Mainstream media reportage of temple attacks: Analysis
Of late there has been a spate of news reports, articles, panel discussions and editorials on attacks on Churches in India. Most of these reports etc have been consistent in blaming Hindu groups for these attacks. Equally, in an age of social media and free access to information, doubts have been raised both about the attacks and the veracity of these reports.
On the other side, there is almost no coverage, analysis, editorials, and TV shows on attacks on the places of worship of non-Abrahamic religions including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. Could it be the case that there were no attacks at all on these places of worship?
IndiaFacts commissioned a study-cum-analysis of mainstream English media’s coverage of attacks on Hindu places of worship. The findings are quite revealing.
To begin with, secularism is an article of faith for the Indian English mainstream media. With that in mind, and with coverage of temple attacks as the context, our analysis also examined three broad aspects:
- Does the Indian English mainstream media really practice the secularism it preaches?
- Is our mainstream English media being fair in its coverage?
- Is our mainstream English media making an attempt to narrow the focus to a particular set of incidents with the intention of creating a false narrative?
The IndiaFacts team sourced news reports, articles, opeds, and TV shows mainly from the Internet, and print for good measure. These news sources were spread across the most popular and widely read newspapers, online news channels, and TV media.
Data was collected based on coverage related to attacks, thefts, vandalism, hate crimes, corruption, mis-governance, and land grab with respect to temples (where temples are generically defined as stated earlier: places of worship of non-Abrahamic faiths). Data was collected for a period of six months: between 01 October 2014 and 31 March 2015, which is a decent sample size to be considered as representative to arrive at reasonably accurate conclusions.
Two preliminary, high-level observations stand out in our analysis:
- There were 145 incidents of attacks on temples during the stated period—that is, approximately,at least one temple was attacked every day (more precisely, 0.8 per day).
- A vast majority of them were Hindu temples, and a few were Jain, Buddhist and Sikh as well. For the sake of brevity and ease of presentation, they’re generically grouped as Hindu temples and could be de-grouped as needed, on a case by case basis.
This geo-data map shows the spread of attacks on Hindu temples across India. A darker gradient of red represents states with the highest number of temple attacks. As is evident from the map, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh top the list, followed by Kerala, Telangana and Karnataka.
Figure 1: Tamil Nadu & Uttar Pradesh have the most attacks on temples, followed by Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana
The following chart shows the number of attacks on Hindu temples every week for the six month duration of our study. In our study, we have considered Sunday as the starting day of the week and Saturday as the ending day.
The height of the bar represents the total number of temple attacks for that week. Attacks on Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Buddhist temples are differently colour-coded.
Note: October being the starting point of our study, the first week has only four days—1 October thru 4 October 2015.
Subsequent weeks follow the Sunday-Saturday scheme. 11 January 2015—31 January2015 appears to be the most peaceful period with only one attack per week.
Media coverage of temple attacks
The following graph shows the number of articles published by news media for the temple attacks shown for the six-month period. Although some of the reports were actually published a few days later, falling into the subsequent week, they were counted for the week on which the incident actually occurred. This would simplify the counting.
Figure 3: News reports covering temple attacks
Number of media reports on temple attacks increase or decrease corresponding to the attack incidents, indicating a correlation with Figure 2.
The 145 incidents of attack on temples were covered by 293 news articles from various publishers and media outlets—that is, there were an average of 2.02 news articles published per incident.
The following graph shows the state-wise grouping of temple attacks, based on the actual location of the attacks.
Figure 4: State-wise temple attacks
Red indicates incidents that could have been prevented by ensuring good governance and law and order mechanisms,and blue indicates attacks due to breakdown of law and order/lack of security. Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh top the list followed closely by Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Telangana. In other words, South India has witnessed the worst attacks on temples.
The next graph shows the number of news reports published related to these attacks in their respective states.
Figure 5: Media reports on state-wise attacks on temples.
Red indicates reports on temple attacks incidents that could have been prevented by good governance and blue indicates reports on incidents that needed effective law and order mechanisms.
Attacks on Temples and Churches: Comparison
The following graph shows a comparison between attacks on temples and attacks on churches for the period under consideration.
Figure 6: Comparison between temple attacks and church attacks.
Exactly four incidents of attacks on churches took place across India in the period under consideration.The overall picture that emerges is clear: there’s a huge gap in the attacks against temples compared to Christian places of worship. In other words, temples are targeted more frequently whereas churches remain largely unmolested.
State-wise grouping of attacks on temples and churches
The following graph shows the state-wise grouping of the attacks on temples including the four attacks on Christian places of worship.
Figure 7: Attacks on Christian places of worship added to the state wise chart shown in Figure 4
Media Coverage Comparison
Upon including the reports published in the media about attacks on Christian places of worship into the graphs of respective states, we obtain the following graph.
Figure 8: Media reportage on temple and church attacks
Upon including the attacks on Christian places of worship into the week-wise chart of media reportage on temple attacks, we arrive at the following graph.
Figure 9: Week-wise media reportage on temple and church attacks
- On an average,the English mainstream media reported about 46.25 news articles per incident of attack on Christian places of worship whereas it reported a mere 2.02 news articles per incident of attack on Hindu places of worship
- Further, the 46.25 reports per incident related to attacks on a Christian place of worship had approximately 80 oblique references to the BJP, Narendra Modi, parliament debate, elections, Ghar-Wapsi. However such oblique references were rarely found in reports related to attacks on temples.
- According to the concept of secularism as commonly defined and understood, the Indian English mainstream media should ensure that its reportage remains religion-neutral. Unfortunately, as our analysis shows,the 46:2 ratio of its reportage on attacks on places of worship of Christians to those of Hindus doesn’t pass this religion-neutral test by any standards. Therefore, there is very little evidence to show that the mainstream English media is reporting news based on the spirit of secularism it claims it adheres to.
- The same ratio also shows that our mainstream English media is being significantly selective and therefore unfair in its coverage.
- Highlighting a very tiny number of incidents of Church attacks and giving it frequent and repeated coverage while downplaying the real fact of repeated attacks against temples (almost one temple attack per day), certainly lends itself to the conclusion that the media is indeed creating, shaping, and pushing a false narrative.
Based on such hard data, it is not entirely inaccurate to conclude that the Indian mainstream English media is behaving like the mouthpiece of select religious institutions.