The Anatomy of Idiocy*

*How else can one describe The Sunday Guardian’s piece on the Kathua case?

ByManisha Pande
The Anatomy of Idiocy*
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The Kathua case, by now, has given us many cringe-worthy moments.

Beyond the state of Jammu and Kashmir, though, it can be stated that Madhu Kishwar is leading the way on Twitter. A self-professed fartarian, oops…I mean a ‘factarian’, Ms Kishwar has added all sorts of angles to the rape and murder case — from jehadi Rohingyas to Cambridge Analytica. Disturbing as this may be, Ms Kishwar and her social media presence is a low-hanging fruit — one which is easy to dis and has ceased to make much sense for a long time now.

What is shocking is The Sunday Guardian — a weekly newspaper — publishing this idiocy on its Comment & Analysis page. The idiocy I am talking about is an opinion piece by activist Sushil Pandit published as…wait for it…Fake News.

Yup, the daily actually thought it prudent to publish an opinion piece under a ‘fake news’ category. That’s a whole new category.

It gets more bizarre. The article headlined, “Anatomy of a concoction*” comes with a footnote that says, “* This article is a pure concoction based on fiction. Any resemblance with any character or event is unintentional and coincidental.”

EXCEPT THE PIECE PERTAINS TO A REAL EVENT AND REAL CHARACTERS AND SEEMS TOTALLY INTENTIONAL!

Pandit is talking about the Kathua case, he mentions the names of the police officers involved in the investigation and even Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti — he essentially uses the bare details of the case to spin a totally unsubstantiated and baseless theory.

If we are to believe Pandit then:

1. The eight-year-old Bakerwal girl was not raped.

2. Her real parents were murdered and she’s apparently inherited property for which she could have been killed by her own relatives.

3. The accused in the case have been framed by the Crime Branch.

Who will actually believe this, you ask? Well, the likes of Ms Kishwar.

Clearly, the ‘Fake News’ tag did not work and a section of people are now pedalling Pandit’s unhinged imagination as the ‘real story’. You know, the real story that evil folks in the mainstream media are keeping away from you.

This is dangerous and does enormous disservice to the case because the piece is riddled with lies.

Take for instance, Pandit’s assertion that the girl’s real parents were murdered over a property dispute. This is far from the truth. In fact, both the biological and adoptive parents have been interviewed in various media reports like this, this and this.

Pandit also suggests that the initial post-mortem report did not speak of any signs of rape or even sexual assault, and that these were later added under pressure. His exact words are: “Just a murder, even if of a girl barely eight years old, is not as macabre, perhaps. Imagine the revulsion it will evoke if a rape is added. And, what if it is a gang-rape!”

This again is patently false. The chargesheet in the case speaks of only one post-mortem report in which the medical experts state that the victim was prima facie raped before being killed.

The chargesheet says, “As per the report of medical experts the victim was found prima-facie raped before being killed. Furthermore, investigations in this regard have established that the victim was raped by more than one accused with common intention. Accordingly, section 376-D RPC was added in the case. The Medical opinion also established the fact that the victim had been kept without food and administered sedatives and her cause of death was Asphyxia leading to cardio-pulmonary arrest. The expert opinions and Post Mortem report forms part of challan.” But, according to Pandit, this is just a little detail added to the case to make it more “macabre”.

Pandit, in fact, borrows a lot from a viral list of lies from ground zero, which has been debunked by The Quint. So, it would be correct to say that the only thing sensible about the article is that it is categorised as ‘fake news’.

That still leaves us with the question as to why The Sunday Guardian would publish this ‘opinion’ piece in the mano-ya-na-mano genre .

We reached out to The Sunday Guardian editorial director with some questions that come to mind:

1) Why was a ‘fake news’ piece published as an opinion piece?

2) The case Pandit is talking about pertains to a sensitive case — that of murder and rape of a child. Do you think a disclaimer is enough to justify a piece that essentially belittles a very heinous crime and attempts to spread false information on it?

3) The story is riddled with incorrect facts about the Kathua case and though you say it is a concoction, it is in fact talking of a real case. Would you deem this responsible journalism on part of The Sunday Guardian?

The piece will be updated if and when he replies.

To be sure, the Kathua case is under investigation and the contents of the chargesheet will have to be proven in a court of law. Journalists and even opinion makers have every right to question the chargesheet and point at holes, if any. But the least you’d expect is that they’d do so on some real grounds and not on pure hearsay and rumours.

Update

The Editorial Director of Sunday Guardian Madhav Das Nalapat responded to our questions. His response is produced below verbatim with our questions in bold:

Why was a ‘fake news’ piece published as an opinion piece? 

It was explicitly published as fake news and not as any other piece. Has the disclaimer been omitted from the copy you got? 

The case Pandit is talking about pertains to a sensitive case — that of murder and rape of a child. Do you think a disclaimer is enough to justify a piece that essentially belittles a very heinous crime and spreads false information on it?
Fiction is not the same as “information” and is by its very nature a concoction 
The story is riddled with incorrect facts about the Kathua case and though you say it is a concoction, it is in fact talking of a real case. Would you deem this responsible journalism on part of Sunday Guardian?                
There have been numerous works of fiction about events. This falls within that genre. Sushil Pandit has the right to pen literature. As someone who was more than once on the receiving end of having my writing driven off print pages, I would rather err on the side of freedom of expression than its suppression. However, you have a right to your views and thank you for giving them to me. As for TSG, let us both allow its readers to decide on the quality of the publication as they do each week.
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