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Is there any remedy for this one-Sided Brazen Provocation?

Is there any remedy for this one-Sided Brazen Provocation?

Author: M.G. Vaidya
Publication: Hindu Voice
Date: July 2002

(Shri Vaidya is a former editor of daily "Tarun Bharat". Nagpur. The original article from Marathi is translated in English by Shri Madhu Deolekar, Ex-MLC).

I am amazed at the way some newspapers have published the highly one-sided and coloured reports on the Godhra carnage and on violent reaction in Gujarat in its aftermath.

I have been active in the field of journalism for the last many years. As an editor, I have seen and covered many agitations and riots. Within limitations of the human endeavour, we have reported the extremely sensitive events in an honest and objective manner. But I am totally perplexed at the way the news and the analysis are published even one and a half months after the event on 27th February. Do We really exert to write to educate the people or is there some other motive behind writing?

Objective of "Communalists":

I remember an event in 1967. There were riots amongst Muslims and Buddhists in Nagpur. The Muslims had started the riots. Our Chief Reporter, Yashwant Shastri, and I toured the riot-affected area till the midnight, went to the local police station, obtained the firsthand information and then only we published our report. Our report did not tally with the official version of the Police. Even then, we wrote what we saw. On the next day, of course, the Police were angry about our report. But we did not hide the facts. While publishing the report, our objective was not to incite the people or be partisan, on the contrary, we took care to see that the riots did not spread. After this riot, a team of Press Institute of India under the leadership of Chanchal Sarkar came to Nagpur. I still remember a sentence from the report of Sarkar. He had said, "I am surprised at the fact that the so-called local communal newspaper has given an objective report." I was not surprised that "Tarun Bharat" was called a "communal newspaper". Even today, we do not feel hurt when we are called "communal". Since we are from the R.S.S. we know that in the secular lexicon, the word "communal" is reserved for us. Now, the whole world knows that we do not care for it. The history of the last 50-55 years has proved that the so-called "Communal" are more objective, broad-minded and liberal than those who are called 'secular' who are more self-centered, more narrow and more partisan or biased.

Whether you are "communal"' or "secular", while working in the newspapers, should you publish the news in an impartial manner or should you publish them in a coloured manner? For expressing opinions, in order to crack the whip of criticism, you have your editorial columns. Who has stopped you from using these columns to give vent to your prejudices? But, while publishing reports, is it fair to allow, prejudice, grudge, one-sidedness and bias to

influence your writing? While reading the reports about the events concerning Gujarat in the newspapers, these questions have come up in my mind.

Some examples of published reports are worth examining. On 27th February in the Morning, one bogies in Sabarmati Express was set ablaze near Godhra railway station. The fire was lit by a Muslim mob. In that fire, 58 people were burnt alive. In those who were burnt included women and children along with men. But, in the news, it was avoided to mention that the violent mob was of Muslims and the people who were burnt alive were Hindus. I think this is proper. The guidelines of the Press Council states the same thing that "do not mention the identity of communities of those involved in riots as mentioning the communities is likely to incite the sentiments of the people and add fuel to fire." But this safeguard was not followed in the case of violence, which resulted as a reaction to Godhra incident. While publishing the reports about the reaction, headings such as "Hindu mobs burnt the houses of Muslims", "Hindu mobs burnt alive Muslims" and "Hindu mobs launched an attack" were given. Why this partiality? The reply to this question is expected from English newspapers with mass circulation such as the Times of India, the Hindu, the Hindustan Times, etc. An organisation called India First Foundation organised a seminar in Delhi on 6th April. I am quoting the following from the booklet published by this Organisation on the basis of survey conducted by it.

The headline in The Times of India dated 28th Feb. read: "MOB ATTACKS GUJARAT TRAIN, 55 DIE"

The writer of this report is Sajjad Shaikh. While identifying the reasons for the Godhra massacre, he writes, "Kar Sevaks in the train misbehaved with some washerwomen of Signal Falia". Besides, he also cites "the rumour of an attack on a religious place in Dahod" as one of the reasons for the Godhra incident. Here, he wants to suggest that though it is not pardonable to burn alive 55 persons, due to the reasons cited by him, it is not objectionable.

This Primary lead news report focussed the blame on the Kar Sevaks from the very initial stages and did not attempt to investigate how the train was stopped at Signal Falia where a mob of a thousand was already waiting with sticks, petrol bombs, missiles and stones.

In the 1st March issue of The Times of India, Siddhartha Varadarajan, a reporter, writes, "While official enquiry will establish the extent to which the attack on the Sabarmati Express was pre-meditated, there can be no doubt about the planned nature of the violence directed against Gujarat's Muslims on Thursday". The double standards are evident from his report, which differentiates the incidents of 27th February from the incidents of 28th February. While examining the pre-meditation behind the Godhra attacks on the 27th February, he says that it is "official enquiry" which will decide whether the attack on Kar Sevaks was pre-meditated or not. But when it comes to violent reaction of Hindus on the 28th February, he takes it in his own hands to pass a judgement that the attacks by Hindus on Gujarat's Muslims were "pre-planned" in nature.

This news report was carried just two days after the Godhra carnage. The gruesome murders of the Kar Sevaks is mentioned only once in the 450 plus word report and rest of the report is full of gory descriptions of how the Muslims are being brutally killed in the aftermath.

The Hindu is a well-known daily from South India. The recent stand of the newspaper shows the degeneration of quality and how its name has lost its meaning. But that is not the subject matter of this article. Normally, this newspaper is known for objectivity in its reporting. But, the way it has covered the incidents in Gujarat, is not in conformity with its reputation.

The Hindu has reported the incidents of 27th February as follows:

"57 killed as a mob torches train in Gujarat" in its issue of 28th February. The writer of this report, Manas Sengupta, states that "Eye-witnesses said that about 1,200 Ram Sevaks were travelling in the train. The local people in the Muslim dominated Godhra town had been "irritated" by the abusive language used by the Ram Sevaks while they were going to Ayodhya by the same train a few days ago. They had reportedly raised slogans as the train approached Godhra on the return journey this morning."

Now, the question arises that how did the people in Godhra come to know that those who had given abusive slogans were returning on the exact date and by the same train so that they could make an arrangement to torch the train quite in advance? Who will ask Manas Sengupta these questions? It is also mentioned in the same report that the Ram Sevaks had a quarrel with some vendors on the platform. Now, such quarrels always normally take place. But how, come that immediately after the altercation a mob of one thousand people belonging to the same community of the vendor could suddenly gather, armed with incendiary material? But Sengupta is not bothered about such questions. If there was an altercation on the platform, the Station Master should have come to know about it. However, the Station Master has denied that any such incident had taken place. Now, see the style of reporting of this newspaper. It reports that a group of people torched the train at Godhra. As a reaction, the Hindus let loose the violence.

Hindustan Times, the newspaper run by the business tycoon Birla, crossed all boundaries of objective reporting| Actually, the newspaper should have been named Pakistan Times. Even then, whether the newspaper would have made such a wild propaganda is doubtful.

The headline in the issue dated 28th February of Hindustan Times reads as follows:- "Gujarat hit by Ayodhya backlash". It gives the reasoning for the Godhra incident. It says that because of the Ayodhya agitation, there was a reaction in Gujarat. Is it not a strange logic| The reaction of Ayodhya agitation did not take place in Faizabad in the neighbourhood of Ayodhya or even in cities like Aligarh, Rampur of Meerat in U.P. which are prone to riots; that reaction took place far away in Godhra| It was impossible for this newspaper to mention to which community the killers belonged and the victims were of which community.

In the issue of 5th March, the same newspaper writes, "And now, a set of riot vows." From this, you can imagine what must have been given in the report. It reminds one of Nazi bashing and states: ever since communal riots broke out in Gujarat, the BJP cadres are allegedly circulating a letter amongst fellow Hindu brothers asking them "to impose economic and financial sanctions on Muslims and anti-nationals." The readers must consider themselves fortunate that the newspaper has also published a rejoinder from the VHP. The newspaper has crossed all bounds in reporting the story in its issue dated 26th March. Its reporter found a book, "which showed how to instigate riots". It goes without saying that the book is supposed to be published by a Hindu organisation. The tone of the report is that the Hindus followed the guidelines given in the said book to massacre Muslims in Gujarat! The way this newspaper has covered the Gujarat incidents, one would not have been shocked to read in the report that the people responsible for Godhra carnage were in fact Hindus or belonging to Hindus organisations! And it has to be the truth! Otherwise how on earth could the Hindus find a way to put the principles preached in the book into practice to massacre Muslims in Gujarat?

The same newspaper, Hindustan Times, has published a heart rending tale of sufferings of a four year old Muslim boy, burnt alive in his house set ablaze by the rioters. According to my knowledge, the writer is a journalist serving for the same newspaper. It is an extremely emotional and inflammable piece. Even a person with a heart of stone would be deeply moved by the cries of an infant being burnt alive, there is no doubt about that. But, why were the eyes of this compassionate Journalist dry when infants were burnt alive in that ill-fated Sabarmati Express at Godhra? What kind of partisan humanism is this? Is the reporting of this kind in accordance with the guidelines of Press Council regarding prevention of riots?

Double standards: Just when Gujarat was limping back to normalcy after weeks of riots, two houses were burnt in a village near Baroda. Five people were burnt alive in the blaze. We will not go into the reasons for this incident. The reason for arson could be communal or personal animosity. Such incidents are no longer new to us. But almost all the newspapers reported that the people burnt alive were all Muslims. The reports wanted to suggest that the arsonists were Hindus. After couple of days, seven people were killed in a village near Udhampur. The victims were all Hindus. But almost all the English newspapers conveniently omitted to mention that the victims were Hindus. All the newspapers reported that victims belonged to a "minority community". The meaning of the term "minority" was left for the readers to decide. Everybody wrote that the killings were carried out by the terrorists. But nobody mentioned the fact that the carnage was carried out by Muslim terrorists. There was an attack on a temple in Anjar in Kutch. It is not necessary to mention that who must have carried out the attack. But these newspapers published the mews "An attack on a religious place." Had that religious place been a mosque, would the reporters have shown such an exemplary restraint?

When while reporting the news there is this kind of one-sidedness, partisanship and personal bias, what will you expect from the special articles and editorials? In the riot-torn atmosphere of Gujarat some unbelievably good incidents have also taken place which would do glory to the humanity. The Gujarati newspapers have published such stories. First India Foundation has published a compilation of such stories, some of which are reproduced below.

In the issue dated 5th March, SANDESH, a daily newspaper reports. "Mahipat Singh Waghela, Manager of Sanand S.T. depot, and other staff members provided food, shelter and facilities for bathing in the depot to 150 stranded passengers for two days."

The same newspaper in its issue dated 6th March runs a report "amidst communal riots one Hindu family at Paldi gave shelter to 11 Muslims in their house for 4 days."

A newspaper called SAMBHAVA writes in its issue dated 5th March: "Naroda (Ahmedabad): Vegetables were distributed free of costs without any discrimination by the local people for the riot victims."

JAIHIND, a Gujarat daily reports in its issue dated 5th March as follows: "Rajkot: Amidst tension and killings, Muslims in large number attended the wedding of a local Hindu girl in Ghanchibar, a Muslim majority area.

Daily JANASATTA reports in its issue dated 3rd March as follows: "Ahmedabad: In a camp in Mandvi Colony, Hindu women prepared food for the Muslims hit by riots."

GUJARAT SAMACHAR, in its issue dated 5th March reports: "Following the Godhra carnage, an angry mob made its way to the Lucky Studio owned by Miss Phiroza Nadiadwalla of Mumbai. She was in the studio when the angry mob entered in it. Somehow, she managed to elude the mob and reached a nearby Hindu hotel. The mob followed her there. The owner of the hotel quickly hid her in the kitchen to save her from the fury of the mob."

In a town named Harij in the North Gujarat, the following incident took place: "There are only three houses of Muslims in a predominantly Hindu dominated area. All the inmates of the houses had vacated the houses because of the fear of riots but in one house, there were two 70 years old women, 4 kids and 4 women. These women were virtually shaking with fear. However, the R.S.S. Swayamsevaks reached there. One amongst them was the well-known lawyer of the area, Shri Hargovindbhai Thakkar, who is also the local Sanghachalak of the R.S.S. He called for his jeep and rescued all the women to a safer place.

In a town called Unza in Mehsana district, a Muslim woman was an employee in a dispensary of Dr. Maheshbhai Purohit, who is an active worker of the R.S.S. When the mob came to attack the woman at Dr. Purohit's house, he resisted the nob and saved the woman.

There are many such incidents that reveal the humanitarian approach of the Hindus. But, the English newspaper have not published even a single such story.

These newspapers have branded the entire Hindu community as brutal and blood thirsty. An individual has recourse to the law for defamation. However, is there any recourse to the law for an entire community when it is being defamed? If the newspaper violate the common guidelines of the Press Council, the Press Council takes a notice of it and at best can censure them. It has no power to punish the newspapers. It is reported that even the Press Council is not in existence today. In such circumstances, what is the remedy available to an entire community against the defamation resorted to by one-sided writing? Under Section 153-A of the IPC, there is a provision to take action against those who try to spread ill will and hatred between two communities. Whether the writings in the newspapers would come under and would attract such a law? Only the experts can tell. It is a fact that some newspapers have kept aside the truth and have published highly exaggerated and inflammatory reports. Is there any provision to punish such inflammatory writing? Is there any remedy for this?

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