On Sunday, as the Prayagraj Development Authority demolished the house of activist Javed Mohammed in Prayagraj on Friday, accusing him of organising protests, social media users expressed shock over how many media organisations cheered on the action.
Several news channels freely referred to Javed as the “mastermind” behind the protests in Prayagraj, imputed guilt based on the documents found at his residence and portrayed the demolition as another strong signal by the Adityanath government when it comes to law and order.
Protests were held in several parts of India on Friday against controversial remarks on Prophet Mohammad made by former BJP leaders Nupur Sharm and Naveen Jindal. The houses of at least three Muslim leaders, who were allegedly involved with the protests, have been demolished by the Uttar Pradesh government.
Earlier also, when demolitions were carried out in Jahangipuri in New Delhi in April, several media houses had cheered these drives.
‘Celebrating demolition of muslim houses’
Many sections of the media portrayed this demolitions as the Uttar Pradesh government sending a message to “rioters”. During a live broadcast of the demolition, a reporter from ABP News said, “ Ye karwaai nai ye sandesh hai dangaaiyoon ke liye. Ye UP hai…” This is not a proceeding but a message to rioters. This is Uttar Pradesh.
The reporter continued: “Parson danga hua aur 48 ghante nai beete ki ghar pe diwar aur gate girne shuru ho gaye hai. Makan giraya jayga aur bataya jayega ki danga karne walon ka Uttar Pradesh mein kya hashr hota hai.” A day before there was a riot and within 48 hours the walls and gate have started falling. The house will be brought down and it will be shown what happens to rioters in UP.
He added that now no one will have the courage to do similar things.
A similar tone was seen in the coverage by other Hindi news channels. Aaj Tak ran headlines such as “Yogi sakth. Pathharbaziyon pe action zabardast!” Yogi is tough. Impressive action on stone pelters!
Even CNN News 18 carried triumphant headlines during its coverage. The channel flashed messages such as “Action they won’t forget” and “‘Mastermind’ made to pay”.
This trimphalist tone for an action many experts have termed illegal drew wide criticism. A number of users on social media pointed out that such coverage was hate-filled.
Guilty before trial
Channels also summarily insinuated guilt based on material found at the demolition home.
A reporter for CNN News 18 repeatedly bought up a poster retrieved from Javed’s house, which read, “when injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes duty”.
“Iss poster mein bahut kahani chippi hui hai,” he said. This poster has a number of stories hidden behind it.
A Times Now reporter said, ““Isse aandaza lagaya ja sakta hai ki uske dimag mein kitni badi khurafat chal rahi thi.” From this, we can guess just how much mischief he was planning.
Along with this, channels also drew attention to flags of the Welfare Party of India, to which Mohammed belongs, and political literature found at his house
The near-hysterical broadcast of things as innocuous as posters and the literature drew reactions from various people. Many pointed out that this slogan had been used by other politicians also earlier, without drawing any such criticism.
Some also questioned how and why a person carrying a Republic TV microphone was removing articles found at Mohammed’s house.
Several channels freely used the term “mastermind” during the coverage, attributing it to Javed. However, several users flagged this, given that it has not been proved yet that Javed was the mastermind behind the protests in Lucknow or, in fact, that he had any had in organising them.
For instance, the ABP News flashed headlines saying, “Javed ‘Pump’ [his nickname] is the mastermind behind Prayagraj violence.” Even AajTak, in certain instances, referred to Javed as the mastermind of the operation.
Many also condemned the general cheerful tone of the television coverage of such demolitions.
Repeat from the past
Journalists have drawn attention to how when similar instances of “bulldozer justice” took place, several sections of the media lauded the government for such action. For instance, during demolitions in Jahangirpuri, Delhi, in April, the media portrayed the actions in a positive light.