16 April 2020: Two Hindu seers wearing saffron robes are traveling in a car from Mumbai to Surat to attend a funeral. Their car is stopped at Palghar, a town 87 km from Mumbai. They and the drivers are dragged out of the car and a murderous mob of 400 with sticks and sickles in their hands descends mercilessly beating them. The police arrive, the seers cling them and plead for help. Instead, the policeman hands them over to the murderous mob that eventually kills them. The news remains hidden for three full days and India comes to know only after a video of the murderous attack goes viral. The seers killed were Kalpavriksha Giri, 70, the head priest of Nashik (Maharashtra state) Temple and Sushilgiri Maharaj, 30, of a Mumbai Temple.
Western Media Reaction
Let us see how the prominent American and British media reported the two incidences. Google search (victim and media name) returned the following:
In 2017, in less than a week of Pahlu Khan lynching, the New York Times (NYT) carried a headline story ‘’ Hindu Cow Vigilantes in Rajasthan, India, Beat Muslim to Death’’. The Guardian reported ‘’Muslim man dies in India after attack by Hindu cow protectors’’. The BBC reported ‘’India probe after cow vigilante’s kill Muslim man’’. This was followed by opinion pieces in which the Pahlu Khan case was referred. For example, an opinion piece in the NYT Times authored by a Muslim of Pakistani descent Aatish Taseer was titled ‘’Anatomy of a Lynching’’. The Washington Post carried an opinion piece on 25 July 2018 authored by a journalist who had earlier received praise from Hafeez Saeed — a terrorist mastermind — ‘’Will Modi stop India’s cow terrorist from killing Muslims?’’ which referred to the Pahlu case to keep the issue alive.
What has been the western media reaction to the Hindu seers lynching that took place on 16 April? More than 14 days have passed but even the news has not been reported. The silence of the NYT, Washington Post, and The Guardian, is deafening. The BBC did a report with a headline: ‘’Palghar lynching: India police arrest more than 100 suspects’’. But notice while reporting the Pahlu Khan lynching his religion was mentioned in the story title but not so in the case of the Hindu seers.
The above are not solitary instances. There is a pattern in reporting. Let us check a few more cases.
Within a week of the 2015 lynching of Akhlaq (a Muslim) for cow slaughter the Washington Post carried a story ‘’Mob killing of Indian Muslim over beef rumor’’. The BBC ran a story ‘’Why India man was lynched over beef rumors’’ The NYT captioned the story ‘’Mob attack fueled by rumors of cow slaughter has political overtones’’. The Guardian called it ‘’ Inside the Indian village where a mob killed a man for eating beef’’. The killing was for cow slaughter/smuggling (both are unlawful in India) not for beef-eating but the news was conveniently twisted. The village economy is heavily dependent on cows given the multifarious economic benefits to poor farmers.
Similarly, in 2019, when another Muslim — Tabrez — a thief, was killed by mob fury, the NYT reported ‘’’Forced to chant Hindu slogans, a Muslim man is beaten to death’’. The Independent UK reported ‘’Muslim man ‘killed by a mob who tied him to tree, beat him and forced him to recite Hindu chants’ in India’’. The BBC reported ‘’Jharkhand: Arrests over lynching of India Muslim man’’.
Interestingly, Hindu lynching, for example, the below, was never reported by the Western media. Their conspicuous silence raises questions of bias in reporting.
In 2018, Chandan Gupta a 22-year was going on a motorcycle with two others with Indian tri-color (Tiranga) in hand in a rally. He was killed by three Muslim brothers. In 2019, when the entire family of Gopal Pal (consisting of him, his 8-year-old son and his pregnant wife) was lynched in Muslim dominated Murshidabad in West Bengal, as expected the Western media turned Nelson’s eye.
Why the Duplicity?
Undoubtedly, the lynching of anyone is condemnable. But the appalling duplicity of the Western media not only goes against their own ethical standards but also journalistic ethics in general.
The NYT’s news and editorial standards, for example, note ‘’our fundamental purpose is to protect the impartiality and neutrality of The Times and the integrity of its report’’. Does it consider then that its news reporting on Muslim lynching and non-reporting of Hindu lynching meets this standard? Or does it consider that reporting Hindu lynching would ‘’ damage the paper’s reputation’’ as the Standard notes? It is also against NYT’s ‘’neutrality’’ principle enunciated in the Standard.
Western media are dollar-driven businesses. Consequently, the chase for revenue seems to be overriding journalistic ethics, truth in reporting, and unbiased coverage. Still, like a young lady, they must have the facial of ethical standards displayed at the website to look good in the public eye and hide the dark patches inside!
Featured Image: India Speaks Daily
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Milind Sathye is an Australian academic.