By Snobar Khan | Asifa Khan
What happened on a moving train is not a one-time event; rather, it was sparked by hate speeches and hate mongering that Indian newsrooms and BJP leaders led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi repeatedly promoted, encouraging individuals like RPF Chetan to commit hate crimes since the ruling party came to power in 2014.
A video of four people—three Muslim passengers and one of his senior colleagues—being cold-bloodedly murdered by a Railway Protection Force (RPF) constable, Chetan Singh, on a moving train near the Palghar railway station in Maharashtra, about 100 kilometres from Mumbai, went viral on social media on July 31.
According to media reports, Singh first killed his senior officer, Tikaram Meena, in coach B-5. He then fatally shot Abdul Kaderbhai Bhanpurwala, a traveller in the same coach.
Singh then proceeded through four coaches without drawing his weapon until he encountered and killed Sadar Mohammed Hussain, a traveller in the pantry car.
Then Singh shot dead his forth victim, Asghar Abbas Shaikh, in coach S-6 after crossing two additional coaches.
The video illustrated RPF ranting against Muslims near the body of Asghar Abbas Ali. While he was struggling with life and death, Singh is heard on video saying in Hindi, “Pakistan se operate hue hain, tumhari media, yahi media coverage dikha rahi hai, pata chal raha hai unko, sab pata chalraha hai, inke aaqa hai wahan… Toh main kehta hoon, Modi aur Yogi, ye do hain, aur aapke Thackeray (English for They operate from Pakistan; this is what the media of the country is showing; they have found out; they know everything; their leaders are there… If you want to live in India, then say, Modi and Yogi; these are the two, and your Thackeray).
The mainstream media started claiming that the constable experienced “abnormal hallucinations” and was diagnosed with a serious anxiety disorder when the horrifying video of this hate crime surfaced on social media. The Ministry of Railways initially released a statement claiming that the RPF constable charged in the Jaipur-Mumbai train shooting incident’s most recent periodic medical examination showed no signs of mental illness, but quickly withdrew it.
Times Now reported that Chetan Singh was angry and mentally ill following his recent transfer from Gujarat to Mumbai. According to Aaj Tak, Singh also had mental health issues, which is why he shot and killed those four people. The major news networks appeared to be attempting to cover up the undeniable evidence that the crime was motivated by hatred of Muslims.
The manner in which all three Muslim men with long beards were shot to death during the incident is horrifying. He entered three different coaches (B-5, PC, and S-6) without harming the people inside. How could a man who kills Muslims based on how they look be mentally ill? The RPF opens fire on a moving train while praising Modi and Yogi’s supremacy, and the Indian media tries to show that he was mentally ill.
It was not the first time a Muslim man was killed on a moving train in the presence of hundreds of people. This horrifying incident reminds me of the brutal death of 15-year-old Junaid on a moving train. In 2017, Junaid was stabbed to death in front of hundreds of people on a Mathura-bound train from New Delhi. He was travelling home for Eid with his brothers and two friends. None of them was there to dare save the life that fell at the hands of the hate crime.
Mainstream Media: Conspiracy Peddler
Through this incident, the media’s involvement in the demonization of a community and the propagation of conspiracies to polarise communities has been made clear. There is no denying that Islamophobia is on the rise in Indian newsrooms. After the BJP took power in 2014, the outcomes became more obvious. the presentation, the debates, the graphics, and the headlines. Here is a sneak peek at the thumbnails for Hindi news channels.
This is a thumbnail of Aaj Tak stating, Janam Bhumi hamari, Ram hamare. Masjid wale kahan se padhare? (Janam Bhumi is ours, Ram is ours. Where did the people of the mosque come from?).
It has been observed that these media outlets frequently get away with creating provocative headlines with a question mark. Phrasing headlines in a certain way where one cannot hold them accountable. Betteridge’s law of headlines states, any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.” However, the general public misunderstands hypothetical questions in headlines and interprets them in its entirety.
The image above shows four headlines with a common objective of peddling a narrative that targets a community. During the Covid-19 era, these headlines appeared on local and national news channels. Millions of people lost their lives and their loved ones during those times. Internal displacement of migrants occurred. There was a sharp decline in growth as the Indian economy and healthcare system collapsed. However, Indian media took a different tack and created headlines that tapped into popular sentiment.
The picture above illustrates, Corona jihad se deshbachao! (Save the country from Corona Jihad) Please pay attention to the exclamation mark in the picture. So the exclamation is used when you want a viewer to add emphasis to a headline. The anchor, Suresh Chavhanke gives out a message through the headline that Muslim community is responsible for Covid-19. The anchor has a number of FIRs registered against him. Yet he gets to run his programme spewing out hate on screen.
Indian media’s venom went so extreme that the Supreme court had to interfere and emphasized the necessity for stricter laws to be in place in order to supervise TV debates, which frequently devolve into hate speech. However, nothing has changed as Tv debates continue to be provocative. Another sensational headline can be seen above in the picture. Kudrat Bahanahai Muslim abadi badhana hai? (Is nature an excuse to increase the muslim population?).
The organization’s practise of implying that their subjective opinion is an objective fact is essentially captured in the headline.
Times When Politicians Made Hate Speeches
The tracker reveals that there were 19 occurrences of ‘VIP’ hate speech during the UPA-2 administration (2009–2014), or an average of 0.3 incidences each month. Instances of this kind have increased by 1,130% during the Modi administration since 2014, from 348 to an average of 3.7 every month.
The ruling party’s politicians like Yogi Adityanath has himself made hate speeches targeting a community. According to the Wire, a total of 35 speeches are publicly available with polemic speeches. He consistently compares Muslims to terrorists, referring to them as people who say “abba jaan” while disparaging them and using terms like “criminals” (apradhiyon), “mafias,” and “rioters.”
In a clear dog whistle directed at the Muslim minority, Uttar Pradesh’s deputy chief minister Keshav P. Maurya mentioned “lungi chaap” goons and “jaalidartopis” (goons wearing lungis and skullcaps) in December 2022.
“How many lungi chhaap goons used to prowl the streets before the 2017 elections? Those with firearms in their hands and wearing jalidartopis… Who threatened traders in the past? “Can you even see such goons since the BJP government was established?” he questioned.
It is clear that the hate speeches made by bjp members and supporters, as well as the dissemination of propaganda and misleading data about Muslims by mainstream media anchors on their prime time shows, strongly empower individuals like RPF Chentan Singh to commit such hate crimes.