“THIS IS THE 29/10 BOMBER”, claimed the title of a Hindustan Times article in capital bold letters after the arrest of Mohammed Rafiq Shah in relation with 2005 Delhi Blasts thus imprinting the face of this 22 year old Masters student as the killer of 62 people in the minds of lakhs of readers who came across this copy of Hindustan Times. Mohammed Rafiq Shah has been acquitted 12 years later on 16th February 2017. While we can talk ad infinitum about how investigative agencies of our country repeatedly frame innocent youth, especially those with a Muslim name, we must also talk about the role that media plays in villainizing the accused even before the court proceedings start.
In recent past, there have been innumerable cases where scores of Muslims have been acquitted by courts – Haren Pandya case, Akshardham case, Ahmedabad blasts case etc. There are many other cases where people have been killed in encounters claiming that these people are on a terrorism mission and the encounters have been later found to be fake. Even in such cases, media has behaved as an extension of the establishment instead of asking questions. The below news clipping is that of Times of India on Jun 17th 2004, two days after Ishrat Jahaan, Pranesh Pillai urf Javed Sheikh and two others were gunned down by Gujarat Police. Gujarat Police claimed that these four were out to kill the then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi.
While the aforementioned encounter has been found to be prima facie fake by multiple investigative agencies including SIT and CBI, the above headline declared that Pranesh Pillai was the “Modi ‘killer’ who had converted to Islam for love”. TV media also plays an equal part in painting accused in various cases as terrorists much before the investigation or court proceedings start. It is time that certain laws are enacted which bring to book the media houses/journalists for villainizing the accused with false unverified information.