Who needs facts when TV channels can create their own narratives on #JNURow?

​​​Paint all students as 'deshdrohis'? Who chanted anti-India slogans? Who are they? Who knows?

BySourodipto Sanyal
Who needs facts when TV channels can create their own narratives on #JNURow?
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“What is your reaction to the allegation that there are links between Hafiz Saeed and the protest which took place at JNU?’’ This was the first question asked by a journalist at a press conference organised by Jawaharlal Nehru University Teacher’s Association on February 14, 2015. This was few hours after Rajnath Singh’s statement on how JNU protesters had the support of Hafiz Saeed, chief of Jama’at-ud-Da’wah, a listed terrorist organisation by the United Nations.

The entire student and teacher population present there responded with hysterical laughter and a sarcastic round of applause. Everyone started to jeer followed by loud chants of ‘‘SHAME”. This response pretty much sums up what large sections of students in the JNU campus felt about the media’s treatment of the so-called #JNURow.

The press conference was followed by a human chain and protests against the arrest of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Association president Kanhaiya Kumar by the Delhi Police on charges of sedition on February 12. This happened after the alleged chanting of anti-India slogans in the JNU campus on the night of February 9.

“The arrest of the JNUSU president and its purported endorsement by the university administration coupled with largely negative reporting in the media has created an unprecedented situation that requires our immediate response.” This was the opening line of the JNUTA press statement.

JNU students have expressed anguish and anger at the manner in which certain sections of the television media have reported the events of 9 February and how Jawaharlal Nehru University has been projected.

Zee News uploaded a video on YouTube anchored by Aditi Tyagi, titled “JNU students call terrorist Afzal Guru a martyr amid anti-nationalist slogans”. Oddly enough, the seven-minute video clip does not show any student saying any such thing. It is to be noted that there is no certainty as to who exactly shouted anti-India slogans. Initial reports suggested that they were JNU students. Some in the JNU campus claim that it was the work of outsiders from Kashmir who just happened to be there at the event. Newslaundry spoke to some undergraduate students studying Arabic and they seemed to agree. When it is not certain who exactly were behind the raising of the controversial slogans, is it correct to say they were “JNU students” and paint them all anti-nationals?

In one of the segments in the video the frame is divided into two sections. In one, The JNUSU Joint Secretary and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad member Saurabh Sharma is seen speaking, while on the other, Anant Prakash Narayan, a member of All India Student’s Association is doing so. The AISA member, Anant Prakash Narayan’s video, is described as “Aatanki Afzal Ka Samarthan” (Support for terrorist Afzal Guru). And below Saurabh Sharma’s video it is written “Aatanki Afzal Ka Virodh.’’ (Opposition to terrorist Afzal guru.) It is important to note that AISA did not even organise the cultural event that sparked off the controversy. It was organised by former members of the Democratic Students’ Union, which is ironically the rival group of AISA. Even in the video, nowhere does Anant Prakash Narayan mention Afzal Guru, let alone support him. All he does is explain what exactly happened on February 9 and how ABVP has a hold over the administration of JNU. It is difficult to figure out how what he said amounts to any support to Afzal Guru. Maybe Zee News doesn’t just read between the lines but also outside of it.

Newslaundry spoke to Shehla Rashid, Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union Vice President, right after her fiery speech that went viral on YouTube. She said Zee News “branded” the entire institution of JNU as ‘’anti-national”. She said this entire ordeal had made her depressed over the past week. Similar dismay was also expressed by Mohit Pandey, a member of AISA. Both Mohit and Shehla pointed out how Anant Prakash was wrongly projected as a supporter of Afzal Guru.

Rohit Sardana in his noted 5 pm show “Taal Thok Ke’’ invited Umar Khalid, one of the organisers of the event in the panel. Sardana began by pointing out how he himself is a taxpayer of the country and his money is what makes possible the subsidised education, which JNU is so famous for. He even thought it was a civil thing to say, ‘’Aap taxpayer ko choona lagate hai.’’

Anjana Om Kashyap, the most popular face of Aaj Tak also hosted a debate on the developments in JNU.

Again, when it has not been proven in the court of law who exactly were these individuals carrying out these slogans, is it correct to state in such bold letters, ‘’JNU ke deshdrohiyon par Dangal?’’ In case it turns out after the judicial enquiry that students were not from JNU, will the media be held accountable?

Newslaundry spoke to Ajay Patnaik, president of JNUTA and he condemned the way both Times Now and NewsX covered the report.

Arnab Goswami on February 10 hosted “Tribute to Afzal Guru at JNU – Students Crossed All Lines?: The Newshour Debate (10th Feb 2016).” Nupur Sharma, BJP member who contested against Arvind Kejriwal in the 2015 Delhi elections, Umar Khalid and Lenin Kumar, former president of AISA, were among those on the panel.

Both Lenin Kumar and Umar Khalid had to face the brunt of the judge, jury and executioner from the Times Now star. Again, Lenin Kumar is from AISA, which did not even organise the cultural event. Arnab hardly let either of them speak, repeatedly interrupted them while they were trying to get their point across. Well, in all fairness he takes the liberty of doing this every night.

Arnab also openly called both of them “anti- national elements’’ and ‘’secessionists in the guise of leftism.’’

He also felt that somehow it was necessary to bring in the critical condition of Lance Naik Hanumanthapa of the Madras regiment who later succumbed to his injuries. He was trying to contrast how people in the army are dying for the country and some people are questioning the killing of a terrorist.

On the other hand, Nupur Sharma got a free hand and was allowed to label students as “closet terrorists” stating, “Yahaan ka khaate ho gun gaate ho dushmanon ka.” Arnab did not deem fit to intervene when she made such accusatory remarks on live television.

Then there was Rahul Shiv Shankar of NewsX who hosted a debate on February 10 titled “Nation at 9: BJP takes on Afzal Guru”. Notice how students are labelled “Afzal Gang” and the hashtag “Tributetoterrorist’’.

Komal, one of the organisers and member of DSU was on the panel, and was asked whether the occupation in Kashmir is illegal and she responded in the affirmative. Then, the anchor gave the chance to an army general to speak and said, ‘’Sir, could you please inform her with facts.’’ The general also thought for some reason it was necessary to bring in the critical condition of Hanumanthapa. He eventually lost his cool and said the students are a bunch of anti-national, useless elements.

Newslaundry spoke to two students who were there in the protest and they said they got questioned by bystanders if they wore a JNU jacket and ventured out. They mentioned how many in the public started forming a negative opinion of the institution and they considered the media largely responsible for it.

TV channels have followed a bhed chaal narrative and shown little regard for facts that might trip up the formula they have constructed. Joining the bleating slap down of anti-national sloganeering, they have shown little respect for those whose views don’t fall in line with the image they want to project of radicalised students. Keeping reasonable views out, they present a story already formed and set in their own heads. Why should truth come in the way?

Update: The story had referred to BJP’s Nupur Sharma as Nupur Tiwari. The error has been corrected.

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