“Terrorism and the Indian Media” – Book Review

via http://sabyaweb.blogspot.com/2009/03/terrorism-and-indian-media-book-review.html published on April 1, 2009




TERRORISM AND THE INDIAN MEDIA: A comparative study of the approach of
English, Hindi and Urdu Newspapers towards terrorism ” ,



Rakesh Sinha
, India Policy Foundation: New Delhi, Rs. 80 

 

On the morning of
September 19th, 2008, the Special Cell of the Delhi Police raided house
number L-18 of Batla House Colony in Jamia Nagar, in the heart of
Delhi, and killed two dreaded terrorists, Atif Amin and Mohammad Sajid,
while another Mohammad Saif was arrested. While this news brought cheer
to most people in Delhi as these terrorists were part of the same group
that had terrorised the whole city only a few days before by unleashing
a series of deadly bombings in public places that that had left over 30
people dead and over a 100 injured, a large section of the
Urdu press, throwing all journalistic norms to the wind and without any
iota of evidence, chose to condemn the police action as stage-managed
and filled reams of newsprint with highly inflammatory articles and
write-ups.
For instance, the Urdu Times of Mumbai on
September 23, 2008 published an obituary of the killed terrorists with the headline “Atif beqasoor tha, is par laga dagh Allah khud dhoyega” (Atif was innocent; Allah himself will wash the blame put on him).

 

 

The latest book of noted political scientist, Prof. Rakesh Sinha, “Terrorism and the Indian Media”is
a comparative study on how the English, Hindu and Urdu newspapers in
India deal with the issue of terrorism and is a culmination of the
research carried out at the India Policy Foundation, New Delhi.

The book tries to comprehend the attitudes of the newspapers through
their coverage of three watershed events of recent times – the
Batla House Encounter, the 26/11 terrorist attack on Mumbai, and the
unsavoury episode where Abdul Rahman Antulay, a senior minister in the
present Congress government chose to make highly obnoxious comments on
communal lines about the Mumbai attack.

 

 

One would have
thought that the supreme sacrifice of Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma, who
laid down his life fighting the terrorists holed up in Batla House,
would have completely laid to rest the initial murmurs among a section
of the Muslims about the veracity of the encounter. However,
as the book reveals, the Urdu press continued to insist that the slain
terrorists were ‘Masoon (innocent), ‘Nirdosh’ (blameless) and ‘Bekasur’
(innocent), in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
They
gave wide publicity to wild rumours and amplified the inflammatory
speeches of known rabble -rousers like the Shahi Imam of the Jama
Masjid. Some Urdu newspapers published stories which would put even a highly lurid paperback to shame. The writer of an article in the Zadid Markaz, daily from Lucknow, on September 29 like the omniscient narrator of a novel
wrote:
Inspector Sharma shouted from outside, ‘Atif open the door, else I
shall break it open and shoot you.’ As soon as Atif opened the door,
Inspector Sharma and his colleagues held him by the hair and dragged
him from the fourth floor to the second floor. By this time Sajid was
able to rid himself from police’s grip and started to grapple with the
cops. Sharma shouted and asked them to ‘shoot the rascal’, and the cops
fired from behind. Instead of Atif, Inspector Sharma received the three
bullets. …”

 


In contrast, the book found both the English and Hindi print media to be objective on this issue.
They stuck to the known facts and ” never took the anarchist liberty of
demonising the police or the Indian state “. Debunking the canard
spread by a section of the Urdu media, well known columnist Praveen Swami wrote:
Much has been made of a newspaper photograph which shows that Sharma’s
shirt was not covered in blood, with some charging that it demonstrates
he was shot in the back. Forensic experts, however note that bleeding
from firearm injuries takes place through exit wounds – not as in bad
pop films, at the point of entry. In the photgraph, signs of a bullet
having ripped through Sharma’s shirt are evident on his visible
shoulder; so too, is evidence of the profuse bleeding from the back …”

 

 


The Hindi dailies were in general scathing in their denunciation of those spreading false rumours about the attack. The Dainik Jagran took the local supporters of the slain terrorists in Jamia Nagar to task: “The
way a section of the local residents opposed the operation of the Delhi
Police, and even went to the extent of calling it a fake, provided the
answer to questions as to why terrorists were able to get shelter in
such localities. If the encounter were fake, then did Mohan Chand
Sharma fall to the bullets shot from heaven? It is amply clear that the
Muslim leadership still has miles to go
before they can make the anti-terrorism campaign effective.”

 

 

Barely two months
after this incident came the worst terrorist attack on India soil. For
over 60 hours heavily armed Jehadis held the port city of Mumbai in a
pincer-grip of terror and at the end of it about 200 innocent lives
were sacrificed at the alter of Islamic Jehadi fundamentalism and
hundreds more were injured. The books presents overwhelming
evidence of the fact that even at this moment of great national crisis,
the Urdu media chose to play a very dangerous game by actively
spreading egregiously baseless rumours. Most Urdu newspapers, even
after one of the Islamic jehadis was captured alive, continued to spit
out various conspiracy theories, blaming the Americans, the Jews, the
Hindus, or a combination of these.
The Roznam Rashtriya Sahara published an article with the headline: “Mumbai
par hamala CIA ki karastani hai” (The Attack on Mumbai is the handiwork of the CIA.)
According to the Urdu Times of November 30, 2008: “Yeh Sangh Parivar-Mossad ki mushtarka dahsatgardi hai” (This is a joint terror operation by the Sangh Parivar and Mossad).
Again on December 5, the same newspaper issued the patent denial
“Musalman Dahsatgard nahi hai” (Muslims are not terrorists) and
continued to insist that no Muslim organisations were involved in the
Mumbai attacks.



It also called on the government to “refrain from blaming Pakistan on every pretext.”

 

 

The English and Hindi newspapers however clearly saw the Mumbai attack as a ” war on India “. The Hindustan Times
recognized that the ” Mumbai terror fits into the paradigm of Jehad
international “. In the targeted killing of Jews in Nariman House, the Times of India
of November 28, was able to read a hallmark of Islamist groups – a
fanatical hatred for Jews. The same newspaper also reported the case of
the Turkish couple, Seyfi and Meltem Muezzinoglu, who were released by
the terrorists at Oberoi Hotel, when they identified themselves as
Muslims. The Hindi daily Aaj called on the government to formulate a policy to eliminate the root of this terror. It wrote:


” The reality
is that the terrorist infrastructure is still intact in Pakistan. The
proof lies in the fact that from Karachi to Muzaffarabad, hundreds of
terror camps are still operational, where youths are being trained
before being sent across the border “.
In the same vein, the Dainik Jagran wrote: “…after
killing the ruthless marauders who came from Pakistan it is now the
responsibility of the Indian Government to take on the Pakistani
leadership …”

 

 


The response
of the Urdu media to the highly irresponsible utterances of Abdul
Rahman Antulay in Parliament about the killings of the ATS officers in
Mumbai and those of the English and Hindi media were again a study in
contrast.
The Urdu press hailed him as a ” Muslim leader ” and
in his statement found an opportunity to aggressively peddle their
outrageous conspiracy theories. The English and Hindi were however
unanimous in express their outrage at Antulay’s anti-national
statements. M.J.Akbar wrote in the Times of India of December 21st:
I am amazed at the sheer gall of both the spinners in Pakistan and
Antulay’s in India. They seem to forget that there is a Pakistani
canary sitting in an Indian jail, singing out the plans, preparations
and objectives. Nine dead men and their masters are being exposed by
the tenth man, that man who did not die.” (Referring to the captured
terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab).
Many including Akbar felt the Mr. Antulay was impelled by the “lure of the Muslim vote.”

 

 


The book
concludes there has been a marked shift in the attitude of the English
and Hindi media on the issue of terror, especially after 26/11. More
and more newspapers are seen to be moving away from their stance of
considering acts of terror as mere law and order problems. They are
gradually coming to realise that terror acts are not isolated events
and are not products of internal issues like the Ram Janmabhumi issue
or the Gujarat riots, but is rather a part of the pernicious ideology
of global Islamic Jihad, that is totally opposed to all ideas of
democracy and modernity.

 


The aftermath
of the recent terrorist attacks also saw the usual concerted efforts
from some quarters to derail the police investigations by bringing in
issues like secularism, human rights, minority rights and the bogey of
Hindu majoritarianism.


Though
both the English and Hindi did give space to the wild allegations
levelled against the police and the Indian state, they did not get any
endorsement from them, unlike in the past.
They refused
to buy the conspiracy theories peddled by Muslim right-wing activists,
fundamentalist rabble-rousers, Jamia Students’ and Teachers’ bodies,
and leftist organisations and were unanimous in recognising the supreme
sacrifice of Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma at Batla House.

 

 


The Urdu
press on the other hand played a very dubious role during the latest
spate of terror in the country and proved themselves be a big
embarrassment for the nation, often reproducing the same baseless
allegations, innuendos and wild conspiracy theories that sections of
the Pakistani media was dishing out.
They labelled the Batla
House encounter a fake, questioned the role of “Muslims” and “Pakistan”
in 26/11 while blaming CIA, Mossad and Sangh Parivar, and whole
heartedly endorsed the untenable and highly anti-national statements of
Abdul Rahman Antulay.

 

They simply were not
able to look beyond the outrageous paradigms of American, Zionist and
Hindu conspiracies while seeking inspiration from medieval Islamic
theology.

 

 

Therefore, Ulema Council Chairman, Maulana Amir Rashadi in a typical conspiracy theory alleged that, “The
UPA government have been acting under pressure from Mossad, which has
been acting in coordination with the Sangh Parivar and targeting the
Muslim community. All the terror attacks in the country have been
carried out by them. Karkare exposed them and brought out this naked
truth. So they killed him.”

When a reporter of
India Today asked a terrorist arrested for the blasts in Delhi, whether
he would plant a bomb in the same market where his mother was buying
vegetables, he replied: ” If Allah wants, I will do so.’Meri valida ko jannat naseeb hoga (my mother will get a place in paradise).” With
such growing influence of Jehadi ideology, it is imperative for the
media to be extremely careful in its conduct, lest it provide, in
Margaret Thatcher’s words, “oxygen for the terrorists.”

 

Hence Prof. Sinha’s
book comes at a very crucial time. Coming from an independent
authority, it assumes all the more importance as he dispassionately
provides incontrovertible evidence for all his conclusions. He
and his team have painstakingly collected relevant material from all
the major English, Hindi and Urdu newspapers and included them in the
book.
The absence of an index and printing errors are the only points which go against this excellent book.

 



Overall a must read for anyone interested in national security and India’s war on terror

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