After India Today TV’s sting operation exposed ABVP activists Akshat Awasthi and Rohit Shah’s involvement in the JNU violence, right and right-of-centre has gone wild mud-slinging at Rahul Kanwal and other India Today journalists.
From calling the entire investigation into the JNU violence a hoax to labelling India Today anchor Rahul Kanwal a ‘dalla‘ (pimp), the Right and its formidable army of trolls has taken the India Today fraternity head-on on Twitter – in what can be called a one-sided shouting match, where the ‘opponent’ couldn’t care less about showing up.
The media house’s special investigation team that uncovered the involvement of ABVP in the January 5th JNU violence case, along with the instigation by a Left student organisation, received mammoth reception and applause. It came close on the heels of the Delhi Police’s special investigation on the same matter that displayed a wrong picture of a suspect.
As the Delhi Police’s investigation lost its credibility by the virtue of their glaring error which showed Vikas Patel as someone else, in a concerted effort to discredit and defame the journalists associated with Friday’s sting operation, right-leaning and rightist media seems to have gone berserk with slander.
OpIndia, which calls itself a news website, ran at least a dozen articles against India Today’s sting operation. The loud claim that the identified assaulter, Akshat Awasthi, is not an ABVP member but a ‘leftist’ has seen the writers at OpIndia and My Nation, accompanied by few more right-wing platforms, try their best to make their assertion an acceptable truth. The belief in the idea that a sentence repeated over and over again becomes a fact finds resonance in their frantic efforts to pass off Akshat Awasthi as a left activist.
Alt News ran a fact-checker against the claim and brought to the fore, evidence that proves Awasthi’s distinct relationship with the RSS-controlled ABVP.
It was not for any random reason that the Delhi Police Crime Branch, on January 11, asked for Awasthi’s participation in their on-going probe. Taking a cue from India Today’s daring sting operation, they called on Awasthi and his saffron-comrade Rohit Shah to the police station to join the probe and have also asked the channel for their confession tapes to expedite investigation in the case.
Nevertheless, angered over the display of ethics, integrity, and zeal, OpIndia and the like have fallen on India Today like soundless thunder – mostly to go ignored and indignant (for own reasons best known to them).
Saffron Smear Campaign
#1. Attack on Tanushree Pandey
Watch: India Today journalist and JNUSU VP talking in a hushed, off the record conversation. Does this point to collusion?
This is the same journalist who wrote a shoddy explanation about JNU mail servers.
— Nupur J Sharma (@UnSubtleDesi) January 12, 2020
OpIndia editor, Nupur J Sharma, shared a video of India Today journalist Tanushree Pandey having a pre-live prep talk with the Vice-President (VP) of JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU).
Calling it a ‘collusion’ when the conversation is barely audible, Sharma ji brazenly alleges that the journalist in the frame is conspiring with the VP of JNUSU.
The parts that are somewhat audible, it is not hard to decipher that Tanushree Pandey is clarifying the location of the server room among other doubts – in order to have the fact rights on live television. The VP is heard responding: “I am not a technical person”, which is little but enough to understand that the two are discussing the what’s what of the server room vandalism and the technical (possibly more) problems that followed.
Also, it is must be known to any journalist worth their salt that before broadcasting live interviews, reporters tend to have a run-through about the main points of discussion in order to avoid errors and make optimum utilisation of the one or two minutes of T.V. time they are allotted with their interviewees.
India Today also published its official statement on Twitter standing by its journalist.
INDIA TODAY STANDS BY ITS REPORTER
The footage of our reporter with JNUSU guest shows her exchanging updates on latest developments before going on air which is the usual process for all lives. Please pay no attention to campaigns run to malign Group’s pathbreaking investigation.
— India Today (@IndiaToday) January 13, 2020
ABVP’s official Twitter handle retweeted the video footage, shaming India Today and the journalist. ABVP members are one of the prime suspects in the JNU violence case but they were emboldened to participate in the smear campaign. How? When the ruling political party’s head of Information Technology shares the same and openly accuses the people in question of collusion, do you need more security?
India Today journalist and JNUSU VP caught in a hush hush off the record conversation where she appears to be ‘coaching’ the person.
— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) January 12, 2020
#.2 Wrong Claims: Rahul Kanwal Calls ‘Vande Mataram’ Chanting Anti-National
Now let’s see how Rahul spins this one.
— Suresh Nakhua ( सुरेश नाखुआ ) (@SureshNakhua) January 12, 2020
The tweet above belongs to one of the spokespersons of BJP. Even Shefali Vaidya, know for her communal subtext and illogical reasoning in all her written (micro) blogs, tweeted this video of Rahul Kanwal, which has been taken out of context to portray him as the enemy of India’s national song.
However, Rahul Kanwal was speaking to lawyers in the video who had desecrated the sanctity of a legal court by resorting to cheap tactics to place their argument. He called the employment of slogans in a court of law, where rules and logical arguments decidedly help to make judgements, an ‘anti-national’ activity.
The senior journalist and anchor had to release the whole clip to make the circumstances under which he made his statement known to those questioning him.
Here’s what happened. @indiatoday SIT exposed lawyers who accepted on camera they bashed up Kanhaiya in court while cops watched. Lawyers attacking Kanhaiya chanted Vande Mataram. To attack someone and chant Vande Mataram is anti-national. Said it then, will say it now. Jai Hind. pic.twitter.com/JybiiEXXZO
— Rahul Kanwal (@rahulkanwal) January 13, 2020
#3. Irrelevant Videos Resurface
You ought to discredit the person in order to discredit the work they are associated with.
Ram Ram ji #RahulKanwalExposed He tried to trap Salman Khan Sir into his shallow politics but got a befitting reply They bring religion in every conversation and blame us for standing up for our religion pic.twitter.com/vws4ryZgWp #PayalRohatgi
— PAYAL ROHATGI & Team- Bhagwan Ram Bhakts (@Payal_Rohatgi) January 13, 2020
Again, an old video of Kanwal’s interview with Salman Khan where the journo quotes a political statement by Khan’s father is being widely shared. As a journalist, asking for accountability from a formidable personality whose earnings and fame comes from the common people who follow them, Rahul Kanwal did no wrong.
But the ‘comeback’ by Salman Khan, where he is evading the question is being praised as a ‘slap on the face’ for the anti-national journalist named Rahul Kanwal.
These cheap thrills and desperate schemes to malign – that call for pulling out unrelated content – are pitiable.
#4. Collective Efforts At Trash-Talking
As #RahulKanwalExposed trended on Twitter, so did #RahulKanwalDallaHai and other vile hashtags.
An organised trolling army of familiar names and figures did take their turns at browbeating but triggered by the viral content, several commoners also posted their microblogs of the same nature, misled by propaganda aimed at discrediting the JNU investigation by first attempting to defame the journalists involved.
A slew of demeaning statements, creatives and memes went around lashing at the journalist.
In any way, unbattered by the relentless online bullying and trolling, Rahul Kanwal has called the negative attention directed at him a “badge of honour”.
“No amount of vicious trolling is going to deter us in our mission to unearth the truth. And remember everything you say today when you watch our next investigation”, he has asserted.
The world’s biggest troll army has launched an all out attack. As journalists we think of this as a badge of honour. No amount of vicious trolling is going to deter us in our mission to unearth the truth. And remember everything you say today when you watch our next investigation
— Rahul Kanwal (@rahulkanwal) January 11, 2020