Bengaluru: A group of activists and civil society members hit out at the English language daily Deccan Herald over a ‘prize-winning quiz’ that appeared in the newspaper’s Thursday edition.
The quiz, part of the ‘DH Visual Connect’ contest, which appears in the newspaper every day, drew “connection” between three pictures — the Bhima Koregaon victory pillar, activist Sudha Bharadwaj, and a Communist flag bearing the hammer and sickle.
“Connect to a person who recently passed away”, the quiz posed through visual cues, presumably referring to Stan Swamy, the tribal rights activist who died earlier this month. “Five lucky winners stand a chance to win an Amazon voucher,” it further said.
“The Deccan Herald’s (DH) Visual Connect ad on the page is not just factually incorrect, but also in appalling taste…We are dismayed at the concept of making a game of a person’s death,” the letter, addressing Sitaraman Shankar, CEO, The Printers Mysore Private Limited and Editor, Deccan Herald, and the newspaper’s deputy editor, B.S. Arun, said while demanding that the contest be withdrawn and an apology issued.
The 95 signatories of the letter included social activist Harsh Mander, journalist Pamela Philipose, Teesta Setalvad of Citizens for Justice and Peace, JNU professor Ayesha Kidwai, and activist Kavita Krishnan, among others.
On Friday, the newspaper carried a note expressing regret.
“We understand that the July 15 edition of the DH Visual Connect reader engagement quiz, curated for us by a third party, has hurt the sentiments of a section of readers. This was clearly not the intention, and we regret any offense caused. Our readers are aware of our editorial positions on issues such as UAPA, human rights, and freedom of expression. We have consistently maintained that several activists have been denied constitutional and human rights and have demanded justice for them in our editorials,” the note said.
ThePrint reached Deccan Herald editor Sitaraman Shankar and deputy editor B.S. Arun via email for comment. The report will be updated when a response is received.
What the letter said
The letter by the civil groups and other individuals said it was “a shame that a newspaper of repute had to resort to making a prize-winning puzzle about a human rights activist, who was incarcerated and abused by a system that is being globally condemned for being draconian”.
Swamy, who was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and Covid-19, died at Mumbai’s Holy Family Hospital on 5 July. His death had led to a furore with many describing it as “institutional murder”.
The 15 July letter also sought to debunk the purported connections drawn between Swamy and Bharadwaj to the Communist Party.
“The usage of the Hammer and Sickle image by DH serves to connect every Left symbol with the bogey of ‘Maoism’ as defined by the State, and gives credence to the false allegations of association with banned ‘Maoist’ outfits against Sudha Bhardwaj and the late Fr. Stan Swamy,” it said, adding that the advert could also create misleading perceptions and affect the case against Bhima Koregaon activists.
(This report has been updated to reflect the correct designation of Sitaraman Shankar. He is CEO, The Printers Mysore Pvt Ltd, and Editor, Deccan Herald, and not acting CEO and Editor, Deccan Herald, as mentioned earlier. The error is regretted.)