China ko Musalmano se itni nafrat kyun hai (Why does China hate Muslims so much)?” asked India TV in the first week of July. The anchor was referring to the atrocities committed by the Chinese Communist Party against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province, China. The question, which has been asked by many TV anchors in the past week, is legitimate, and the answer is a rather harrowing one.
But what must be noted is that these very TV channels have for long remained tightlipped about the atrocities committed against Muslims in India.
But most Indian TV channels have always preferred zooming into the atrocities against Muslims in Xinjiang. It again turned to the plight of the Uyghur Muslims as China clashed with India at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The latest coping mechanism of chest-thumping channels after having cheered Chinese app ban seems to be the re-focus on Uyghurs in China.
In a ‘special investigation’ conducted by India Today last week, anchor Rahul Kanwal brought his viewers satellite images from ‘concentration camps’ in China’s Xinjiang province. Kanwal explained that these camps had proliferated at a ‘mind-boggling pace’.
Keeping aside the findings of this investigation, what stands to be the most ‘mind-boggling’ fact is the Indian media’s double standards.
Hypocrisy died a new death when India TV’s anchor Ajay Kumar said, “China ke musalmano ko dharmic azaadi nahi hai,” (China’s Muslims don’t have religious freedom).
While Muslims in India do have religious freedom, many fear for their safety in these polarised times — something that most Indian TV channels conveniently choose to not document.
We are deeply grateful to our readers & viewers for their time, trust and subscriptions.
Quality journalism is expensive and needs readers to pay for it. Your support will define our work and ThePrint’s future.
Kumar found it easier to pin the blame of not speaking up for the Uyghurs on Pakistan — “Pakistan Uyghur Muslim ke masle par virodh nahi karta” (Pakistan doesn’t object to the atrocities perpetrated on Uyghur Muslims). Isn’t that just convenient?
In a brazen attempt to compare Chinese President Xi Jinping to Adolf Hitler, India Today chose to call it ‘Xi-tler’s demographic genocide of Uyghur Muslims’. Rahul Kanwal labelled these atrocities as the ‘greatest genocide of 21st century’. Such condemnations have not been used for any wrongs in India by these TV channels. Be it excesses in Jammu and Kashmir or lynchings or daily stigmatization of Muslims or discriminatory laws like the CAA.
The idea is not to compare the cruelties faced by Uyghur Muslims to the plight of Indian Muslims. Rather it is a call to question and investigate oppression of minorities everywhere. And we should start with our own country.
The newsworthy ‘peg’
The relevance and importance of a news ‘peg’ is journalism 101. The peg is essentially the hook behind each story, that determines how newsworthy something is. There is considerable merit behind exploring why a story is chosen to be told at a certain point of time. It reveals the politics behind an otherwise ‘objective’ report or news story.
The Uyghur Muslims story is not new. There have been several terrifying accounts of the hardships faced by the Uyghurs at the hands of the Chinese government. Over one million Uyghurs have reportedly been detained in these detention camps for apparent ‘re-education’. Among the first reports of this crackdown on Uyghur Muslims dates back to 2018. And there have been many gruesome developments since then — from getting detained for wearing a veil or browsing foreign websites, to forced sterilisation.
International media has been pretty consistent in reporting on this issue. Which brings us to the question of why the Indian media is covering the Uyghur story again now. It seems like no coincidence that our media is sensationalising an issue that is a sore spot for China, a country that India currently stands at loggerheads with. It is an outright attempt to take away attention from our own problems — the mounting coronavirus cases, the long road to solving the China border issue, and our government’s silence on whether China has taken Indian land or not.
Irony of outrage over China
There now stands a rather large elephant in the room — the newsroom, if you will.
If the discrimination against an ethnic minority in China is so intolerable to the Indian media, what is stopping them from speaking up about the oppression of Muslims in India today?
The Indian media blames Muslims for all issues, from violent riots to spreading Covid-19. Muslims in the country today have felt targeted by the current political dispensation.
This must haunt news anchors when they describe detention camps in Xinjiang, China. Especially when there are detention centres coming up in Assam.
The job of the media is to continuously question — things happening at home and the world. But to mostly peddle one side of the story in India and accuse China is not fair journalism.
Views are personal.
News media is in a crisis & only you can fix it
You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.
You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.
We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And we aren’t even three yet.
At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly and on time even in this difficult period. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is. Our stellar coronavirus coverage is a good example. You can check some of it here.
This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it. Because the advertising market is broken too.
If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous, and questioning journalism, please click on the link below. Your support will define our journalism, and ThePrint’s future. It will take just a few seconds of your time.