Ankit Kumar Garg, a 31-year old teacher was shot dead on October 1 in Delhi. Soon after the incident, multiple news organisations reported that this was a case of honour killing. The basis of the reports was the accusation by the victim’s family that Ankit was killed by the family of the Muslim girl he was in a relationship with.
How media reported the incident
On October 2, Zee News reported the incident with the headline “अंकित को प्यार की सजा या हिंदू होने की सजा ?” (Ankit punished for love or for being Hindu?- translated). The report asked if religion was the cause of the deaths of Ankit Garg and Ankit Saxena. It may be reiterated that in February 2018, 23-year old Ankit Saxena was killed by the family of the girl he was in love with.
In fact, Zee News went so far as to broadcast a prime time show with the hashtag #MurderParSecularSannata and asked how many Ankits would be killed in the name of love, was the silence because his name was Ankit, and whether faith was bigger than love.
दिल्ली में फिर मारा गया अंकित
मज़हब के नाम पर कितने अंकित का मर्डर ?
नाम अंकित, इसलिए हत्या पर सन्नाटा ?
मोहब्बत से बड़ा मज़हब है ?#MurderParSecularSannata
— Zee News Hindi (@ZeeNewsHindi) October 2, 2018
News18‘s report of the incident was titled “Delhi teacher shot dead over ‘relationship’ with Muslim student”. The report referred to ‘sources’ to state that the Muslim woman and the victim wanted to get married but the girl’s brother opposed the union since they both belonged to different religions. The hashtag used by the channel to report the incident was #BulletForLove.
Aaj Tak too reported that Ankit was killed over a relationship with a Muslim girl. Another popular Hindi publication, Dainik Bhaskar too reported that Ankit was killed by the brother of the girl he was in love with, who belonged to another community. Times Now Hindi also reported on October 2 that Ankit was killed because he was in love with a Muslim girl. The report was titled, “दिल्ली: एक और ‘अंकित’ को उतारा मौत के घाट, मुस्लिम लड़की से करता था प्यार” (Delhi: One more Ankit killed, was in love with Muslim girl- translated). The Print reported “Delhi tuition teacher shot dead for ‘affair’ with Muslim student”. While the reportage by these news outlets did refer to the allegations made by the victim’s family, the presentation of the incident was misleading and provocative.
Dainik Bharat which is a fake news website was at its provocative best, reporting the incident with the title “ये है हिन्दू लड़का अंकित – मुस्लिम लड़की से दोस्ती पर उतार दिया मौत के घाट , न मीडिया न केजरीवाल ” (This is Hindu boy Ankit- killed for befriending a Muslim girl, no media no Kejriwal- translated).
BBC & NDTV’s reports on the incident
On the other hand, NDTV India‘s report was titled “दिल्ली में एक और ‘अंकित’ की हत्या, बहन ने कहा- दूसरे समुदाय की लड़की से था प्रेम-संबंध” (One more ‘Ankit’ killed in Delhi, sister says- he was in a love relationship with girl from another community- translated). The report clearly mentioned that the family of the victim suspected that his relationship was the cause. The title of BBC News Hindi‘s report was “प्रेस रिव्यू: फिर एक अंकित की हत्या, दूसरे धर्म में प्यार की सज़ा?” (Press Review: One more Ankit killed, punished for inter-faith love?- translated). The report qualified the honour killing theory with a question mark in the title. Interestingly, Times Now reported that the sister of the victim has blamed the girl’s family for the murder, whereas we saw above that the Hindi version of Times Now had reported the incident in an inflammatory manner.
Manak Gupta, who is a senior anchor with the channel News24, tweeted on October 2 that Ankit was killed because he fell in love with a Muslim girl.
दिल्ली में एक और अंकित की हत्या…!!! वजह वही – मुस्लिम लड़की से प्रेम कर बैठा https://t.co/eqLyhfOayE
— Manak Gupta (@manakgupta) October 2, 2018
It may be noted that following the murder, the victim’s sister had alleged that he was killed in a case of honour killing.
Venom on social media
Parvesh Sahib Singh, who is a BJP MP from Delhi targeted Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal for politicising the killing of Vivek Tiwari but not bothering about Ankit Garg.
दिल्ली के मालिक @ArvindKejriwal को विवेक तिवारी का धर्म पता चल गया क्योंकि वो यूपी के थे। अब जबकि अंकित की हत्या दिल्ली में उनके नाक के नीचे हुई है उनको न तो अंकित के धर्म का पता चल पा रहा है न ही समुदाय विशेष से ताल्लुक रखने वाले हत्यारे का !#AnkitSaxenhttps://t.co/NZTkIJV6UP
— Parvesh Sahib Singh (@p_sahibsingh) October 2, 2018
On social media, the usual suspects sought to exploit the ‘news’ and communalise the issue. Leading the pack was serial purveyor of misinformation Prashant Patel Umrao. His tweet of October 1 was retweeted over 4300 times.
Hindu Teacher Ankit Garg is killed brutally in Mahendra Park, Delhi by Peaceful because he had affair with a Muslim girl & they wanted to get married. Inter faith love is one way traffic only & this is Truth of Fake Secularism!
— प्रशान्त पटेल उमराव (@ippatel) October 1, 2018
Sonam Mahajan who is a right-wing social media user too tweeted about it, which was retweeted over 3700 times. Another social media user Shekhar Chahal who is followed on Twitter by PM Narendra Modi also tweeted asking why the media and Arvind Kejriwal were silent.
Two Ankits killed in broad-day light in the streets of Delhi for falling in love with Muslim women and all that Kejriwal has to offer is communalisation of a crime, committed by a UP cop who’s already behind the bars. Not a word on the communal killings in his own Delhi. Vulture.
— Sonam Mahajan (@AsYouNotWish) October 2, 2018
None of the above social media users have deleted their tweet despite a clarification by the police.
NOT a case of honour killing
The murder of Ankit Kumar Garg is not a case of honour killing. This was confirmed by the Delhi police via a press release of October 5, 2018. The press release categorically states that 21-year old Akash has been arrested for the murder of Garg.
Raj Shekhar Jha who is a Delhi based journalist with Times of India has tweeted the CCTV video of the crime which shows the accused escaping the scene of the crime.
The CCTV footage which nailed Akash Kashyap, the man who shot dead a teacher, Ankit Garg, in northwest Delhi, a few days ago. The cops have ruled out the honour killing angle. @TOIDelhi pic.twitter.com/kZp4MePLSH
— Raj Shekhar Jha (@rajshekharTOI) October 5, 2018
Subsequent reporting by media organisations
After it was confirmed that 21-year old Akash has been arrested as the accused in the case, Zee News on October 6 was among those which reported this new development, although in the immediate aftermath of the killing, its reportage of the incident was provocative. While Times Now has not reported the new development, its sister organisation Times of India published an article the same day that a BTech student was held for Garg’s murder. Aaj Tak also subsequently reported that four days after the murder, the arrested accused in the case is the victim’s student. News18 too reported the latest development and so did Dainik Bhaskar. However, The Print has not reported the subsequent development.
Those media organisations which had initially reported that the murder was the fallout of a relationship between persons belonging to different communities was on the basis of the victim’s sister’s claim. However, the headlines used by these news organisations were misleading. Although they later reported that it was a student of the victim who had been arrested, the barrage of initial reports on the incident helped fan the flames of communalism, which were exacerbated by hate mongering on social media. At a time when the communal divide is sought to be aggravated by vested interests, media reports which supplement pre-conceived prejudices end up acting as a catalyst. News outlets that communalised the incident merely on the basis of an allegation by the victim’s kin have failed to express regret over their inaccurate reporting.
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