Zee News whipped up a frenzy against JNU, and was later joined by other channels like Times Now and News X. All three aired fake video footage, fake ‘IB reports’ suggesting that JNU students had ‘terrorist’ links, and established the lie that the slogans shouted in JNU amounted to sedition.
The police were present on 9 February when the slogans were shouted but they arrested no one and filed no case. Instead the whole business of arrests and police harassment began after Zee News aired the footage of the slogans, spiced with its own deliberate distortions.
A Zee News producer Vishwa Deepak resigned in protest over this matter. Below are excerpts from his letter.
We journalists often question others but not ourselves. We decide the responsibilities of others, but not our own. We are called the fourth pillar of democracy but are we, our institutions, our thinking and our methodology democratic? This question is not mine alone but is being asked by everyone.
The way the Jawaharlal Nehru University Student’s Union president Kanhaiya Kumar was framed in the name of “nationalism” and, after a media trial, was proved to be an anti-national, is an extremely dangerous trend. As journalists, it is our responsibility to question the powers that be, not move step in step with the powerful. Whatever good and beautiful has been achieved in the history of journalism is the result of these questions.
Post May 2014, ever since Shri Narendra Modi has become the Prime Minister, more or less every newsroom has been communalised – but the situation at our organisation is even more appalling. Why is it so that the news is written by giving it a Modi angle? The aim in writing the news is to push the Modi government’s agenda….
I have started to seriously doubt whether we are journalists at all. It seems like we are nothing more than the government’s mouthpiece or contract killer…. Behind each news story is an agenda, behind every news show is an effort to show how great the Modi government is and behind every debate is the attempt to shoot down Modi’s opponents? Nothing less than words like “attack” or “war” is acceptable to us. What is all this? When I stop and think about it, I feel like I have gone mad.
Why were we made to be so immoral, unethical, and despicable? After having studied from the country’s top most media institute and having worked in esteemed institutions such as BBC, Aaj Tak and Deutsche Welle, Germany, my journalistic capital has now been reduced to people calling me a “Chhee (yuck) news journalist”. Our integrity has been blown to bits. Who will take the responsibility for this?
I am not able to sleep well. I am restless. Maybe it is the result of a guilty conscience. It is the biggest taint any individual can be marked by: treason, of being a traitor. But the question is, as journalists, what right do we have to give certificates and degrees on being a traitor? Isn’t this the domain of the courts?
“Along with Kanhaiya, we made many students appear to be traitors and anti-nationals in the eyes of the people. If anyone is murdered tomorrow, who will take its responsibility? We have not merely created a situation for someone’s murder or to destroy some families but we have created the conditions ripe for spreading riots and brought the country to the brink of a civil-war. What sort of patriotism is this? After all, what sort of journalism is this?
Are we the mouthpieces of the BJP or the RSS that we will do whatever they say? The video didn't have any "Pakistan Zindabad" slogans at all – yet we played it repeatedly to spread madness and mayhem. How did we believe that some voices coming out of the dark belonged to Kanhaiya and his companions? Due to our biases, we heard “long live Indian courts” as “long live Pakistan” and working on the government line, brought the careers, their hopes and aspirations and families of some people to the brink of destruction. It would have been better if we had let the agencies do their jobs and waited for their conclusions.
People are threatening to rape Umar Khalid’s sister and attack her with acid, they are calling her the sister of a traitor. Think, if something like this happens, would we not be responsible for it? Kanhaiya said it not once but thousands of times that he does not endorse anti-national slogans but he was not even heard once because the mayhem we created was on the government line. Have we taken a serious look at Kanhaiya’s home? Kanhaiya’s home is not a “home” but a painful symbol of the helplessness of this country’s farmers and common people, it is a graveyard of those hopes that are being buried every second in this country. But we have become blind.
It hurts me to say this but I want to say that there are many houses like this where I come from. Indian rural life is equally colourless. Those broken-down walls and already-weakened lives have been injected with the poison of nationalism without thinking about its consequences. If Kanhaiya’s paralysed father dies out of shock, would we not be responsible? If the Indian Express had not done the story [on Kanhaiya’s family], this country would not have come to know where Kanhaiya gets the inspiration to speak for the rights of the deprived.
Rama Naga and others are also in the same state. From modest backgrounds, having struggled against poverty, these boys managed to get a subsidised education at JNU. You can see the confidence in progressing. But those willing to sell out for TRPs have almost ruined their careers.
It’s possible that we don’t agree with their politics or that their ideas are radical, but how did they become traitors? How can we appropriate the work of the courts in judging? Is it just a coincidence that Delhi Police’s FIR has Zee News’ name in it? Is it that we are in nexus with the Delhi Police? What answer can we give the people.
After all, what do we have against JNU or JNU’s students? I believe the modern values, democracy, diversity and co-existence of opposing views has made JNU an eden in India, but now we have begun calling it a den of treason and outlaws.
I’d like to know if it is JNU that is beyond the law or the BJP leaders who stormed into court to beat up a leader of the Left? The BJP MLA and his supporters were beating up a CPI leader on the streets, with the police simply standing by and watching the spectacle. On screen we could see the assault and we wrote ‘Allegations of violence against OP Sharma’. I asked why did we have to say ‘allegations’? I was told this was because it came from ‘upar’ (above). How has our ‘upar’ gotten so low? You can understand if it goes p to Modi, but things have gotten to such a state that we are now saving BJP leaders like OP Sharma and ABVP workers?
It is also important to say that if a media house wants to impose its right-wing preferences, individuals should also be free to talk about their own political lines. It is my job as a journalist to remain neutral, but as a person and an enlightened citizen, my path is of the Left which is found not in party offices but in our everyday lives. This is my identity.