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NDTV Reporting on CAA and Delhi Riots - A Case Study in India's Leftist Media Hypocrisy

Updated: Jul 12, 2020


NDTV's Burkha Dutt posing with Muslim women at Delhi's Shaheen Bag anti-CAA protests


If I look up Google for the word "Hypocrisy" I find it defined as "the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform; pretense."


The Oxford dictionary defines "Hypocrisy" as "​behavior that does not meet the moral standards or match the opinions that somebody claims to have".


Though the protests over India's Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019 have not subsided, the dust has begun to settle on the tragedy of the Delhi Riots. However, bodies continue to be exhumed by India's investigative agencies from the ashes of the violence that north east Delhi witnessed and also from the (now infamous) Gokulpuri Nala, the sewer where Intelligence Bureau officer Ankit Sharma's body was found. For those not familiar, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) is India's premier counter intelligence agency. How an officer from the IB (who happened to be a Hindu) was kidnapped, tortured and brutally killed during the riots is a pointer to an operation planned and executed in cold blood which may well surpass all anti-India conspiracy theories in reality, when the investigative agencies begin connecting the dots.


What will however remain (forever) recorded in the digital world is how India's media reported these events, and more importantly the narratives they spun to characterize what happened.


In today's world what would describe "Responsible Behavior" for a Media House?


In the Mahabharat, the blind king Dhritarashtra, father of the Kaurava princes, had a wise and trusted advisor named Sanjay. Sanjay is credited with providing Dhritarashtra that which he lacked - vision. Not literally, but by acting as the commentator who relayed the happenings on the battlefield as they played out in the epic clash between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. This is known as the Sanjay Dhritarashtra samvad (meaning the Sanjay Dhritarashtra dialog). Sanjay could see what was happening in the battlefield remotely, without physical presence, by virtue of the gift of divine vision which he had received from the rishi (sage) Vyasa. Sanjay's narration allowed Dhritarashtra to access a window into events he could not have witnessed due to his congenital lack of visual faculties.




All of the hundred sons of Dhritarashtra, the Kauravas, perished at the hand of the Pandavas by the time the battle came to a close. This fateful event presents the tragic predicament built into Sanjay's task (and the burden of his divine gift) wherein he had to break the news of a son's death a hundred time to a hapless father, telecasting as it were, the end of his king's progeny and the Kaurava dynasty. Visually navigating the blood soaked terrain of the battlefield, Sanjay provided a commentary to events as they happened. It was a commentary devoid of "narratives". If the scriptures are to be believed Sanjay did an honest job of not coloring the events on the battlefield with his own motivations and perceptions, if he had any.


That is one of the earliest examples of intellectual strength, journalistic integrity and responsible behavior demonstrated by a narrator in the long history of human civilization. Sadly, the same cannot be said to be true of the majority of media houses operating on this planet today, regardless of nations and boundaries.


Separating Hypocrisy from Bias


Operating under a bias is an accepted fact of media reporting in the age of digital and social media. The image below demonstrates the left or right leanings of media houses in the US.




Similarly, the image below shows an assessment of the bias that media houses in India carry today.


Source: Reddit.com


This chart places NDTV as a Left Biased organization. Assessments by individuals without application of rigorous statistical research tools are always subjective. But for now, let us go with what we have.


There are many motivations and compulsions that drive a journalistic entity towards a specific bias, and that deserves a separate study in itself. However, when the same media does a U-turn and swiftly navigates to the center of the left-right divide to momentarily project itself as being perfectly neutral, before swinging back to its natural leaning, a moment in hypocrisy is born.


NDTV did just that in a recent turn of events. Let's walk through that drama.


NDTV's coverage of the CAA Protests and the Delhi Riots


In an article on December 22, NDTV presented as it were PowerPoint slides from a Congress party publication insinuating readers about the sinister nature of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and its supposedly insidious link with the National Register for Citizens (NRC). None of these conjectures have come through any official government channel though. Unsubstantiated as these proclamations are (without any published government policies linking the CAA with the NRC), they are selective hypothetical assessments at best and conspiracy theories at worst.


However, the damage which was intended (through such characterization of the CAA and NRC) was done with astounding accuracy. These slides lit the fuse in the powder keg of Muslim apprehensions by establishing the dreaded link between the CAA and the NRC. This is what the 5 slides had to say.








 

In these 5 slides, NDTV ensured that their narrative of projecting CAA as anti-secular and by corollary anti-Muslim was seared into the doubting reader's mind, with a hot branding iron so to speak. A supremely alarmist narrative had taken concrete shape in the psyche of the Indian Muslim and India's left liberals (which includes many Hindus as well).

 

Anti CAA and anti NRC protests exploded on the street across India.


Six days prior to that article, on December 16, 2019 NDTV's famed Barkha Dutt ensured that the NDTV narrative reaches US shores too. She wrote an article under Global Opinions in The Washington Post titled - "The Modi government’s new citizenship law puts India at war with itself"


What is most insinuating is the second para in that write-up, where Barkha Dutt writes the following.

 

"A bigoted new citizenship law that privileges non-Muslims over Muslim migrants — coupled with the government’s proposal to create a national register of citizens (NRC) — has unleashed a set of forces over which the government may no longer have much control. The political motive behind the law was evidently to settle millions of Hindus who originally came into India from Bangladesh, leaving only Muslim refugees to “prove” their Indian-ness."

 

Burkha Dutt did not just report the news, she actually formulated a judgement for the western audience to absorb and ingest on just how flagrantly Islamophobic and Hinduphilic the largest democracy in the world was turning into.


But, such a blatant charge on the largest democracy needed visuals for the anti CAA, anti Hindu bias to anchor in the minds of gullible readers including the international audience. That came through Burkha's masterstroke - the "Sheroes" story.


Two female students of Jamia Milia Islamia university, Ladeeda Farzana and Aysha Renna, had become 'sheroes' of Barkha Dutt after a video had gone viral showing them protecting a male student from the police that had been sent to apprehend the student mob. When audience later dug through their Facebook accounts, Aysha Renna was found to have extreme Jihadist leanings with posts sympathizing with elements (Yakub Memon) that the Indian government deemed as terrorists responsible for the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.


NDTV's Burkha Dutt posing with her "Sheroes" at Delhi's Jamia Milia Islamia University


Soon thereafter, under intense public scrutiny Aysha Renna deactivated her Facebook page.


But the narrative had already made headlines in The Washington Post, which published an article - "Indian police tried to beat up a protester. Then a group of young women stopped them".


And finally, when President Trump was the guest of honor in India, north east Delhi burst into flames. The violence claimed over 45 lives, most of them Hindus.


But that did not deter Shekhar Gupta of NDTV to label the incident as a "pogrom" sponsored by the Home Minister Amit Shah to avenge BJP's defeat in the recent Delhi elections.



Within 2 days of that tweet, The Atlantic upped the ante for the international audience with an article titled - "What Happened in Delhi Was a Pogrom".




 

However, when individuals or organizations pretend to be what they are not, they step into the territory of Hypocrisy. With the "India is One" campaign (explained below), regardless of how benign their intentions, NDTV stepped into the land of Hypocrites. Why? Because donning a white garb will hide the one with black spots but won't make those spots go away.

 

NDTV's tryst with Hypocrisy


On 6th March 2020, after intensely polarizing India by selectively characterizing the CAA Protests and the Delhi riots as atrocities against India's Muslims by majority Hindus, NDTV felt a sudden irrestible urge to redeem their image as India's Peacemakers. They started what they chose to call "NDTV's India is One Campaign".


NDTV reclaiming their role as self-appointed guardians of India's Constitution and Secularism


A Left Center bias is now retracting its steps towards the hallowed center of the Left-Right balance, where they can claim to be the beacons of neutral news reporting that is enshrined in their mission statement "Experience. Truth First".


The question is which Truth?


There is NDTV's version of the Truth.


And then there is the truth that Sanjay would have narrated to Dhritarashtra, had they been living in this day and age of CAA Protests and the Delhi Riots.



 





 

About the Author


As an American, lived in South Asia and love South Asia as one of the most politically and culturally active sections of the globe. My dad's tenure in New Delhi as a journalist from the Washington Post, has provided me the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the Indian subcontinent and get to know its people and the nations it is made up of.

Unlike most American kids of my generation, I did not spend my teenage years in the US. Instead I backpacked with my journalist dad travelling the length and breadth of the South Asian subcontinent, as he covered the region for his daily and weekly dispatches to the Washington Post.

As a result, I came to know this melting pot of cultures, ethnicities and people like few in my generation back home can even dream to acquaint themselves of even if they joined the most prestigious of the think tanks in Washington DC.


What do I do for a living? Having worked with the Big 5 corporations, I currently do free lance technology consulting for corporations struggling to transform their technology of today into where they need it to be tomorrow.


I can be reached at carla.stewart019@gmail.com

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3 Comments


uttam pandey
uttam pandey
Mar 08, 2020

I don't know much about Shekhar but Barkha Dutt's mischievousness is well known. For her, Burhan Wani was a martyr, her foolishness cost our soldiers in Kargil war etc.

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Carla Stewart
Carla Stewart
Mar 08, 2020

I am aware that some readers may point out, Barkha Dutt and Shekhar Gupta are no longer on the official payrolls of NDTV. However, my sources in India inform me, as is common knowledge in journalistic circles in India, that these two luminaries continue to perform in an advisory capacity to NDTV's board of content review and strategic direction.

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uttam pandey
uttam pandey
Mar 08, 2020

Barkha Dutt and Shekhar Kapoor are no more part of NDTV family and had left it long ago.

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