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Is the Coronavirus exposing Indian Media’s communal lens?

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The pandemic has brought to the forefront, Indian Media’s bias against its Muslim community and it’s not just the “fake news” channels.

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On April 17, three men, unassuming and on their way to a funeral, were mobbed to death mercilessly on the roadside, in the state of Maharashtra, India.

The reason – the mob suspected them to be child abductors but they weren’t; this incident was almost portrayed to be an episode of communally-motivated crime as a myriad of social media posts flooded in, accusing the Muslim community with no strong evidence, but on the basis of just a bunch of videos indiscernible to the common man which were circulating on the internet.

The police arrested more than 100 people in relation to this incident, none of them was Muslim. It was a little late by the time this incident was out in the public, hate had already been spread.

How did India get here?

With the rise of fake news and WhatsApp forwards, along with the polarization of much of the mainstream media, it is not surprising when a country’s citizens behave with no common sense.

Unapologetic of the loss of life, these social media “warriors” are at the least indirectly encouraging such outbursts that may eventually lead to communal riots like the most recent one in Delhi, India’s capital.

A majority of the mainstream media seems to have an editorial policy, which involves reporting on the communal rhetoric that unfortunately exists in the country.

The Tablighi Jamaat Incident

Before lockdown began in the nation, the Tablighi Jamaat, a faction of the Muslim community, gathered in large numbers for a religious function in New Delhi’s Nizamuddin, more than 2000 people under a single roof.

This was a mistake on the part of the community to have irresponsibly assembled during the pandemic but, the manner in which Indian media “demonized” the Jamaat members, resulted in Muslim vendors in Delhi and other parts of the country being discriminated against by the everyday citizen.

This religious gathering had people from all over the world including France and the United Kingdom yet, there was no uproar or bashing by the media of a single community in these countries. It goes to show, the rhetoric that mainstream media is striving to achieve.

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The Fake News problem

In 2018, 480 million people used the internet in India and it’s predicted to only increase in the coming years. But, there already exists a “fake news” problem in the country.

A number of fact-checking websites like Boom are the first line of defence; some would say, the only defence against the spread of fake news and messages. There is a growing responsibility, especially among the younger journalists and college students to curb this spread by the means of accurate reporting, and by simply not believing in each and every random forward on WhatsApp.

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