Popular Front of India has become the favourite target of a section of the media. It is not uncommon to see news items and articles against the organisation appearing in most of the news papers and channels. Such media attack is not limited to any particular state and recently we have seen a single report being published in various language news papers in different states. It is quite interesting that such reports have now started to appear in states which either has very minimal or no presence of Popular Front. The reports published are always ridiculous and often compel a sensible mind to think twice on credibility of the media. The media ethics often go for a toss while publishing such reports and there will be no sort of verification done by the media persons on the authenticity of the reports. When we go through the reports that have appeared since past few months we can identify numerous instances of this media insensitivity and blatant prejudice.
While reading few reports that have appeared recently we can conclude that such media attack is not just a coincidence but a part of a larger conspiracy to target Popular Front of India. Though the whole of the media cannot be blamed for this bias, there are indeed few sections in the media inclined towards the Sangh Parivar ideology of hate. These sections of media persons have a deep bias ingrained in them against the Muslim community and Muslim organizations which work for the uplift of the Indian Muslims. We have seen in the past how the media had brought the whole Muslim community to trial on various issues related to terrorism. For example, during the arrest of Dr. Haneef of Bangalore in Australia, the Australian media played a crucial role in proving him innocent whereas the Indian media left no stones unturned in accusing him of being a terrorist. The whole of Muslim professional community was brought under the lens and we could see opinion poll in news papers and channels on such pet issues like whether educated Muslims are more likely to join terrorist organizations. Even during the fake encounter killing of the students at Batla House in New Delhi, the media justified the encounter and tried to tarnish the Muslim students especially the ones coming from Azamgarh. Such instances are enough to conclude that targeting Muslims and Muslim organizations is not an occasional pastime of a small section of the media.
The most unfortunate and highly condemnable bomb blasts occurred in Mumbai on 13 July 2011 has provided the communally prejudiced reporters and editors yet another opportunity to jump into conclusions without waiting for any breakthrough in investigation. A few days after the incident MidDay newspaper published a Pune story on police concerns about Popular Front network along with a few banned organisations. A Maratha news paper namely Lokmat went a step further by linking the political party SDPI to the blasts. When being questioned about the source by the local activists at the news paper office, they had to accept the denial by the Maharashtra ATS and to correct the news on the next day. But it did not stop there. The news items about the alleged Popular Front hand in Mumbai blasts started appearing in English and language dailies the following days from different cities of the country such as Meerut, Jaipur, Bangalore and Kochi with predictable regularity.
One of the allegations the media levels against Popular Front is that it is connected to the banned organization SIMI. The report mentioned that this information is provided by a “secret security agency” unknown to the people. There were many imaginary stories published in that report linking Popular Front to SIMI and also to Indian Mujahideen, all figments of fertile imagination with no relation to the reality. Popular Front is not connected with any other organization legal or illegal. Such reports have always failed to make it clear about the source. It has been a regular habit of such sections of media to publish senseless reports and then assign it to a so called “intelligence agency”. The hypocrisy of these news papers was proved as most of them never published the rejoinders sent by the Popular Front. We had questioned the authenticity of these reports and till date we have never received any reply from any of these newspapers. While such derogatory reports were published by the media, it was more disappointing that none of these newspapers ever tried to contact Popular Front leaders to know its point of view on the issues. It is a well established fact that Popular Front of India has always been in the forefront in condemning all forms of terrorism and anti-national activities.
After the recent blasts at Mumbai the Dainik Jagaran, Meerut edition published a report saying that Popular Front of India has been banned by the central government and its leaders have gone underground. Surprisingly even the respectable south Indian newspaper The Hindu dared to publish a report, that too from Cochin, branding Popular Front as a proscribed organisation. These reports would be enough for any sensible citizen to understand the intention of the media to put such allegations on Popular Front of India. How such a report can be justified when Popular Front of India is a registered organization with its head office in the national capital and various other offices in different states and districts across the country. If a news paper doesn’t understand what it means by a proscribed organization then how can its reporting be trusted? To call Popular Front of India which is one of the biggest neo-social movements in India a banned organization is not just a mistake or error but a planned conspiracy to defame the organization and an attempt to impede its influence and growth. It needs to be noted that Popular Front of India has a larger presence in south India but since last few years it is making huge leaps in many states of north India. As Popular front of India is pretty new to the masses of northern states such reports are intentionally published by the ‘Media-Sangh Parivar-Intelligence nexus’ to curb the growth of Popular Front and create suspicion among the masses towards the organization.
Popular Front of India celebrates the Independence Day on 15th August by organizing various programmes like Freedom Parade, public meetings and rallies. Last year the newspapers in Karnataka published a report saying that Popular Front of India members were trying to create problem in the city of Mysore by hoisting Pakistani flag. This statement was initially issued by local RSS leaders but the media stuck to this as the ultimate truth and never tried to know what really happened on 15th August at Mysore. In the press conference held in Mysore the Popular Front district leaders had presented the real facts but it could never make to the pages of any newspapers in Karnataka. Adding insult to injury the overzealous and discriminatory actions of the district administration in Mysore to deny Popular Front members the basic right of celebrating our independence day and hoisting our national flag were never highlighted in the media. When media prefers to ignore the violation and denial of basic fundamental rights of the people and organizations and goes one step ahead by calling the victims as anti-nationals then doesn’t it show the bias against Muslims prevailing in the media? So in the eyes of media is it a crime if certain sections of the citizens to celebrate the Independence Day? Similarly in Lucknow, a district leader of Popular Front was kept under house arrest illegally and not allowed to organize the national flag hoisting programme on 15th August 2010 by the police. But instead of reporting this injustice, the media preferred to publish the police version without verification and accused Popular Front of creating tensions on Independence Day.
Recently even the news channels have joined the race of unethical journalism. CNN-IBN which is believed to be one of the most reliable news channels in India aired a news “Qaeda, PFI link arrested; will PFI be banned?“ on 30th May 2011 claiming that Popular Front of India’s Al-Qaeda links have been proved. The story claimed that a person allegedly a member of Popular Front of India was arrested in France as he was planning to start Popular Front of France and recruit members for Al-Qaeda. This was a very serious allegation as Popular Front of India has its membership only in India and there are not activities in France. When we contacted the CNN-IBN news reporter for the source of this news we initially got the same old answer that some “secret agencies” had revealed it. Later when the Front mounted pressure on the news channel they replied that the Home Ministry was the source .That was a blatant lie .In fact the ‘patriotic’ channel was rehashing a Pakistani news report. And there was no reference anywhere that the man arrested was a member of Popular Front. The channel was just cooking up a story. This news was aired throughout the day but it never appeared again in any news paper or channel as this turned out to be a hoax. Later the news channel preferred to be silent rather than tendering an apology. The other factor why this news went hiding could be that few news papers in Pakistan claimed that the man arrested in France was an agent of India’s Intelligence agency RAW and it was ISI which helped French agencies to get him and 6 others arrested.
The instances mentioned above are enough to prove that certain sections in media have been continuously propagating false news and reports against Popular Front of India. There have been instances when few newspapers have published such reports out of misunderstanding. And when Popular Front’s local leaders met them they showed a positive response by publishing their apology or our rejoinder which we whole-heartedly appreciate as a gesture of ethical journalism. But there are dailies, magazines and TV channels which have showed no respect to any of our statements or rejoinders and preferred to continue publishing lies. Popular Front of India has initiated legal action against such news papers.
Popular Front of India committed to its cause of empowering the Muslims and other marginalized sections of society will take these attempts by sections of media as a challenge. We firmly believe that the support base of Popular Front among the masses is too strong to be traumatized by such fake and baseless allegations. The increasing support and acceptance for Popular Front of India in south, north, east and west is a proof that the masses understand the conspiracy against Popular Front and they stand by Popular Front in the path of empowerment.
The author is General Secretary of Popular Front of India