Amid outrage over hate speeches and calls for violence by several Hindutva leaders at a ‘Dharma Sansad’ organised in Haridwar last week, there were only a few prominent news channels that gave the issue primetime coverage.
The three-day event was organised by Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, head priest of a temple in Ghaziabad, starting December 17. Several inflammatory remarks were made, ranging from calls to kill Muslims, urging Hindus to take up arms, and a wish to shoot former PM Manmohan Singh. Hindutva leaders such as Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, Swami Prabodhanand Giri and Sadhvi Annapurna were in attendance. Anand Swaroop Maharaj of Sambhavi Dhaam said if people and hotels in Haridwar celebrated Christmas, then they would be responsible for their properties. He warned to “wage a war far scarier than the 1857 revolt”.
Meanwhile, NDTV India journalist Saurabh Shukla was heckled by a man while he was reporting on the event from Haridwar on December 23. While initially the channel assumed that Shukla was attacked for his reportage, the journalist, later speaking with Newslaundry, clarified that the assault was just a case of a drunken brawl and not linked to his coverage of the controversial event. NDTV India and NDTV 24x7 discussed the issue on their prime time shows.
Aaj Tak covered the issue, but only on the 10 pm show 10 Tak. Even as anchor Sayeed Ansari asked why no police action had been taken in relation to the matter, the show informed viewers that the former chairman of the UP Shia Waqf Board Jitender Narayan had been named in an FIR related to the incident. The issue was discussed for around seven minutes after which Ansari moved on to discuss the Ludhiana court blast.
Times Now discussed the issue on Newshour at 10 at 10 pm. The show’s anchor Padamaja Joshi invited social activist Sreejith Panickar and two participants of the ‘Dharma Sansad’﹘ Sadhvi Annapurna, the mahamandaleshwar of the Niranjani Akhara, and Swami Anand Swaroop, president of the Shankaracharya Trust.
Republic TV skipped the issue on the primetime show The Debate with Arnab Goswami. Editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami chose to discuss Karnataka’s anti-conversion bill, government delay on booster shots and the Ludhiana court blast.
On India Today, anchor Preeti Choudhary touched upon the issue on News Now at 9 pm and invited former IPS officer Yashovardhan Azad and advocate Kapil Sankhla.
ABP and Republic Bharat did not touch upon the hate speeches during their prime time shows. ABP covered the rise of Omicron, the Ludhiana court blasts and the upcoming UP elections. On Republic Bharat, anchor Ashwarya Kapoor held a debate on the Ludhiana court blasts. News Nation covered the issue in a bulletin which was uploaded on their this morning.
On December 19, a similar event was held by the Hindu Yuva Vahini in Delhi. Videos of the event which were circulated on social media showed Sudarshan News editor-in-chief Suresh Chavhanke administering an oath to make India a “Hindu nation”, and to fight, die and “kill if required”.