On Monday 22 July, the Twitter handle of Aaj Tak put out an announcement of a news segment that read, “Muslims will take up arms against the sword of mob lynching.”
The headline, which is quite clearly a lurid attempt to grab eyeballs, implies that the minority community will respond to lynching with violence.
Many Indian news channels have been coming up with similarly communally charged headlines. In the scuffle to up viewership, channels not only popularise stereotypes attributed to particular communities, but also deepen the divide between the majority and the minority. This whips up mass hysteria as well as incites hatred against certain sections of society.
Hence, Twitter users responded to the post asking what agenda the channel is attempting to propagate with posts such as these.
Many Twitter users compared the channel to Radio Rwanda.
Radio Rwanda played a pivotal role in the 1994 genocide of the Tutsis, an ethnic group in Africa. It was widely listened to by the masses and propagated racist propaganda against the Tutsis, moderate Hutus, Belgians and the United Nations mission UNAMIR. Many Rwandan citizens hold the view that the radio station helped to foster the racial hostility which precipitated the genocide.
Twitter users pointed out that many Indian channels seem to be ‘inspired’ by Radio Rwanda, and are engaging in the creation of an atmosphere of hatred against certain sections of society.
“This is the state of India, just like how Rwanda genocide was fuelled by hate mongering radio station,” Twitter users said.
We looked through Twitter and found instances where, in the past, Twitter users had pulled up Indian media for their Radio Rwanda-like behaviour.
In August 2018, one Twitter user called a few TV anchors the ‘Rwanda Radio cabal’. “Their audience needs to know their contribution to lynching and dehumanizing sections of society, he wrote.
There’s more to come. The media’s complicity in driving hatred and radical sentiments in India is becoming a dangerous trend, especially taking into account the fourth estate’s reach.
The media speaks on the majority’s behalf when it justifies violence against people who are seen as ‘anti-national’ or ‘illegal immigrants’. It simultaneously shapes and legitimises what is supposedly the ‘majority’ opinion, when in fact, instead of normalising the same, the media should be calling it out.
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