Kanhaiya Lal, a tailor, was beheaded by two extremist Muslim men on Tuesday.
Rahul Shivshankar would like you to believe that Alt News cofounder Mohammed Zubair “enabled” the gruesome killing of a Hindu tailor in Rajasthan’s Udaipur.
Thanks to Zubair spotlighting former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s comments on Prophet Muhammad last month, Shivshankar alleged, a “penalty” had to be paid – and “that penalty today has been paid by Kanhaiya Lal”.
That’s how his primetime debate played out on Times Now last night.
A few hours before, social media had erupted with horrifying images and videos of two extremist Muslim men beheading Kanhaiya Lal. The two men – Gaus Mohammad and Mohammad Riyaz Akhtari – filmed the attack and issued threats to prime minister Narendra Modi and Nupur Sharma.
Reports suggest Lal was targeted because he had posted in support of Sharma on social media and had even approached the police for help. The internet was suspended in Rajasthan and TV news channels lined up to discuss what had happened.
On Times Now, Shivshankar called it an “ISIS style decapitation” and brought up the “enablers” thanks to whom the murder took place.
Addressing panellist Tehseen Poonawala, he said, “There are enablers of this ISIS-style retributive...Will you take Zubair’s name tonight?...No, you should take his name. Because that man dog-whistled his name through fame.”
Shivshankar then brought up Zubair’s tweet of a video clip of Sharma making comments against the Prophet. Sharma’s comments were made on Times Now and, once the backlash began, the channel promptly distanced itself from what she had said. “We urge participants in our debates to maintain restraint and not indulge in unparliamentary language against fellow panellists,” Times Now said in a statement.
On last night’s debate, Shivshankar also referred to this tweet by Zubair.
Reading it out, he said there was a “reason” Zubair drew the “distinction” between minorities and the Prophet. “He didn’t have to because he knew what follows,” Shivshankar said. “When you blaspheme the Prophet, then you attract a penalty. And that penalty today has been paid by Kanhaiya Lal.”
Zubair’s name cropped up on India Today too, when Rajdeep Sardesai held a discussion on the Udaipur murder. As the ticker flashed “ISIS style killing in Rajasthan”, Sardesai asked BJP spokesperson RP Singh how India can stop communal violence. Singh said, “If you're condemning Nupur Sharma or anyone else, you should equally condemn Zubair also.”
On his part, Sardesai said, “The Udaipur horror is one such issue that must be condemned by one and all without any ifs and buts.”
Similar discussions played out on other news channels but without mentions of Zubair.
On Aaj Tak, for instance, Chitra Tripathi asked, “Why has this Taliban-like situation happened in Rajasthan?” The ticker ran text like “Rajasthan mein Taliban” and “Kroorta ki kahani, harkat Talibani”, or “a story of cruelty, a Talibani activity”.
When Congress spokesperson Alok Sharma objected to Tripathi using the word “Talibani”, she shouted at him, saying “Do you feel no shame? A father of three children was mercilessly killed in broad daylight and here you are telling an anchor what sort of words should be coming out of her mouth.”
On News18 India, the Taliban was a running theme on Amish Devgan’s show too. “There has been a Taliban-like murder in Udaipur,” he said.
BJP IT head Amit Malaviya then offered his take on the murder: “In the past few months, there have been several incidents like this...where such attacks have been made on Hindus. Whether it was the Ram Navami procession or the Hanuman Utsav procession, Muslims attacked them.”
Writer Shubhrastha, who was on the panel, said the Udaipur murder must force Hindus to become “organised”.
On Zee News, Sudhir Chaudhary was missing on the show DNA. Viewers had to deal with anchor Rohit Ranjan instead, who said the beheading was part of a “religious war” in Udaipur.
Bringing up the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris and the 2020 beheading of a French teacher, Ranjan said, “The whole world has been forced to mentally accept that if anyone insults Prophet Muhammad, then they will be killed and that such killing will be justified in every way.”
Oddly, the YouTube video of this broadcast was removed for violating community guidelines.
Moving on to ABP News, where Rubika Liyaquat asked whether Rajasthan has become a “laboratory of fanaticism”. A voiceover on the show asked, “Doesn’t this video raise the question that India has some people with Taliban-like mentality?”
Finally there was NDTV. Nidhi Razdan hosted a discussion where panellist Gurdeep Singh Sappal, who is a Congress spokesperson, said the murder was “barbaric” and promised a “fast-track investigation”.
Former IPS officer Yashovardhan Azad struck a different note, calling it an “ISIS-style execution”. “We must beware,” he warned.
Meanwhile, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board said yesterday that the Udaipur murder was “highly condemnable, regrettable and unIslamic”. Other Muslim groups also condemned the murder, saying they stood against violence.
A weekly guide to the best of our stories from our editors and reporters. Note: Skip if you're a subscriber. All subscribers get a weekly, subscriber-only newsletter by default.