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'In recent months(13 till April 22 ,2008), India witnessed repeated attacks on trains, killings of security
forces in large numbers spread over six states and that involved at least five different terrorist groups,
but nobody termed it terrorism. None of these attacks including the daredevil strike on NALCO plant in
which 11 security personnel were killed, was shown on TV. Footage was rare and not repeated. There
was no talk about modules, identity of those involved and that how they get the weapons.

Believe me, had any of these attacks involved a Muslim, it would have been termed a Terrorist attack
and for days, we would have been shown images of 'trained Muslim youths', their links, cell phone
records, the masterminds, the names of obscure Organisations with Arabic names and what not.'

Indian Muslims and the Media

A complaint often heard in Indian Muslims is that the mainstream Indian media has a vested interest in
portraying Muslims in a particular light, tarring them as radically wedded to violence, vehemently
opposed to modernity and so on. Some Muslims even argue that the mainstream media is wholly anti-
Muslim and is engaged in a grand conspiracy to defame Islam, being allegedly in league with a host of
enemies of Islam such as the Crusader West and Zionist forces.

Many might dismiss this statement as baseless and emotional arguments, but the fact that Mainstream
Indian Media shows Muslims in bad light everyday is an undeniable fact. The truth is this media is
owned and controlled largely by upper caste, middle-class Hindus. The vast majority of the editors and
staff of mainstream Indian newspapers and media houses are of this caste-class background. This
obviously shapes the way in which they look at and project Muslims as well as other non- upper caste
Hindu communities. This fact about the caste/class background and interests of those who control the
mainstream Indian media is basic to understanding why it is that Muslims, are often ignored or
stigmatized in large sections of the media. And today, with the Indian ruling classes, largely caste
Hindu in composition, slavishly toeing the American line, it is hardly surprising that the tendency to
stigmatise Muslims and generalise about them has been given a new, powerful impetus by the
“mainstream media.

One striking aspect of much Indian mainstream media reporting about Muslims is an obsession with
sensational events that are inevitably used to project Muslims in a particularly negative light, as a
community marked out by a certain exceptionalism. This notion of Muslim exceptionalism is used as a
means to reinforce the notion of the non-Muslim, particularly the upper caste Hindu, as representing
the norm or normality, any departure from which is seen as evidence of deviance or difference.
Muslims are reported about in the mainstream media almost entirely in the context of some controversy
or violent incident. It is as if Muslims are considered newsworthy only if involved in some tragic and
horror-filled event, generally as perpetrators of violence, but sometimes (as in the case of some English
media reporting of the state-sponsored anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002 in Gujarat) as victims. A content
analysis of mainstream Indian media reporting about Muslims would reveal its obsession with such
sensational incidents as fatwas issued by Islamic Scholars, Polygamy in Islam, Muslims refusing to
sing the national song, and Most sensational of all Muslim Fighters(Media terms them as terrorists).

Muslim ‘Terrorists’ Manufactured by the Media
Dig the newspapers of at least the past decade and you would find that the word 'terrorist' was not used
to any militant organisations except for the one which involved Muslims. LTTE were called Tigers or
Tamil rebels, the Naxals were called Maoists or left-wing extremists and the Assam groups termed as
ULFA separatists or outlawed factions.

One incident involving a Muslim's arrest on mere suspicion, leads to a frenzy across the country and he
is not termed suspect or accused, but directly called terrorist without having the case even reached the
court. But groups that are involved in terrorism, if they don't have Muslim cadre, are kept out of the
definition of terror. Still, one can hear the campaign to spread the word 'All Muslims are not terrorists

Tell a lie a few times and it becomes truth. Repeat it every day and the most sensible guys begin to
believe it universally. Even Muslims are often feeling what's wrong with them. Hysteria is created
every time on TV when a Muslim is caught and the other incidents fail to find mention, or don't have
any TRP? This is something very fishy. Conspiracy theories are not always true, but think about one
reason as why there is such a serious distinction.

The ‘mainstream’, ‘national’ English-language press in India have sedulously cultivated the notion of
‘Islamic terrorism,’ as well as many vernacular press. It is undeniable that Muslims have been unfairly
blamed for many attacks or alleged ‘terror plots’ by the police as well as the media in which they have
had no role to play at all. Many Muslims—and others, too—believe that these false allegations are not
innocent errors, but can be said to represent a deliberate and concerted effort to defame and demonise
an entire community and the religion with which it is associated.

Vernacular press has gone more extreme in tarring the Muslims as scums of society. Abdussalam
Puthige editor of Vartha Bharathi, Karnataka's only Muslim-run Kannada language daily newspaper
tells that these Kannada newspapers create fictitious stories to spread false news about Muslims and
Islam, in one Newspaper report it was mentioned that a certain madrasa was raided, probably on
grounds of being suspected for harbouring Mujahideen. When Muslim leaders contacted the police,
they were informed that nothing of the sort had actually happened. The result of this fictitious police
raid: Muslims and their madrasas became, in the minds of the readers of the report, inextricably
associated with 'terrorism'. In another news item which goes, 'It is a crime for youth to take to violence
in the name of jihad in order to make money', which a pro-RSS Kannada paper reproduces and
deliberately mistranslates as 'Muslim Terrorists promise youth six thousand rupees each for making
bombs.' A report in a third Kannada paper outdoes even this one in bone-chilling duplicity. It refers to a
group of Muslims in Karnataka as reportedly forwarding a certain sum of money to Nawaz Sharif, the
then Pakistani Prime Minister. In actual fact, however, that money was sent to Kargil Fund of the Prime
Minister of India as a contribution in the wake of skirmishes with Pakistani forces in Kashmir. And so
on, all in the same vein.

'No legal action has been taken against such papers. Not even by even Muslim political leaders, who
seem ignorant or even indifferent to the issue', laments Puthige. 'Vast sections of the Kannada press
have become totally communal, and even those run by secular-minded people have been infiltrated by
Hindutva elements. It is simply amazing how they are planting false stories about Muslims with such
impunity and getting away with it, and this is getting from bad to worse with every passing day'. (Read
more here)

That, precisely, is what a recently-released report, brought out by a team of leftist non-Muslim activists
from Karnataka argues. Titled ‘Media on Terror’, and issued by the activist group ‘Column 9’ [so
named, the report says, because in a standard newspaper of eight columns, issues and perspectives that
deserve a column of their own generally go missing), it is a detailed examination of the coverage and
projection of ‘terrorism’ in the state of Karnataka. It is based on an analysis of the reporting of
‘terrorism’ in the Bangalore editions of leading Kannada and English newspapers over several months
in 2008, supplemented with in-depth interviews with journalists, stringers and police officials in
Honnali, Davangere, Hubli, Kalghatgi and Bangalore—places where, the media had reported,
‘terrorists’—all of them incidentally Muslims—had been apprehended. This was a period when the
media was awash with stories of Muslim ‘terrorists’ allegedly plotting to ‘take over’ the whole of

A striking finding of the report is that the media in Karnataka, both Kannada and English, ‘dangerously
seemed to pronounce judgments on those arrested, much before any investigation report’. In fact, the
report says, there was ‘no material basis to most of the news reports’. The tone of their reporting was
sharply ‘jingoistic’, and ‘none of the standards’ expected of professional journalism ‘seemed to be in
evidence’. Alleged terrorists—in many cases innocent Muslim youths arbitrarily picked up by the
police—were subjected to ‘media trials’ based simply on unsubstantiated police claims. The report
speaks of ‘the blurring of lines between police officials and investigative journalists, who seemed to
pre-empt “official” investigation.’ The language and rhetoric used in the reporting reflected, the report
says, an obvious and deep-rooted bias against Muslims, and a deliberate effort to create a sense of siege
among Hindus.

Scores of sensational stories of Muslims being picked up for being ‘suspected’ terrorists published in
the Karnataka media were based on information allegedly received from what were routinely called
‘highly placed police officials’ or ‘intelligence bureau officials’. Predictably, the report says, the names
of these police or investigating officials were not provided, which meant that these stories—many of
which were patently fabricated—could not be substantiated by these officials. In numerous instances,
the reports were based on ‘news’ wholly manufactured by reporters and stringers, as evidenced from
the denials that emerged from the police officials themselves a day after these reports were published,
which many papers chose to ignore. In almost all such cases, the newspapers did not bother to issue an
apology despite irrefutable confirmation of their falsity. In most instances where the stories about
alleged Muslim terrorists were based on information supplied by the police, journalists simply asked no
questions at all as to the process of investigation that took place within the police stations despite it
being common knowledge that torture is widely used by the police in such cases to extract information
or else to force detainees to admit to crimes that they have had no hand in. Consequently, the arrested

Muslims were uncritically presented in the media as ‘Hardcore Islamist Terrorists’, even without the
courts having made their judgments. By presenting no version other than that of the police, the report
remarks, the ‘investigative’ aspect of journalism in Karnataka on the matter of alleged Muslim
involvement in ‘terrorism’ has in fact been reduced to what it calls ‘stenographic reporting’. The report
adds that the few journalists who tried to balance the stories with the other views about reported
incidents about Muslim ‘terrorism’ or foiled ‘terrorist plots’ rarely found space in the newspapers.

Another alarming finding of the report was the arbitrary branding by both the police and the media of
literature and CDs allegedly seized by the police from the Muslims who had been arrested as ‘jihadi
materials’. These were presented as ‘proof’ of those arrested as being behind acts of terror or even as
would-be terrorists. In many cases, the police officials simply refused to share the material with
journalists, at most showing them only photos of the covers of books seized from the arrested Muslims.
Amazingly, the report relates, according to the journalists they interviewed, ‘evidence of the books
indeed being jihadi materials lay in the fact that most were books written in Urdu.’ In one location
where alleged Muslim terrorists had been arrested and so-called jihadi material recovered from them,
journalists interviewed by the team mentioned that the police had produced a panel of Urdu experts at a
press briefing to confirm that the seized materials were indeed ‘jihadi’. Strikingly, none of the
journalists had any clue about the identity of these so-called Urdu ‘experts’. A journalist in Honnali
spoke about a particular CD that was seized by the police from an arrested Muslim, whom the police
and the media had alleged was a ‘terrorist’. Far from being incendiary material, as was alleged, the CD,
it turned out, was actually about an orphanage. Another journalist provided the team that had prepared
the report a photograph taken on a mobile phone, where they could read the titles of two books since
they were printed in English—one of these was ‘The Spirit of Islam’ and the other was the ‘Holy
Quran’, books that, needless to say, are not proscribed and are readily available in the market. In this
regard, the report rightly asks, ‘How can possession of the Holy Koran be presented as proof that the
people owning them are suspected terrorists? Why weren’t any questions or objections raised about this
new tendency of the Indian police who chose to present the possession of the Holy Koran as proof of
possible terrorism?’. Thus, the report argues, ‘It was very clear that the journalists had labeled books
and other seized materials primarily on the basis of their interactions with the police and, to some
extent, on the basis of internalized personal prejudice’.

One of the persons interviewed by the team, the reporter for the Kannada Prabha in Hubli,
openly admitted that ‘60% of the reports that he had filed were false and inaccurate’. Similarly,
the Hubli reporter for the Times of India admitted to using a photograph of an unrelated dargah
with his report about an alleged Muslim terrorist camp, and and falsely described the flag near
the dargah as a Pakistani one. In fact, it so turned out, the correspondent himself had never been
to the location. In an incident in coastal Karnataka, after two Muslim men were paraded naked
and brutally assaulted in public by Hindu Yuva Sena activists for transporting cows, a Muslim
protest rally was taken out in Udipi. Kannada papers falsely alleged that the demonstrators had
unfurled a Pakistani flag and raised pro-Pakistan slogans and, without any evidence, accused
them of being linked to Al-Qaeda and the Lashkar-e Tayyeba. Although the police denied these
claims, the papers pressed on with their accusations. In another bizarre case, a Muslim man from
Bangalore associated with the Muslim IT Association was wrongly accused by the Times of India

of being linked to a terrorist organization. Despite these blatant falsehoods, the report notes with
distress, in the overwhelming majority of cases the newspapers did not issue any apologies or
acknowledge their (possibly deliberate) errors.

The report indicates that journalists in Karnataka (and this probably holds true for the rest of the
country) typically see terrorism as a specifically Muslim phenomenon, and do not even consider the
possibility of Hindu ‘terrorists’, although, as the report points out, in Karnataka today, particularly with
the rise of the BJP, scores of incidents of terror against Muslims (as well as Dalits) by Hindu groups
have been recorded. Predictably, the media does not describe these as instances of ‘Hindu terrorism’.
This points to what the report terms as the dangerously marked ‘Internalisation of Hindu nationalism’
by media professionals in Karnataka, and the projection by the media of the Hindutva lobby as the
presumed ‘sole representative’ of the Hindus.