On July 31, a complaint was sent by Citizens for Justice and Peace to Times Now, raising concerns over the contents of the news show titled “Rashtravad | Gyanvapi Survey के बाद ‘ज्ञ ानवापी आंदोलन”. The said show aired on July 24 on Times Now Navbharat on the same day that the Supreme Court of India, wherein the court had provided interim protection against the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) Survey being conducted at Gyanvapi Mosque. In the show, the host conducted a debate segment which had themes furthering a divisive discourse.
Essentially, the host, Rakesh Pandey, had picked up a matter that was sub-judice, and presented only one sided facts of the case. Even before the debate had started, the Host had started spreading his diatribe and polarized views. The host tried to build the premise of the show by depicting the Muslim community in a suspicious light, questioning their intentions behind urging an estoppel on the survey. The host had intentionally put polarizing and accusatory questions to the participants of the debate to put seeds of doubt in the minds of his audience by terming the stay on the survey as an attempt to delay the result as “Muslims were scared of the truth coming out.”
Prior to the debate segment, the host had announced the questions upon which the discussion were to take place. The questions, provided below, were instigating and communal in itself:
“1. What was found in those four hours of survey that led to the chaos amongst the Muslim parties?
- Why are the Muslim parties so afraid of uncovering the truth beneath the Gyanvapi mosque?
- Did the Survey team actually find the evidence of a Temple?
- The ASI Survey has been stopped on an interim basis, what will happen afterwards?
- Will there be a ‘Gyanvapi movement’ after the survey?”
During the debate segment, a full on media trial on the Gyanvapi mosque case had ensured. Advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain, the advocate on record (AOR) representing the Hindu parties in the court in the Gyanvapi Mosque case were also a part of the panel. The debate show appeared more like a one sided show promoting the host’s version of the Hindu cause or a religious/sectarian debate rather than a news room debate. In its complaint, CJP also highlighted certain extracts from the show that are specifically contentious.
The complaint stated: “Instead of framing an issue in a sober fashion with an intent to explore various aspects of the debate, the host continued the debate representing his own version of the ‘Hindu cause’. This displays partisan coverage and does not fit well with democratic, constitutional principles of independent journalism. The host continued throughout the show while making some extremely problematic statements towards the end too. At one point towards the end of the debate, the host asked advocate Jain whether the fight of Gyanvapi will be as prolonged as the fight over Ayodhya was for. While the host himself made the comparison of the Gyanvapi case with Ayodhya case, he has also accused the Muslims for comparing the said situation to Babri Masjid to provoke the Muslim Community.”
In the complaint, CJP also emphasized that the not once was it put to question as to whether the Muslim parties had the right to approach the Supreme Court or not. Not once did the host show any doubt regarding the existence of a temple beneath the Mosque, rather have repeatedly implied that the truth of the temple will come out. Thus, it was undoubted that the host let his biases and prejudices against the Muslim community cloud the role he is supposed to play in a debate show and made it evident that he was batting for the Hindu cause.
The complaint stated: “He kept reiterating through the show that the Muslim community, by approaching the Supreme Court, was against the truth coming out, making the entire show a communal battleground. This does not only violate the made guidelines issued by the News Broadcasting Digital and Standards Authority (NBDSA) from time to time of which the channel is a member but also stands in violation of our constitutional principles.”
Through the complaint, CJP has sought the removal of the impugned content from all social media accounts of the channel, and issuance of a public apology for the communal reportage.
The full complaint may be read here: