Trigger Warning: Violent visuals. Viewer discretion is advised.
In the afternoon of October 4, the residents of Undhela in Gujarat’s Kheda district witnessed a public flogging of 10 Muslim men who were allegedly among the 43 who reportedly disrupted a Garba event in the same village the previous night. Each of the men was held against a pillar and caned by policemen in plain clothes (one of them seemed to be carrying a firearm). They were then taken away in a police van stationed nearby.
According to a resident of the village, who spoke to ThePrint, a message was sent out to every house in the area prior to the flogging, asking locals to gather at the spot. The incident was filmed and the videos were shared widely on social media. In those, the spectators can be heard clapping and cheering. Slogans of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ were raised. The men being flogged can be heard pleading for mercy. (Archive)
— Tv9 Gujarati (@tv9gujarati) October 4, 2022
The treatment meted out to the men by police, which can be termed extrajudicial punishment, was widely condemned.
The Gujarat police’s use of striking devices such as lathis to beat Muslim men who were tied to a pole by the police themselves is a serious human rights violation and shows their utter disrespect towards rule of law.
— Amnesty India (@AIIndia) October 5, 2022
After the videos caused massive outrage, an inquiry was ordered. The police officials involved in the said incident were identified three days later, on October 7. The person who is seen flogging the men was identified as police inspector A V Parmar. Another person, seen removing the phones and wallets from the pockets of the men being beaten up, was identified as sub-inspector D B Kumavat. The police are yet to name the other policeman seen in the viral videos. According to a report in The Hindu, police were going to take action against the ones who filmed the incident.
Amid widespread condemnation of the incident, some people (noticeably aligned with the Right Wing) celebrated the public flogging and even called the accused ‘j!hadis’. ‘Jihadi’ is a word Hindutva fanatics often use to target Muslims. A @MrSinha_ tweeted the video with the caption, “This is how Gujarat Police treated j!hadis who attacked Garba playing Hindu devotees in Kheda last night”. (Archive)
This is how Gujarat Police treated j!hadis who attacked Garba playing Hindu devotees in Kheda last night.🙌🏻 pic.twitter.com/061UiKp9pp
— Mr Sinha (@MrSinha_) October 4, 2022
Senior editor of Network 18 Aman Chopra went to the extent of dubbing the public flogging by the police as ‘Dandiya’ during his prime-time TV news show Desh Nahi Jhukne Denge on News18 on October 4. Not only did he not condemn the public flogging, he exalted it saying “Garbe mein pathharbaazi kar rahe the, police ne Dandiya khel diya unke saath.”
Dandiya is a socio-religious folk dance that is celebratory in nature. So when Chopra described the public flogging of the accused as ‘Dandiya’, he was clearly lauding the police for their move.
Below, Alt News has analysed his skewed reportage of the incident in detail.
Analysing Aman Chopra’s reportage
Following is the transcript of the first one and a half minutes of Aman Chopra’s monologue on the October 4 episode of Desh Nahi Jhukne Denge on News18.
“Chaliye aapko Gujarat police ka sabse pehle Dandiya dikhate hain. Sabse pehle Gujarat police ka Dandiya aapko dikhate hain- full screen par tasveerein dikha dijiye. Ye dekhiye aap. Tasveerein dekhiye phir mein tasveer ki kahaani sunaunga. Audio de dijiye, bhai ambiance de dijiye– Gujarat police ka Dandiya. Ye Gujarat ke Kheda mein- police ka Dandiya. Police ne kaise Dandiya khela ye dekhiye aap. Yeh kaun log hain, poori kahaani sunaunga, pehle in tasveeron ko dekhiye aap araam se. Waise toh likh diya gaya tasveeron mein- khambe se baandh kar patthharbaazon ki pitai. Ye dekhiye ab- ek… do…teen, giniye aap.
Garbe mein patthharbaazi kar rahe the, police Dandiya khel diya inke saath. Yeh bhi bata doon, logon ke beech mein. Aaropiyon ko gaaon laya gaya, tasveerein dekhiye aap, sirf tasveer dekhiye dhyaan se. Logon ke beech mein, gaaon mein laya gaya in sab ko. Yeh tasveerein hai Gujarat police ki aur jinhe khambe se baandh kar peeta jaa raha hai na, yeh dekhiye aap, jinhe dande mare jaa rahe hai, jo ab maafi mang rahe hai- inhone Kheda pehle mein mazhabi dadagiri ke zariye Garba karyakram bandh karane ki koshish ki aur phir uske baad Garba karyakram mein Garba khel rahe lagon par patthharbaazi ki inhone. Aur uske baad police gaaon lekar aai saare aaropiyon ko, aur phir khambe se baandh kar phir Dandiya khela police ne.”
Throughout his 6-minute monologue, News18 senior editor Aman Chopra repeatedly used the word ‘Dandiya’ to describe the public flogging of the men. The violence in the video was not only shown without a trigger warning but also needlessly highlighted multiple times. Seemingly pleased with what was being shown on screen, he asked his crew members to ‘amp up the audio and ambiance’ for his viewers. At 0:31 of the monologue, Chopra can be heard counting the beatings and playfully asking his viewers to join him. Chopra also tweeted his monologue with the caption, ‘New form of ‘Dandiya’ by Gujrat Police’. (Archive)
New form of ‘Dandiya’ by Gujrat Police
— Aman Chopra (@AmanChopra_) October 4, 2022
Videos that are inherently violent in nature are often blurred out and/or aired with a trigger warning/disclaimer. This practice is standard on all public platforms, but it is arguably most essential when it comes to national TV. It must be noted that in this case, neither was a disclaimer added nor was the video blurred out. In fact, at 0:22 of the monologue, Chopra can be heard saying “Yeh kaun log hai yeh poori kahaani sunaunga, pehle in tasveeron ko dekhiye aap araamse“.
While talking about another incident of alleged stone-pelting at a Garba event that happened in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh, Chopra says, “….Garba karyakram par pathharbazi karne walo ko ghar se juda kar diya gaya- sar tan se juda nahi, ghar se juda..“. The motive behind such a statement is left for interpretation, but the reader must know that there are no reports of “Sar Tan Se Juda” slogans being raised in the Mandsaur incident. It is safe to say this particular statement made by Chopra was provocative and uncalled for.
Chopra then delivers a tirade against Muslims who allegedly conceal their identities to participate in Hindu festivals. He states, “Everybody is free to enter Garba events, then why do they need to conceal their identities?”. The reality, however, is quite the contrary.
It was widely reported in the mainstream media that identity cards were made mandatory for people participating in Garba events after Madhya Pradesh culture and tourism minister Usha Thakur suggested this move in order to prevent cases of ‘Love Jihad’ (1,2,3). The debate surrounding the entry of Muslims into Garba took yet another aggressive turn when OpIndia editor-in-chief Nupur Sharma tried to gate-keep Garba from Muslims by asking them to “stay away”.
Dear Muslims, garba is a deeply religious affair – it’s not entertainment. It’s a celebration of Navadurga, of the mighty Devi and her nine forms. If you want to participate, please do ghar wapasi and submit to Maa. Else, pls stay away. Thank you.
— Nupur J Sharma (@UnSubtleDesi) September 29, 2022
At 4:20, Aman Chopra goes on to describe the public flogging as ‘ilaaj’ (treatment). The usage of this terminology implies tacit support of a blatant violation of human rights. He then asks his production team again to raise the volume of the video so that a proper ‘ambiance’ is created. From the 5:17-minute mark, Chopra addresses the unlawful nature of the flogging for exactly 7 seconds in a monologue that lasts 5 minutes 58 seconds. He, however, does not sound too sure, as he says that the answer to whether the public caning is justified is up for debate.
The monologue is followed by an hour-long debate with political analyst Shivam Tyagi who describes himself as working for the Bharatiya Janata Party, Muslim cleric Sajid Rashidi, political analyst Rizvan Ahmed, VHP spokesperson Vinod Bansal, lawyer Subuhi Khan, Islamic scholar Atiq ur Rehman, and Juna Akhada mahamandaleshwar Umakant Saraswati. Chopra repeatedly asks the Muslim panelists questions like “Why do Muslim youth take such a keen interest in Garba?” and “Why do Muslims need to change their names to enter Hindu festivals?”. At 15:10, Subuhi Khan, who identifies herself as a ‘Sanatani Muslim’, says that Muslim youth are interested in Garba because Hindu women dress up for the celebrations. At this moment, Chopra, in agreement with Khan, adds that “Kanwar Yatra mein nahi jaate in log“.
At one point in the show, he asks one of his panelists ‘not to generalize’ the Muslims because of a few stray incidents.
From the 38:00 mark of the YouTube video, Chopra is seen pressuring panelist Atiq ur Rehman to say ‘Jay Maa Durga’ because the latter claimed that he tries to remain as liberal as possible. Again at 45:02, Aman Chopra challenges Sajid Rashidi to say ‘Jay Shree Ram’ while Subuhi Khan and Vinod Bansal can be heard reiterating Chopra’s demand.
During the segment, the channel’s ticker ran suggestive texts like ‘Garba par pattharbaazi, Aparaadh ya Jihaad?’
This segment was sponsored by Rakesh Spices, Goldiee Masale, Patanjali, Unacademy, Moneycontrol among other corporate brands. The show was co-powered by V-GUARD, Ceat and Dulux, Niva and co-presented by MDH and Patanjali.
Alt News reached out to queer rights activist Indrajeet Ghorpade who filed a complaint with the News Broadcasters & Digital Association (NBDSA) regarding the hateful language used in the October 4 episode of Desh Nahin Jhukne Denge. In a reply to their complaint, Kshipra Jatana, compliance officer of NBDSA, said that the unlawful nature of the police’s actions was not condoned by the host Aman Chopra. According to Jatana, “the anchor had stated that police should not have taken law unto itself and indulge in the beating of some allegedly accused miscreants’ persons who were involved in the stone pelting incident at the event” at the beginning of the show.
Alt News in this report has already pointed out the economy of words used by Chopra in holding the police accountable for their actions as he dedicated 7 seconds in a 6-minute monologue for addressing the unlawful nature of the police violence.
Jatana further states, “During the debate, the anchor also sought panellists views on how could the police take the law unto its hands and resort to such actions of beating the accused.” (sic).
Alt News has found this statement to be quite far from the truth.
Around the 47:00-minute mark in the debate, Chopra vaguely questions panelist Shivam Tyagi about the ‘ilaaj‘ meted out by the police in Kheda. In reply, Tyagi says that anyone who does what the men in Kheda had allegedly done would be treated in a similar manner. Tyagi then mentions an alleged stabbing by suspected Muslim youths in Rajasthan over an alleged case of sexual harassment, Chopra asked, “So, decision to be taken on the spot? Sticks on the road?”. Chopra then goes on to describe the public flogging as Dandiya yet again while “condemning the police’s move”.
Apart from this one reference to the ‘ilaaj‘, not once did the blatant illegality of the police action come up for discussion during the debate.
Aman Chopra’s dubious distinction
This is not the first time Aman Chopra made suggestive remarks against Muslims. The October 6 episode of Desh Nahi Jhukne Denge was based on what Chopra called the ‘targeted lynching’ of sadhus who were suspected of kidnapping children. During the debate, one of the panelists indirectly blamed Muslims for attacking sadhus and stated that ‘Sant Jihad’ was a conspiracy to repress Sanatan Dharam. They were also heard saying, “How are we sure that the mob that attacked the Sadhu wasn’t the Love Jihad mob?”. Aman Chopra made no effort to stop his panelist from spewing this communal hate on his show.
Aman Chopra does a show on Child Kidnapping. One of the panellist in the debate indirectly blames Muslims for attacking Sadhus (Sant Jihad, Baccha Jihad, Love Jihadi)
The anchor doesn’t bother to stop her. pic.twitter.com/iveUsZZo51
— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) October 8, 2022
When another panelist claimed that nobody in the mob was seen wearing a skull-cap in the video that was being aired, Chopra denied ever mentioning a communal angle in this case. He even reprimands his panelist for doing so.
The anchor invites 5 Sadhus and a Muslim as panelists. Repeated asks the Muslim panelist to condemn the mob attack on Sadhus. When the Guy says they were not Muslims in the mob, The anchor later says Hindu-Muslim kaha se aagaya… pic.twitter.com/lqIIdNZIg6
— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) October 8, 2022
Alt News has debunked several scripted videos of child kidnapping. These videos usually have millions of views and cause panic among people. The most pertinent bit that Chopra’s coverage failed to address was how innocent people including sadhus, fakirs, trans persons, as well as mentally disadvantaged persons were often made the victims of mob vigilantism.
The language used by Aman Chopra in his prime-time show celebrating the police violence against minorities is not a unique case. Time and again, violent acts against minorities, especially Muslim minorities have been glorified by multiple news outlets. The language and terminology used by them justify and normalize violence. In fact, they encourage the idea of mob justice instead of due process of law.
While reporting on the unconstitutional eviction drive in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri in April 2022, Chopra jubilantly used phrases like ‘India with bulldozer’, ‘Desh maange bulldozer Raj‘ and ‘patthhar jihadi‘.
On November 16, 2021, Chopra had done a show on the allegation that Indian Muslims were spitting into food they were making. It used kickers like ‘Khane mein thookna, jihad ya jahalat?’, or, ‘Riwaaz-e-thook, ye kaisi bhookh?’, and the hashtag #ThookJihad.
Incidentally, the Supreme Court recently expressed its displeasure over hate speeches via debates on TV channels. The court called the ‘visual media’ the ‘chief medium of hate speech’ and questioned the government why it was ‘standing by as a mute witness when all this is happening’ and treating it as ‘a trivial matter’.
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