion piece/editorial on Swami Yati Narsinghanad’s hate speeches at Haridwar. The papers started to write editorial/opinion pieces on the issue only after the Raipur gathering.

Prabhat Khabar is Ranchi-based and published from Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal. While Prabhat Khabar’s editor-in-chief Ashutosh Chaturvedi wrote about the Haridwar hate assembly in one of his weekly columns, there was no mention of the targeting of Muslims by Yati Narsighanand. His January 10, 2021 column focused on the abuses hurled upon Mahatma Gandhi. His columns during this period are on themes such as raising the age bar for girl’s marriage and equal rights to the daughters.

Prabhat Khabar carried an editorial titled Ghatak Hai Nafrat  (Hate is Fatal) on January 5, 2021 but it was based on what Vice President Venkaiah Naidu had spoken about secularism during a book launch event in New Delhi in November 2021. The President had said that “secularism resides in every Indian’s blood.”

Similarly, Hindustan’s editor-in-chief Shashi Shekhar’s weekly column Ajkal covered Dalit politics, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s daughter-in-law joining BJP, farmers’ agitation, PM’s security in Punjab and New Years’ hopes. The English translation of Shashi Shekhar’s column is carried in Hindustan Times every Monday.

On January 8, 2022, Hindustan carried an edit page article written by Kshama Sharma which discusses the Bulli Bai case. The article titled “Nafrat Ka Koi Na Bane Karobari” (No one should deal in hate) mentions moral reasons for such hate. It discussed the IS and Boko Haram but chose not to refer to the hate speeches delivered in Dharm Sansads while the headline suggested general hate.

Dainik Bhaskar is headquartered at Bhopal and published from all the Hindi speaking states except U.P. and Uttarakhand. It carried an opinion piece on December 12, 2021 titled Apne Bayanon Se Ghrina Aur Hinsa Phailane Se Badhkar Adharm Kya Hai (There is no evil bigger than spreading hate and violence by one’s statements) by Ved Pratap Vaidik, chairperson of Council for Indian Foreign Policy. Vaidik wrote that some misguided saints were bringing a bad name to Hindu religion and suggested that RSS should condemn such people. He quoted Vajpayee and referred to the statement of Mohan Bhagwat that DNA of both Hindus and Muslims is same.

Dainink Jagran is published in ten states. It carried an opinion piece on the subject of hate speech titled Mahaul Bigadne Wale Bigde Bol (Objectionable statements vitiating the environment) penned by its associate editor Rajiv Sachan on December 29, 2021. It referred to the speech given at Haridwar’s Dharm Sansad as “bigde bol” (Objectionable statement). Sachan wrote that those who wanted to demean the country should not have been given the stage.

Mumbai-based Nav Bharat Times (NBT) is published from New Delhi and Lucknow. The paper carried two edits on hate speech. On December 28, NBT carried an editorial titled Nafrat Nahin, Shanti (Peace, not hatred), condemning the hate speeches delivered at Dharm Sansad in Haridwar, questioning the role of police.

On January 6, 2021 it carried an editorial titled Ladna Tou Soch Se Hai (Need to counter the doctrine) about the online auctioning of Muslim women through Bulli Bai app. It said that a police probe was not required to understand that those involved directly or indirectly in this act were suffering from a hate-filled mentality, adding that more than police action, we need to get our society out of this venomous mentality.

Meerut based Amar Ujala is a major newspaper of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand apart from being published from Delhi and Jammu. There was no opinion/edit on hate speeches and online auction of Muslim women.

After the Raipur episode, the publication carried a news item headlined Bigde Bol Par Har Taraf Gussa (Anger all around over objectionable statements) on December 28, 2021. The news regarding the arrests of accused in the Bulli Bai case was given prominence but this case was ignored initially.

Hindustan in its Haridwar edition headlined the news of Dharam Sansad as Sanataniyon Ki Raksha Ke Liye Aage Aayen (Come forward for the safety of Sanatanis) completely ignoring the hateful part of the speeches delivered there. However, the Patna edition of the paper carried the news of the letter written by 76 advocates to the chief justice of India regarding the hate speeches. News regarding the Bulli Bai case was also covered in its main editions like Patna, Delhi and XYZ.

Dainik Bhaskar ignored the Haridwar hate speech but headlined the Raipur Dharam Sansad’s news Hey Ram! Dharm Sansad Mein Gandhi Ko Gali, FIR, (Ram! Gandhi was abused in Dharm Sansad).

Jagran and Prabhat Khabar too covered the Raipur hate speeches of Dharm Sansad in detail. News of the Bulli Bai case was also given visible coverage.

Visible difference in English and Hindi media coverage
Former BBC journalist and Asst. Professor Shalini Joshi teaches Media Studies at Haridev Joshi University of Journalism and Mass Communication (HJU), Jaipur. She told TwoCircles.net that there was a visible difference in how English and Hindi media covered hate speech. “Newspapers like The Indian Express gave extensive coverage to the hate speeches delivered in Dharm Sansads and on the issue of auctioning of Muslim women. We also saw some opinion pieces on the matter, condemning this kind of bigotry and raising genuine concerns,” she said.

“Hindi newspapers have increasingly taken the position that seems to remain objective but actually it is not. Sometimes they carry the news in a subjective and coloured manner. Often, they choose to ignore the gravity of such issues and refrain from highlighting it much. Down the line, their interests seem to keep collaborating with the majoritarianism,” said Shalini, who has co-authored two books on new media and trends.

Dr. Mukesh Kumar is a well-known media analyst and consulting editor with the news portal Satya Hindi. He also underlined the bias in the Hindi press. Talking to TwoCircles.net he said, “Hindi press has become a Hindu press under the present regime. Therefore, it is undermining the hate speeches and the events which spread hate.” He explains further, “For the same reason you will find very few reports, articles and editorials in the Hindi press on such issues. Another reason is the social and economic structure of the media is upper caste dominated which is tilted towards Hindu nationalism.”

Senior journalist and author Herjinder has been in charge of the edit page of Hindustan at Delhi. He told TwoCircles.net that he had a discussion on this matter with a Resident Editor who was of the view that those speaking at the Dharm Sansad were not big names. Herjinder was told, “They were attention-seeking low grade religious personalities. They speak in that vitriolic voice to get the headlines, so, if we do give them much coverage, they will be getting what they want.”

Herjinder added that hate speeches should have been condemned in editorial or opinion pieces. He said, “By writing editorial or op-ed articles on those issues, Hindi press could have spread some awareness for its readers, particularly the young minds, to think for the respect of women and against such hate speeches. I am afraid this responsibility has not been fulfilled.”

This story first appeared on twocircles.net