Madrasas are hostels that house poor, destitute children and orphans who have nowhere to go. The madrasas provide them shelter, food and education.
But India Today TV, an English news channel, on Saturday broadcast what it called an ‘investigation’ carried out with spy cameras and showed children huddled in small rooms. The programme was called “Madrasa Hotspots”.
Even before the programme was aired, it faced an immediate backlash on social media. Activist Kavita Krishnan posted a video and described the programme as shameful. Rahul Kanwal and the TV channel were communalising a pandemic instead of investigating why the Government had failed to take timely action and why it had failed to even procure Personal Protective Equipment for medical professionals.
Calling Kanwal a disgrace to journalism, Krishnan fumed that he would be judged by History. His place would be in the dustbin of history, said Krishnan. Her open video message can be heard here:
Kanwal remained unfazed and blandly tweeted, “ Folks, a story is a story and it needs to be told. You cannot love one kind of investigation because it unearths something you want exposed and then dislike the next reality check because it throws up an image you had rather not see. Being trolled is like water off our backs.”
The outrage caused by the programme provoked people to ask, “ Has the Indian media lost the plot ! A Madrasa is a hostel! Where are the kids going to go…and of course they will be together—there are ashrams, hostels and slums where people are together—do you want them to be out?”
Another tweet wondered at a sting operation on orphans and asked, “ A "sting operation" on poor and orphaned children and call it investigative journalism ? You have to achieve a special kind of moral depravity to do this.
In another scathing video posted by Barrister, writer and founder of New York based @project_polis Suchitra Vijayan called Kanwala ‘ useful idiot to the state’ and called upon Indian journalists to get familiar with the idea of ‘journalism as genocide’.
The International Human Rights Tribunal in 2003 had named three Rwandan journalists and held them guilty of war crime and crime against humanity, she pointed out.
The video can be watched here:
Remarkably, the programme was aired despite international condemnation of profiling of pandemic victims in India. Both the United Nations and the US State Department have voiced concern at attempts to communalise the pandemic in India.
The hashtag #RahulKanwalHateMonger trended on Twitter on Saturday evening. A few of the tweets were the following:
• Why your investigation has not been done on ram Navmi occasion or BJP MLA birthday party...Is this Journalism to put hatred in hearts of people against Muslim?.
• Also lodge FIR against old age homes and other dharm ashrams.