The Caravan

REVOLUTION MUTED

ON THE NIGHT OF 23 FEBRUARY THIS YEAR, Delhi was on the brink of large-scale communal violence. For several months, peaceful protests had been taking place against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens. The protestors had been demanding rollback of these government initiatives, which many fear will strip a lot of Indian Muslims of their citizenship. Earlier that afternoon, the Bharatiya Janata Party politician Kapil Mishra gave an incendiary speech in northeastern Delhi, warning that if the protests in the area did not stop, he would clear them out by force. The speech set in motion a cycle of violence targeted at Muslims. Vehicles, blazed and still burning, were strewn across the streets of localities such as Jafrabad, Maujpur and Chand Bagh. Reports through the day accused the Delhi police of inaction at best and collusion with rioters at worst.

About eleven kilometres away, on the ground floor of a tall building at Delhi’s ITO area, the printing press of Jagran Prakashan Limited was getting newspapers ready for the next day. Before dawn, stacks of different papers the company publishes were kept in a van. Two among these were Dainik Jagran, India’s most widely read Hindi newspaper, and Inquilab, one of India’s most read Urdu newspapers. The stacks of the two papers were not of the same size. For every hundred copies of Jagran, there were a few Inquilabs. Similar vans left printing presses in cities such as Patna, Lucknow, Mumbai, Kanpur and Aligarh—which saw police violence against anti-CAA protestors the previous evening as well.

The two newspapers, run by the same group, and which travelled in the same vans to reach chai stalls and newspaper stands, seemed to be reporting two different realities. Inquilab’s headline: “Firing on Aligarh’s Protestors. 7 people hurt. Stone Pelting in Jafrabad.” The strap explained: “UP Police embarrasses humanity once again and lathi charges women, fires on unarmed protestors. One young person injured by a bullet.” Two pictures, one above the other, showed police personnel at the sites of violence, standing amid rubble in Aligarh and striding with resolve in Delhi. A box in blue highlighted the key story in Delhi: “Kapil Mishra’s march becomes the reason for violence in Jafrabad. CAA supporters and opposers clash, riot-like situation. Violence in Karol Nagar as well.”

Dainik Jagran, the Hindi paper, led with jubilation to welcome Trump at Ahmedabad’s Motera stadium. Below this was a story that carried the picture of a woman in a burqa throwing a stone. In the backdrop were various women, many in burqas, seemingly engaged in the violence as well. The title of the article read, “The opposition to CAA turns violent again.” The strap: “Stone Pelting and Firing in Delhi, Clashes in Aligarh as well.”

As violence continued over the next three days, the chasm between the coverage of Dainik Jagran and Inquilab widened. Dainik Jagran’s ground reportage was minimal. The violence did not make the lead story on any of the key days. Meanwhile, the paper’s articles freely linked the CAA protests with the riots without any evidence. A front page report on 25 February concluded that Shaheen Bagh—which is altogether in a different part of Delhi—was empty on the day of the violence because “everyone was in Jafrabad.”

While focussed on the police’s indiscriminate firing on unarmed protestors in Aligarh, chose to report on some protestors who threw stones at the police. spoke of how many protesters suffered casualties; foregrounded injuries of policemen. focussed on police inaction on its front pages and blamed the cops for not being able to control the violence in Delhi; described the police as “—completely helpless. held that Kapil Mishra’s speech instigated the violence; blamed the anti-CAA protests for turning violent. Over the next seven days, as violence engulfed Delhi, reminded the reader of Mishra’s speech and its grave effects on the violence every day, with his name and photo dominating headlines, inside pages and editorials. However, in , Kapil Mishra’s name—apart from one short story on his speech on 24

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