After the recent bomb blasts at the BJP’s rally in Patna, the National Investigation Agency swung into action and its preliminary investigation yielded solid proof of the role of Indian Mujahiddin (IM) in the blasts. Yet, some leading Urdu papers unhesitatingly accused Sangh Parivar of the blasts. Inquilab (Delhi) published an interview of one Mahfuzur Rahman, who heads the Seemanchal Development Front, on November 6, 2013. He bluntly accused Sangh Parivar of the blast. Similarly, Munsif from Hyderabad interviewed Dr Javed Zamil, who gave strange logic to support his claim, “when the BJP leaders received information, why was the rally not cancelled?” According to him, IM is a puppet in the hands of enemies of Muslims.
Such reporting, alas, is no exception but an unsavoury trend that majority Urdu newspapers follow. 26/11, an aggression by other means by the enemy state Pakistan, shocked the nation. Investigation by Indian and foreign agencies have proved that its script was written in Pakistan, with the terrorists trained on its soil. The whole world has been shocked by Pakistan’s perfidy. But a majority of India’s Urdu papers penned a campaign of vicious falsehood that 26/11 was “planned and orchestrated by the CIA, Mossad (Israeli’s intelligence agency)and RSS; either by two of them, or all three collectively”. Innumerable articles, news analyses and editorials appeared, linking 26/11 with RSS. For instance, Urdu Times from Mumbai wrote on November 28, 2008, alleging 26/11 was a “combined operation of RSS, Mossad and the Chhota Rajan gang.” Another daily, Hamaara Samaj (Delhi), wrote on December 4, 2008, “Mossad and Hindu fundamentalists are behind all terrorist attacks happening in India.” Others like Munsif, Siasat, Jadeed Markaz, Rahmaan-e-Mulk, Nasheman, Azad Hind, Rozanama, Rashtriya Sahara too joined this malicious campaign. It is noteworthy that such reporting actually supplemented Pakistani denials and seriously impeded India’s efforts to expose Pakistan.
The Press Council of India has issued certain guidelines, but most Urdu papers feel entitled by the political patronage to ignore this code of conduct. Once, Urdu newspapers made valuable contribution to Indian journalism, with many being published by Hindus too. Sadly, things have changed. Most Urdu journals today are sensational and provocative. Their selective reporting and interpretation is intended to create a communal constituency. Urdu papers, more often than not, publish news and views reproaching the police, judiciary, bureaucracy, academic institutions, the army and intelligence agencies as anti-Muslim. This has led to some limited debate among Muslim intelligentsia too. Communalism Combat, edited by Javed Anand and Teesta Setalvad, wrote in its October 2008 editorial that Urdu papers subscribe to conspiracy theories and ‘behind every incident, see the hand of the CIA and Jews.’
Athar Farooqui in his work, published by Oxford University Press, has exposed the emerging trend of Urdu journalism. According to his findings, Urdu media offers its readers only an emotional and narrow approach, and ignores emerging socio-economic realities. He further argued that Urdu media exaggerates the sense of discrimination in Muslims and ignores the inherent reasons for the community’s backwardness. He also says the Urdu media wants to keep its readers trapped in gloom and pessimism. What is more disturbing is that the Urdu press has become a totally Muslim press. It is not prepared to accept slain policeman Mohan Chand Sharma in the Batla House encounter as a martyr and raises questions on the Ashok Chakra awarded to him. Unfortunately, a fragmented, broken and divisive picture of India is mirrored in Urdu papers whose irresponsible reporting has a ripple effect on a sizable section of the Indian people.
(Sinha is Hony. Director of India Policy Foundation. firstname.lastname@example.org)