For the last couple of days, the news of 600 girls going missing from the absconding Daati Maharaj’s ashram in Rajasthan’s Alawas is making the rounds on popular news media outlets as well as on social media.
The news was brought to light just a week after the self-styled godman, Daati Maharaj was accused of sexually assaulting a 25-year-old female disciple over two years ago.
Even though Zee News seemed to have carried the news first on June 16, 2018, other media outlets like India.com, Free Press Kashmir picked it soon after.
— Zee News (@ZeeNews) June 17, 2018
— Free Press Kashmir (@FreePressK) June 18, 2018
Even regional language news outlets like Sangbad Pratidin, Kolkata 24X7 and Amar Ujala and TV9 Kannada circulated the same news over the last three days.
600 Girls Go Missing From Rape Accused Daati Maharaj's Ashram, Cops On Lookout
Video Link ► https://t.co/D07JaiYDSF#DaatiMaharaj #600GirlsMissing #DaatiMaharajAshram #Alawas #RapeAccusedDaatiMaharaj #SelfStyledGodman #DaatiMaharajMissingFromAshram #CrimeBranch #TV9Kannada pic.twitter.com/oNSjSeuGig
— Tv9 Kannada (@tv9kannada) June 17, 2018
— News Nation (@NewsNationTV) June 19, 2018
Not only that, but people, while condemning Daati Maharaj and the Ashram, took to Twitter to throw light on the issue of missing girls.
Setting The Record Straight
However, the facts of the matter are different from what they appear. Amidst rumours of the disappearance of the girls, officials of Sojat Police Station along with teams of the department of Social Justice and Empowerment (DoSJE) and Child Welfare Committee (CWC) decided to investigate the matter.
Talking to The Logical Indian, a senior police officer who was involved with the investigation said that the officials checked the record of the Aashvasan Bal Gram Sansthan, the gurukul run by Daati, and verified the number of girls who are enrolled with the institution.
Upon investigation, it was found that there are a total of 709 girls studying in the ashram, out of which 485 were living in the hostel. The officer said, “Many of these girls had gone home for the summer vacations and all of them are set to return to the hostel before this year’s International Yoga Day.”
Additionally, on June 17, 2018, a total of 242 girls were present in the hostel. In a letter, addressed to the local police of Sojat Road, the head of the ashram has clearly laid down the number of girls who are enrolled with the institution.
He further mentioned that nothing of suspicious nature was found at the Ashram and if it were to be found, they would surely look into the matter at length.
The Logical Indian Take
This was a case of a series of misleading headlines. Creating or sharing rumors or misinformation is never justified.
When the mainstream media does not take it upon itself to fact-check every bit of news story that it publishes, it can have disastrous consequences on the national debate. This is especially significant because we live in an era where WhatsApp forwards and tweets (that don’t require verification or are not bound by journalistic ethics) are getting undue traction and following. In such a time, if even reputed mainstream outlets give into the shouting matches and falsehoods of false news, it negatively affects us all.
The Logical Indian appeals all the media outlets to be more responsible and ethical towards its readers and restore the faith in journalism.