Times Now Navbharat was among several channels that aired similar segments last year.
Times Now Navbharat has been told to take down an episode of Navika Kumar’s primetime show Sawal Public Ka for violating guidelines aimed at preventing a communal colour in reportage on crime and riots.
The order came earlier this week on a complaint filed by Indrajeet Ghorpade, who said that the show implied Muslim men came to garba events to “commit crimes” against Hindu women. The episode was titled Garba bahana, Hindu betiya nishaana, and aired on September 29 last year. The complaint said the anchor “falsely claimed that a Muslim panellist on the show did not feel any pain about the videos of Hindu women being made,” and asked why the panellist did not participate in other Hindu festivities. “She claimed that such incidents (threatening women’s safety at Garba events) were happening every year without giving any evidence in support of her claim. She also stated that one cannot look at an ID card and peep into someone's heart.
Times Now Navbharat wasn’t the only one. Newslaundry had reported on the new bogey of “Garba jihad” that was broadcasted by several channels, including on Navika Kumar’s show, in the wake of a series of attacks by Hindutva footsoldiers on Muslim men during Navratri festivities in Indore in Madhya Pradesh, Ahmedabad in Gujarat and Akola in Maharashtra. These men were accused of entering garba venues and leching at Hindu women to carry out “love jihad”. The violence came on the heels of Madhya Pradesh’s cultural affairs minister Usha Thakur declaring that the Garba pandal had become a medium of “love jihad” and the state’s BJP government telling Garba organisers to verify the identities of the visitors.
Meanwhile, Ghorpade’s complaint also quoted Navika as saying, “Why Muslim people don't attend Ganpati celebrations. Janmashtami, and why do they only love Garba? … But they surely come to dance at Garba between bahu-betiyan (women and daughters).” It alleged that Navika also failed to condemn the violence meted out by the Bajrang Dal, a Hindu nationalist organisation.
Responding to the complaint, Times Now Navbharat said its broadcast was being taken out of context. “The pertinent concerns the anchor raised stemmed from the public's questions, which were called out as such for the panellists to respond. As the alleged accused were from a particular community, it was only relevant to debate whether a communal angle is necessary while dealing with such incidents,” it said.
But the NBDSA said Navika’s questions and the nature of the tickers – such as “why did Bhaijaan come to Garba?” – indicated communal tones. Retired Supreme Court judge Justice AK Sikri ordered the channel to remove videos of the episode from all digital platforms before November 9.
“By airing impugned broadcast and the tickers in the aforesaid manner, the broadcaster had violated the guidelines to prevent communal colour in reporting crime, riots, rumours and such related incidents and the specific guidelines covering reportage relating to racial and religious harmony,” the NBDSA said.
“Had (safety of women) been the focus of the programme, NBDSA would not have found any fault with the same. However, instead of confining to the issue of safety of women, the broadcaster went overboard and gave it a communal tilt which tends to taint the manner in which the programme was conducted.”