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TRP Game: How Indian News media is making a mockery of journalism

The gruesome act of violence on the three women of Manipur was due to an agitation caused by fake news peddled through Whatsapp. Ever since the dawn of the internet and social media, the spurt in fake news and malicious propaganda has left our society polarised to a great extent. Now, TV is also competing to exacerbate the situation further. 

On July 4th, Times Now Navabharat, a Hindi News conglomerate, aired a scintillating program under the title: “Dharmantaran Ke Network Par Bada Khulasa” (Hindi for: “The greatest exposure on the network of religious conversion”). With Newsmedias’ favourite exes like “exclusive” and “exposed,” Times Now Navabharat decorated and peddled this story. 

A substantial part of the show featured the channel’s exclusive interview with a man named Tauqeer Ahmed, who cited some unsettling figures and made stupendous claims to ‘expose’ an infamous “religious conversion racket” operating in India. The interviewer refrained from asking for any proof to back Tauqir’s claims, and the program reached our TV Screens and Mobile phones without any corroboration. 

Ideally, this show should have evoked national concern as the topic at hand dwelled on the sensitive lines of our country’s security. However, when Newslaundry (an independent news media organisation) tried to connect the dots regarding Tauqeer Ahmed and his unverified claims, the seamy side of News channels got exposed.

What were the claims made on the show? TRP Game

Through the show, the channel tried to assert several claims for its audience to digest. Tauqeer Ahmed, a young Muslim Man, got introduced as an accused of the ‘deaf society religious conversion’ case. 

The channel claimed that Tauqeer got arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Anti Terrorism Squad in 2021 and got bail on February 2023. News reporter Manish Yadav carefully evaded taking responsibility for Tauqeer’s word by allowing him to speak without obstruction.

Tauqir claimed:

  • Over 20 lakh religious conversions have taken place since 2014. The channel even displayed the names of some of the convertees;
  • Tauqir asserted that “99% of all religious conversions” in India got done through Tablighi Jamaat and made serious allegations against its Chief and his son;
  • Funds from Afghanistan and other Muslim countries get used to carry out mass conversions in India.

What was the channel’s response? TRP Game

While Tauqeer Ahmed went on a spree of unintelligible and vague claims, the reporter refused to intervene. Instead of demanding sources from Tauqir to back his “20 lack conversion” claim, Manish Yadav impetuously asked him the number of conversions he had carried out. 

The channel brazenly aired the show by highlighting Tauqeer’s claims without a shred of journalistic temperament. When Newslaundry demanded the authentication of the content aired, they turned a deaf ear. 

Who is Tauqeer Ahmed, and where was he in 2022?

While investigating Tauqeer Ahmed, Newslaundry exhumed an FIR dated May 18th, 2022. According to this FIR lodged by two students, Adarsh Sharma and Muslim Khan, at Gudamba Police Station of Lucknow, Tauqeer had stolen their laptops from Janakipura’s Malviya Boys Hostel. 

Later that evening, the UP Police arrested Tauqeer and got sent to jail the next day. On May 23rd, Tauqir applied for bail, but it got denied. On November 1st, the court declared his bail against Rs. 75,000 bond, but no one stepped forth to free him. He got eventually released on April 2023.

Here lies the first discrepancy between the claim made by Time Now and reality. If Tauqir had gotten arrested by the ATS in 2021 and stayed in jail till 2023 on charges of religious conversion, how did he steal the laptops in 2022?

Upon further investigations, Newslaundry discovered that Tauqir never got arrested on conversion charges but on a variety of other petty crimes.

A fraudster aspiring for fame

In the ‘Deaf Society Religious Conversion Case,’ FIR got lodged on June 20th, 2021, against Umar Gautam and six other convertees on charges of “manipulative conversion.” The number of accused increased to eighteen by January 2022. 

The second discrepancy emerged when Newslaundry quizzed Lawyer Imran Ahmad (the attorney on the case). He clarified that NO Tauqeer Ahmed had any involvement in the case. If Tauqir’s name is absent from any chargesheet or FIR related to this case, how did he go to jail? Upon screening Tauqeer, several documents and issues emerged. 

While working at a restaurant named “Zahara” near Jamiya Miliya Islamiya, Tauqeer came in contact with an army official named Karan Kumar. Kumar lent him a sum of Rs. 55,000 (to get returned in monthly instalments), and as soon as the amount got credited to Tauqeer’s account, he made away. 

Using his source in Delhi Police, Kumar got Tauqeer arrested by the same evening. Here, Tauqeer tried to connect with an old acquaintance from his hometown in Moradabad. This man (contemporarily living abroad) credited the borrowed amount back to Karan Kumar, and Tauqir got freed. It got discovered later that Tauqir had introduced himself as an orphan and had churned his sympathy to curry favours from this unsuspecting man.

In 2019, he frauded some ex-students of Jamiya Miliya, where he made away with money funded to him for his elder brother’s education. On November 28th, 2021, Tauqir filed an affidavit before the court claiming that he had renounced his relationship with his mother and elder sister and wanted to live on his own terms.

Blurring the lines of journalism

It is rather bizarre how a big media corporation like Times Now facilitated the airing of such unrefined claims across the TV screens. When Newslaundry asked them if they had verified Tauqeer’s words, they unabashedly maintained as those were Tauqir’s words and not theirs, the media had no responsibility for them. 

Take Away:

When Newslaundry tried to approach Tauqeer, he appeared apprehensive and even offered bribes to stop Newslaundry from bringing light to the entire fiasco. Thus his credibility before the nation lies exposed, yet he received a platform to purge his pointless and derogatory claims. 

The unpresuming People who have seen this show might have already fallen prey to a narrative peddled under the tag of “exclusive news.” As a sensitive topic like “religious conversion” has got cashed upon, who will try to correct their perception?

The gruesome act of violence on the three women of Manipur was due to an agitation caused by fake news peddled through Whatsapp. Ever since the dawn of the internet and social media, the spurt in fake news and malicious propaganda has left our society polarised to a great extent. Now, TV is also competing to exacerbate the situation further. 

“The news is but glorified gossip.” Sadly, this quote holds more relevance today than at any other time. TV has now emerged as a mere extension of Whatsapp. 

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