On a day a BJP mayor in Delhi carried out an inspection of encroachments in certain localities, and the AAP held a protest against “” through the threat of bulldozers, several television news telecasts skipped the nuance to orbit around Shaheen Bagh and its 2019 protest against the controversial citizenship law.
This came days after bulldozer action in Jahangirpuri in breach of a Supreme Court order even as BJP and AAP blamed Rohingya and Bangladeshis for communal violence, and the Delhi BJP chief’s to the south and east Delhi mayors about the presence of Rohingya, Bangladeshis and anti-social elements in their areas. Congress leader P Chidambaram, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti had hit out at the government over recent bulldozer drives, alleging that they were biased against Muslims.
On Wednesday, SDMC mayor Mukesh Suryan visited Jaitpur, Sarita Vihar and Madanpur Khadar. While he had earlier mentioned a plan to remove encroachments in localities such as Okhla, Lajpat Nagar, Badarpur, Greater Kailash, Dwarka, Vasant Kunj, Vikas Puri and Shaheen Bagh, several news channel headlines zeroed down on the one locality that towered over all the others in terms of a “Rohingya supporting anti-national” profile.
As Aaj Tak, Zee News, ABP, CNBC TV18, India News, Republic and Times Now broadcast shows on the anti-encroachment drive, let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly.
In its morning segment, India News claimed to have “found” hundreds of Rohingya on the ground – the existence of the Kanchan Kunj camp for refugees has been widely reported across the media spectrum over the last few years. It got worse in the as the anchor announced the “Operation Rohingya” by the channel’s “SIT” had found illegal infiltrators indulging in business worth lakhs of rupees, and how the channel’s crew carried out brave reporting despite threats from the community – it offered little evidence of the same.
Facts were a major casualty as Kanchan Kunj, which is in Jaitpur, was placed in Okhla by the channel. The reporter, Ajeet Shrivastav, then connected the dots with communal violence while giving a piece to camera in front of a scrapyard with glass bottles – insinuating that these “bottles are used by rioters”.
The news travelled at the speed of light, with incorrect destinations. Five seconds later, the anchor connected to Shrivastav, now in “Shaheen Bagh” (though the latter was in Madanpur Khadar, as the description read), saying that security arrangements are crucial for the anti-encroachment drive because “Shaheen Bagh waale” always hijack roads. No evidence was offered for the extrapolation that crimes are on the rise in the locality and that the Rohingya were behind it.
The channel went on, one turbulent telecast after another, scrambling to connect crime, “infiltrators”, communal violence, Rohingya, Bangladeshis and Shaheen Bagh with little care for nuance. On its evening show Desh Ka Sawaal, it claimed it was because of its “Operation Rohingya” after the “Dilli” riots that bulldozers had gone to Jahangirpuri where the Rohingya had settled (with visuals of the mosque whose entrance was razed). The anchor said action should be taken against the Rohingya and not against the innocent. At the same time, he asked “is there a feeling that a community is being targeted?”
During its primetime show Dangal, Aaj Tak ran tickers mentioning that action will be taken for “protesting against CAA”, but didn’t care to justify the announcement as animated bulldozers named after other localities moved about in its studio. To her credit, anchor Chitra Tripathi did raise the issue of notices not being served before such actions.
Aaj Tak announced action will be taken for protesting against CAA.
On his show Takkar on News18 India, anchor Amish Devgan recapped how Shaheen Bagh was a focal point of the anti-CAA protests, as the ticker announced “Bulldozer ki sawaari, Shaheen Bagh ki baari.” He also read out the “sacchai” (truth) – that the bulldozer action was not aimed at any community but only illegal construction.
During the debate, a significant portion of which discussed the recent communal violence, panelist Taslim Rehmani said that Bajrang Dal and VHP workers wield swords, and the anchor defended the outfits, saying that they would not have waited 50 years for the “mandir” if they used swords.
Amish Devgan on News18 India asserted the bulldozer was only about illegal construction.
Little space was dedicated to explain to viewers the legality of such drives, or if they could be carried out as per a mayor’s whims alone – the one in Jaitpur was cancelled on Thursday as the police said they had to be informed in advance. No serious effort was made to differentiate between unauthorised construction and encroachment. Moreover, there were scanty ground reports to verify claims if the localities mentioned by the mayor had “Rohingya or Bangladeshis”.
An Indian Express earlier said that several residents of jhuggi clusters were afraid of their homes being razed down. It also said the mayor was facing resistance from within the civic agency in carrying out the drive – a significant point considering a previous letter on a proposed meat ban had little authority to impose the same.
NDTV was the only channel to ostensibly make an effort to not align with the Delhi BJP’s line. It said that while the official communication has only been focussed on encroachments, the surveys are only being carried out in areas where “Bangladeshis and Rohingya live”. A ground report identified the inspection spot as Jaitpur, without any special focus on Shaheen Bagh, unlike India News.
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