Fact-check: Did Ravish Kumar’s reportage on Pragya Thakur exhibit religious bias?

Two separate broadcasts by senior journalist Ravish Kumar have been juxtaposed together and circulated on social media. The two videos played in quick succession attempt to portray the journalist as sympathising with a Muslim but not echoing the same treatment for a Hindu. In the first clip, Kumar can be heard saying, “Pragya Thakur is going to be named BJP’s candidate from Bhopal…she is an accused and is facing charges of terrorism, but the BJP doesn’t seem to care…” 

Immediately after this video, a separate broadcast is played where Kumar says, “You can see two photographs on the screen. The first one is of a youngster who was 20 years of age in 1994. The other photograph was taken recently on May 31, 2016, and his age now is 43. Between these images, this individual has spent 8125 days in jail. After 23 years of incarceration, the day when the supreme court said that the statements on the basis of which Nasir was sentenced to life imprisonment did not stand up against the scrutiny of facts, Nasir wasn’t as happy as he should’ve been. He felt like a living corpse…”

The broadcast about Pragya Thakur is played first and is placed on the left with a label that says – “When the accused is Hindu”. On the second broadcast, where Kumar talks about Nasir, another label reads – “When the accused is Muslim”. The video is captioned – “Journalism Level – Ravish Kumar”. Posted by a page called ‘India Against Urban Naxals’, the video has nearly 1 lakh views

This is Krantikari Reporter for you…

Posted by India Against Urban Naxals on Thursday, 18 April 2019

The video has been circulated on Twitter as well. It received nearly a lakh views from the account BALA (@erbmjha). 

The creator of the video was a Facebook page named ‘Political Kida’.

क्या रविश कुमार सच में निष्पक्ष पत्रकार हैं? जान ने के लिए इस वीडियो को जरूर देखें

Posted by Political Kida on Thursday, 18 April 2019

‘Political Kida’ is run by Ankur Singh (@iankursingh), who previously used to run the page ‘Nation Wants Namo’ that was removed by Facebook in its recent takedown of pages involved in “inauthentic behaviour”. ‘Political Kida’ is now promoted using the same phone number associated with ‘Nation Wants Namo.’ Ankur Singh has tweeted the phone number multiple times.

Ravish Kumar’s broadcasts placed out of context

In the video viral on social media, Kumar first talks about BJP Bhopal candidate ‘Sadhivi’ Pragya Thakur who is an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts. In 2017, the NIA dropped charges against her under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). Since the announcement of her candidature, social media has been brimming with the false claim that Thakur has been acquitted, however, this is far from the truth as she still faces charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and is currently out on bail on health grounds. The video of Kumar’s complete broadcast can be viewed here.

The second broadcast pertains to Nisar-ud-din Ahmad, who was wrongfully convicted in Babri anniversary train blasts case and acquitted 23 years later by the supreme court. Kumar’s reportage was broadcast by NDTV on May 31, 2016.

Who is Nisar-ud-din Ahmad?

On January 25, 1994, a 20-year-old youth from Karnataka, Nisar-ud-din Ahmad was picked up from his home by the police. Ahmad spent the next 23 years of his life incarcerated until he was exonerated of all charges in May 2016.

Ahmad was convicted by lower courts of plotting a series of blasts in five trains in the intervening nights of December 5-6, 1993 – on the first anniversary of the demolition of Babri Masjid. Nisar, his brother and a neighbour, were arrested by the Hyderabad police and the trio was subsequently booked for the blasts.

“The only evidence police produced was their alleged custodial confessions — the provisions of Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) were later invoked to make these admissible,” per a report by The Indian ExpressIn his alleged confession, the police claimed that Ahmad accepted his role in the terror attack. The case was subsequently transferred to the CBI and in 1996, the Hyderabad Metropolitan Sessions Judge revoked the provisions of TADA from the case. In 2001, the alleged confessions became inadmissible in court.

Hyderabad trial court acquitted all the three accused in 2007, and the case was taken to the supreme court where the judges found that the alleged confessions were “without any legal sanction and cannot be relied upon”.

According to the judgment, Ahmad’s “role is neither referred to in the confessions…nor is there any material other than the confession of (Ahmad) himself on record. The conviction and sentence of (Ahmad) is therefore completely unsustainable”.

After hearing the case for 12 years, the apex court acquitted Ahmad and three others accused in the case in 2016, but the conviction of 10 others was upheld by the SC.

Nisar-ud-din Ahmad spent 23 years in jail after being wrongfully convicted of a crime. BJP Bhopal candidate, Pragya Thakur, on the other hand, is still facing charges under the UAPA and is currently out on bail.

Two different broadcasts of two different cases were played sans context to falsely portray religious bias in Ravish Kumar’s journalism.

“Such propaganda is made viral in my name every second day. Looking at these videos, it seems that the person who made it must have spent quite some time watching multiple broadcasts anchored by me. However, despite the effort, they were unable to make a solid case against me. The ones who made the video must be aware that they are creating a fictitious tale to support Narendra Modi. I am concerned about these youngsters who step out of their homes every day thinking they are serving the nation by working for the BJP. But what they do at their jobs is create lies about me. They are serving the IT cell now but I have hope that these same youngsters will one day expose the IT cell when they will be replaced by a more competent stooge and the only thing left at their disposal will be the truth,” said Ravish Kumar, speaking to Alt News.

UPDATE: The article earlier quoted that the video posted by erbmjha had 10 lakhs view. The article has been updated with the correct figure.

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