In Part 1 of the report, Gauri Lankesh news covered what happened at Padarayanapura, Bangalore. Part 2 of the report talks about how Kannada news channels used the vandalism incident to whip up Islamophobia.
Each Pandemic brings with it a set of lessons. One important lesson from previous pandemics is that authoritarian responses only make things worse. Interventions are more effective when they worked in cooperation with the people.
What happened in Padarayanapura, Bangalore was a classic case of state and machinery’s authoritarian response, coupled with hate-mongering media coverage.
Despite Bangalore police commissioner statement to media that no officer was attacked or injured in the incident, many media channels presented an exaggerated version of the incident and ran the story that police and health officials were attacked.
Explaining the situation and taking people into confidence is very crucial.
The local corporator Imran Pasha and Zameer Ahmed said the incident could have been prevented if they had had they been informed and if the transfer of people into quarantine was done during the day.
Imran Pasha said that he along with Zameer Ahmed have been working together from Day 1 to keep people informed about the developments and are coordinating with various Government departments to ensure smooth running of the operations.
Vandalism portrayed as “Muslims plan of genocide” by TV channels
However, most TV channels seem to have their own agenda. Like vultures, they jumped at the opportunity to blame Muslims for not cooperating with the government.
Many news reports have come out blaming Imran Pasha and Zameer Ahmed for the events that transpired on Sunday night and calling him “King of terrorists”.
Despite Police denying any violence against police or health workers, Kannada channels ran false stories of Muslims in the area attacking police.
Words like Jihadi virus, Rakshaka, devils, sinners and dirty people were used to describe the residents of the area, which also happens to be Muslim dominated.
There is no bigger threat to the peace and security of Karnataka than Kannada TV channels.
ಅವರ ಬೇಳೆ ಬೇಯಿಸೋಕ್ಕೆ ಏನು ಬೇಕಿದ್ರುಹೇಳ್ತಾರೆ .
ಪಾದರಾಯಣಪುರದಲ್ಲಿ ನರಮೇಧನೆ ಆಗ್ತಿತಂತೆ, DCP ನಾಲಾಯಕ್ ಅಂತೆ.
If you don't call out kannada channels today, when the blood flows its on you too
— vinaysreenivasa ವಿನಯ (@vinaysreeni) April 20, 2020
Some reports went ahead and declared the area as “This is the Republic of Padarayanapura” and that the Govt orders do not apply there and suggested that the approval of Imran Pasha and Zameer Ahmed were needed to get anything done.
Did BJP leaders add fuel to the fire?
Many BJP leaders who hold ministerial berths in present government like Shobha Karandlaje, MP from Chikamagalur constituency; the Minister of Tourism and MP from Chikamagalur, C.T. Ravi; Renukacharya from Honnale and Minister of Rural Development, K.S. Eshwarappa gave statements to TV channels.
Pramod Muthalik of SriRama Sene in a video that became viral said that its a planned attack and Zameer Ahmed is responsible for it. He also stated that those arrested should be paraded naked and their properties must be seized.
In all the statements, the BJP leaders pushed the narrative of “Us Vs Them”.
According to C.T. Ravi, “they” do not understand normal language, they need to be told in their own language. They are misusing the good nature of our Chief Minister.
According to Ms. Shobha Karandlaje, this is “Corona Jihad”. She said that this would not have happened if her statements after the first such incident were taken seriously. Why is it that everyone follows one law, but, “they” cannot?
Many such statements had come out and by Monday noon, TV9 had started reporting with the headline- “A genocidal plot is going on at Padarayanapura”.
Kasturi channel which is supported by JDS had spread the message about Zameer Ahmed who has jumped to Congress from JDS, saying “Where are you, terrorist King, Zameer?”
Bangalore Police Commissioner unwilling to make ‘controversial remarks’
The differences between the statements issued by the Police Commissioner that “there was no attack on anyone”, and the statement from the Home Minister later that there was an attack needed to be verified by enquiring Senior Police officers.
We spoke to the officials in order to verify the truth in these above statements. We also wanted to know the opinion of Police officials regarding the hate messages about Genocide televised by many channels.
When asked about these, the Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao said “we are doing our duty, we do not like to comment on such news. We do not want to get into any controversy regarding the TV channels; I and my team would like to focus just on our work”.
First police statement do not mention any kind of organised attack.
One police official talking to reporters on the morning after the attack said “ The videos show what happens when a crowd of around 100 people goes around shouting and destroying the sheet metal. However, the situation was bought under control very quickly. It was not an organised attack. It is difficult to say how people may act out of frustration in the coming days. We are worried about the attempts being made to turn this incident into a communal issue. Speaking from my common sense I can say that the fear and hate propaganda being adopted by the TV channels is prone to push people into depression. There is a great possibility of this turning into a dangerous situation if a particular community is targeted. Yesterday was a very small trailer of the events that could occur in the future if this continues”.The audio recording of the above-mentioned conversations is available at naanugauri.com. Identities of some people are not revealed here as they fear trouble if their name is mentioned. Uptil now, no evidence to support that this was an organized attack was found, we hope that investigations will shed more light on this matter.
Will any legal action be taken against the channels spreading fake news and propaganda?
The consequences of spreading hate against Muslims and fake news could be grave and legal action should be taken against the ones who spread such messages. This responsibility lies on the shoulders of the local representatives and the community leaders. The officials who were supposed to involve local representatives are also at fault. Mistakes by the health officials in failing to inform the local representatives are understandable as they are under immense pressure. However, the communalisation and targeting of Muslims cannot be given the same consideration. The ruling party members are to blame for this and are solely responsible. It is the Chief minister’s duty to correct his representatives and ensure that it does not happen again.
Prime minister Narendra Modi had tweeted days before the incident that the Coronavirus does not attack based on religion. We need to stand united and fight as one against this disease . However, some people from his party did not speak in support of his narrative of standing united.