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The Washington Post’s Anti-Hindu Propaganda

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The Washington Post’s Anti-Hindu Propaganda

The Washington Post, founded in 1877, is one of the leading daily newspapers in the United States. From its wide circulation in the Washington Metropolitan Area to distant countries across continents, The Washington Post enjoys a substantial audience. It is a publication well-known for its political reporting, and for being the winner of 69 Pulitzer Prizes (though its own selection process has been heavily criticized as biased), The Washington Post is the one of the few remaining newspapers in the country to operate foreign bureaus. For the readers’ information, The Washington Post operates bureaus in Baghdad, Beijing, Beirut, Berlin, Brussels, Cairo, Dakar, Hong Kong, Islamabad, Istanbul, Jerusalem, London, Mexico City, Moscow, Nairobi, New Delhi, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, Tokyo, and Toronto.

Since 1933, when Eugene Meyer purchased it out of bankruptcy, revived it, and gave it to his relative Phil Graham to run, the newspaper stayed with the Graham family until it was bought by a group owned by Amazon’s Jeffrey Bezos in 2013. Since then, thanks to the advent of the internet and social media, the newspaper’s readership has expanded, reaching out to increasing audiences across the globe. From carrying advertisements given to it by China Daily, its allegedly unfair pay practices, to getting sued by a high school student, and carrying highly controversial and biased op-ed and columns The Washington Post has, however, been through a lot of controversies in the past decade alone.

One of its more than a dozen foreign bureaus is in New Delhi, which is possibly one of the reasons why India seems to feature a lot in the daily news menu served by the Post. But it remains a fact that this reporting by the Post of politics and events in India has been largely of only one format – biased against the present government and extremely negative in its coverage of matters Hindu, Hindus, and Hinduism. The journalists and columnists it hires and publishes fit perfectly the label of “Indophobic narrators”. Most of the Post’s reporting of Indian events and politics always provide an impression of a curiously racist, supremacist, imperialist corruption, cutting across layers and reporters and reportage.

For us to understand this corruption, it is important first to understand the general layout and dynamics of what can be safely called the arena of global “power politics”. The Washington Post is an American newspaper and represents the intelligentsia and the larger Western intellectual culture. Its views on a fundamentally different civilization and culture – far more diverse, historically complex, and politically challenging than the Post’s own land of origin – are but a reflection of a thoroughly Western and a provincially American point of view. It interprets events in India through the lenses of the American civilizational ethos and its opinion reflects those of the American empire, now itself under strain from internal and external forces. It is but a natural feature we must acknowledge.

Second, we have to consider the complex web of funding. The arena of global politics is a market of ideas and ambitions. Here all the global powers, and those who wish to be global powers, invest in seeding ideas of the tree that is their political, national, and global ambitions.

Former US Ambassador to India, John Galbraith, had once commented: “The required doctrine need not be subject to serious empirical proof… It need not even be seriously persuasive. It is the availability of an ascertainable doctrine that is important; it is that availability and not the substance that serves.” The sort of reports, opinions, and narratives that The Washington Post publishes about India materializes and makes “real” what Galbraith says. Their “availability of an ascertainable doctrine” is, however, devoid of “substance” or “empirical proof,” Fact and opinion come later, while establishment of the doctrine comes first and remains largely unaffected by the former two.

The writers of biased, largely negative, articles about India in The Washington Post are mostly Indian, quite surprisingly. This would give the impression that the institutional and western construct of bias is non-existent, and everything being written is just the opinion of the writers who themselves are either Indian or of Indian origin but have habitually learned to ‘dissent’ against the national identity that is Indian. But, as with every other problem with modern media narratives, this “sleight of hand,” using “natives” to carry out your propaganda and mischief, is part of the ploy of Western power-wielders and their sophisticated strategies to influence and/or debilitate foreign nations.  Only those Indian writers and only those Indian opinions are allowed entrance through the portals of this “liberal” newspaper that warns/reminds its readers on its mast that “Democracy Dies in Darkness”. Its reporters, correspondents, editors may be brown, black, or whatever but they are all hired after being vetted for their political leanings and ensuring that they will write to sustain the Western project of saving the world and that they will work to assure the success of the new colonial empire. It successfully lures ambitious Indians into prestigious jobs provided they sublimate their own identities and serve the dominant culture of Western hegemony.

This has been identified and commented on by author and commentator Rajiv Malhotra. Malhotra has stated, “this makes the criticism of the biased discourse on India much harder, because the strategy has been to deploy Indian intellectual sepoys against any Indian dissenting voices. The same scholar who is deeply invested in subtle and sophisticated India/Hindu-phobia in his/her day job in a Western institution is also charming and manipulative at impressing and disarming fellow-Indians. S/he easily slips into Indian attire, recites Urdu poetry, even sings bhajans, and expresses great sympathy for India’s poor. In fact, if it were not for their artificially Indianized unctuous obeisance to the powers, many such Indian intellectuals would get devalued in the eyes of the Western institutions they serve.”

It is a classic case of the use of political jiu-jitsu to pit a family against its own, reduce them to a disunited lot fighting to comprehend reality. More unfortunate is the penetration of this careerist greed in academic circles back here in India too. Prospects of the high life, like that of the “brown sepoys” employed by the Western media, encourage Indians here to echo whatever has been said there, thus creating a cycle of lies that go on to become “news” somehow.

Looking at The Washington Post’s last one year of reportage and opinions on India makes it clear that it wishes to offer neither balanced nor objective narratives.  It rather would go to any length and would blow any event out of proportion coupled with misinformation, cherry-picking of facts to make India, under the BJP-led government, look like a soon to become Nazi Germany. Whether it’s a report on a cricket match or on a Bollywood movie, an Amazon Prime series or a Narcotics Bureau raid on Bollywood “superstars,” every report has a common theme: Hindu nationalist BJP is hounding Muslims, Christians, and “minorities,” denying freedom of press, degrading India’s democracy, and soon turn India into a fascist autocracy. For reference, here is a list of ten reports and opinions columns from the past eleven months of this year.

Date

Headline Author
January 3, 2021 In the battle over India’s history, Hindu nationalists square off against a respected historian

o   At the age of 89, Thapar is the subject of attacks by supporters of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, who view her as an opponent to be discredited.

o   At stake is India’s sense of self. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pursuing an agenda that emphasizes Hindu primacy in India — a vast, multireligious democracy founded on secular ideals. History is a key part of that vision.

o   In 2019, Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, where Thapar spent decades teaching, sent her a letter asking her to submit her curriculum vitae so officials could “review” her status as an emeritus professor, an honorary title normally given for life…. Thapar and others said the incident is reflective of declining academic freedom as Modi’s party has sought to seize control of progressive, left-leaning institutions of higher education by appointing loyalists to key administrative positions.

Niha Masih
February 19, 2021 Opinion: Will this radical nationalist monk be India’s next divisive leader?

o   These days another major political figure is following Modi’s footsteps, perhaps with eyes of becoming prime minister in 2024: Ajay Bisht, or Yogi Adityanath, a radical Hindu nationalist monk who is chief minister of India’s most populated state, Uttar Pradesh.

o   [M]any see him as the leader who could carry the torch to establish Hindu supremacy in India. But in many ways, Adityanath is even more dangerous than Modi. He doesn’t even bother to camouflage his disdain for Muslims.

Rana Ayyub
March 11, 2021 Opinion: Freedom House downgraded India’s democracy, confirming what many of us already fear

o   The ruling Hindu nationalist movement also encouraged the scapegoating of Muslims, who were disproportionately blamed for the spread of the virus and faced attacks by vigilante mobs.

o   The report’s conclusion is a scathing indictment. “Rather than serving as a champion of democratic practice and a counterweight to authoritarian influence from countries such as China, Modi and his party are tragically driving India itself toward authoritarianism

o   What Muslims who feel orphaned in a country their forefathers helped built with their blood and sweat have known for a long time.

Rana Ayyub
March 14, 2021 India is the next big frontier for Netflix and Amazon. Now, the government is tightening rules on content.

o   Within days of the release of the series in January, the streaming platform had become a target of Hindu nationalists angered by a brief scene depicting a Hindu god and remarks referencing India’s hierarchical caste system.

o   Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a wave of Hindu nationalism has exacerbated religious tensions, jeopardizing India’s democratic status.

o   Police from Uttar Pradesh, run by a hard-line Hindu monk from the BJP, traveled to Mumbai to investigate the case against Tandav and have questioned Amazon’s head of India Originals, Aparna Purohit.

Niha Masih
April 8, 2021 An Indian man died after being beaten by police on video. One year later, no one has been held accountable.

o   Faizan was one of more than 50 who died in the deadliest Hindu-Muslim violence in Delhi in over seven decades.

o   But more than a year later, no one has been charged in Faizan’s death, raising questions about the police department’s ability to act as an impartial investigator in instances of police brutality.

o   The government has revoked the autonomy of Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority state; passed the citizenship law amid robust opposition; and laid the foundation of a grand Hindu temple where a mosque was razed illegally by a mob led by members of the BJP in the 1990s. During the coronavirus pandemic, the emergence of a Muslim missionary group’s gathering as a superspreader event unleashed a wave of Islamophobia in the country.

 Niha Masih
April 13, 2021 In India’s surge, a religious gathering attended by millions helped the virus spread

o   As coronavirus cases in India shot upward last month, millions of people converged on the Ganges River to bathe at a holy spot offering a chance at salvation.

o   The precise role of the Hindu religious festival — the Kumbh Mela — in India’s raging outbreak is impossible to know in the absence of contact tracing. But the event was one source of infections as cases skyrocketed, according to local officials, religious leaders and media reports.

o   The Kumbh Mela “may end up being the biggest superspreader in the history of this pandemic,” said Ashish Jha, dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University, in a recent interview with Indian news outlet The Wire.

August 29, 2021 In India, a debate over population control turns explosive

o   Critics saw something deeply cynical: a veiled attempt to mobilize Hindu voters by tapping into an age-old trope about India’s Muslim population ballooning out of control.

o   Forty-year-old Hakumar Rawat said Pakistan had practically eliminated Hinduism while India had allowed Muslim communities to grow by converting children and constructing mosques with “black money” from overseas.

“They have five, six, 10 children,” said Rawat, a tattoo of the Sanskrit symbol for “Om” visible on his neck. “They are playing the long game.”

Garry Shih
August 15, 2021 Opinion: A timeline of hate, intimidation and injustice in Modi’s India

o   This article presents a number of hate crimes in PM Narendra Modi’s India. The list of hate crimes completely ignores those committed against the majority community or actions taken by government against those who had no opposition to the government throughout year.

Rana Ayyub
September 2, 2021 India clamps down on Kashmir after separatist leader’s death

o   Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a leader of Kashmir’s separatist movement who vexed the New Delhi government for decades with his uncompromising politics, died Wednesday night, prompting Indian authorities to deploy troops around the restive region and cut Internet access.

Garry Shih
November 15, 2021 Opinion: Why an Indian film’s success at the box office should worry us all

o   “Sooryavanshi” is one of the most successful films in India after the covid-19 lockdowns were eased. Its success contributes to the climate of hate and discrimination that India’s estimated 200 million Muslims must face everyday.

o   Every third frame of the film is a bloodcurdling Islamophobic image.

o   “Sooryavanshi” is dangerous. After watching it, it’s impossible not to think of Nazi Germany, where Hitler cultivated a film industry that paid obeisance to him and made propaganda films against Jews.

o   If Bollywood continues this aggressive descent into nationalism and hate, it will have blood on its hands. No box office record will be able to change that.

Rana Ayyub

And here’s a list of The Washington Post’s India coverage in a single month – October2021.

October 3, 2021 Under fire from Hindu nationalist groups, U.S.-based scholars of South Asia worry about academic freedom

o   Hindu nationalism in India has been resurgent under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who rose to power in 2014 and has pursued an agenda that critics say threatens the rights of its minorities and compromises its democratic institutions. The result has been deepening polarisation not only in India but also in diaspora communities.

Niha Masih
October 13, 2021 Opinion: Two sons, two systems of justice, but one message for Indians: Fall in line

o   It’s easy to see what’s going on: Shah Rukh Khan is not just another famous actor. He is a Muslim global icon who has spoken up against religious intolerance and discrimination in India. In 2010, he acted in the film “My Name Is Khan” that dealt with the persecution of Muslims in the post 9/11 world. For the Indian film industry, in which the representation of Muslims was seen through skewed majoritarianism and a stereotypical lens, Khan represented a breath of fresh air with his portrayals of urbane Muslim protagonists.

o   In 2015, after Shah Rukh Khan spoke openly about growing religious intolerance, he was accused of being a terrorist. Yogi Adityanath, a radical Hindu-nationalist monk who is chief minister of India’s most populated state, Uttar Pradesh, once compared the actor to a Pakistani terrorist. Right-wing officials and social media accounts regularly tell him to move to Pakistan.

o   To anyone watching the saga of these two sons, the message is clear: Fall in line. While one son is being protected, another one is hauled over the coals to teach a lesson to his superstar father. This is not just about Shah Rukh Khan, but about anyone the government resents for not prostrating before Modi and his nationalist vision.

Rana Ayyub
October 17, 2021 Violent eviction drive in India’s Assam revives tensions over undocumented migrants

o   The grisly killing of a villager during a campaign to evict hundreds of Muslim families from government land in India’s Assam — captured on a cellphone video used to identify the perpetrators — sparked national outrage

o   The violent police action has deepened tensions between the state’s ethnic Assamese and Bengali-descent Muslims, who say they increasingly feel targeted by the government.

October 20, 2021 Opinion: Shah Rukh Khan was a symbol of hope in India. Now his story shows all that is being corroded.

o   Khan was unequivocal in interviews, including to me. “Our religion [Islam] cannot be defined or shown respect to by our meat-eating habits. How banal and silly is that,” he said.

The trolls came for him as if on cue. He was mocked and sneered at. His nationalism was questioned. He was asked to go to Pakistan.

o   [T]he response of the marauding mobs is very different when the accused is a Muslim. If they question the legal process or the idea of justice, it is their patriotism that is placed under scrutiny.

o   We have to admit that the intersection of poverty, prejudice, caste and class impacts who ends up in jail and for how long. Aryan may be a child of privilege, but data shows that Muslims, Dalits and tribal members are jailed disproportionate to their population numbers.

Barkha Dutt
October 25, 2021 Opinion: India’s cricket team took the knee. It was meaningless and hypocritical.

o   Given how tumultuous a time it is in India — with ferocious public debates erupting over everything from the pandemic to the spiraling violence in Kashmir — there is much to say and do related to the country’s own domestic realities. The cricketers could have thrown their unparalleled influence behind any cause dear to them.

Barkha Dutt
October 27, 2021 India’s government made Kashmir even more dangerous for religious minorities

o   When Modi abrogated Article 370, his government had promised that the decision would allow Hindu and Sikh refugees to return. Investment would pour in, Modi said, and the economy would take off. Yet the decision now looks less like a thoughtful policy plan and more like an effort to soothe the ego of Hindu nationalist voters.

Editorial
October 29, 2021 Indian police detain cricket fans cheering for the other team: Pakistan

o   But for many Indians, the harsh measures taken this week by authorities — spanning several states and involving, for the first time, an anti-terrorism legal provision — reinforced concerns about the drift of a country they long believed to be superior to Pakistan because of its liberal democratic values, its sense of national confidence, and, of course, its prowess in cricket.

o   “We used to laugh at the Pakistanis for taking losses badly, looking at everything in Hindu-Muslim terms and seeing everything as about national honor,” said Shekhar Gupta, a veteran Indian journalist and founder of the online publication ThePrint.

But now, police in different Indian states are engaging in displays of “competitive nationalism,” Gupta grumbled. “It’s a race to the bottom,” he said. “We’re held to ransom now by awful politics.”

o   Indian social media users hurled abuse at the Indian team’s only Muslim player, Mohammad Shami, prompting the Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar to come to his defense.

Garry Shih

At no point did The Washington Post report when Muslim mobs went on a rampage and attacked other religious groups, mostly Hindus. The most recent instance of such a hate crime against the Hindu community was in the town of Amravati in Maharashtra, and some time ago in Chhattisgarh. The most recent instance of such a hate crime against the Hindu community was in  town of Amravati in Maharashtra Amravati and some time ago  in Chhattisgarh. However, the newspaper which styles itself as a champion of democratic values, refused to report religious violence by Muslims and Christians against Hindus. When it did report at all, like the targeted killings of Hindus and Sikhs in Kashmir by Islamist terrorists, The Washington Post somehow still managed to pin the blame on Hindu nationalism for it.

It is quite tragic when an extremist, trained in Pakistan-based terror outfits with absolutely no links to Hinduism, kills someone, the blame is laid on Hindus instead of the very ideology and religion of the terrorist and his mentors. The Post wants us to believe that a Muslim terrorist using his AK-47 in Kashmir to kill Hindus and Sikhs is shooting because some Hindu in Ahmedabad asked PM Modi to abrogate Article 370; but never because the shooter follows a centuries-old and ideology of jihad against non-believers, the Kafir, the Malaun, and the Murtad. Terrorism in the Kashmir Valley reached its peak in the late 1980s.  “Hindu nationalism” cannot be used as an excuse for that massacre and ethnic cleansing by Muslims of Hindus in the Valley. Jihadis across the globe never need any other reasons to kill; they kill simply because of the indoctrination that they have fed on, a complex net of ritualistic, religious hatred. Newspapers like The Washington Post ignore this sort of institutionalized hatred and provide the world with excuses, and non-existent reasons/excuses, so that the jihadi can continue to kill with impunity, while people never really get to read about and understand the root cause of this violence.

On the one hand when The Washington Post ignores religious motives at their sharpest and most brutal presence, and on the other hand it seeks to drag in religions to explain unrelated events — like when Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son was held on charges of drug possession and drug dealing. The Narcotics Control Bureau in India and the police have always carried out their duty of patrolling the drug racket in Bollywood, irrespective of the religious affiliation of the actors/actresses. But The Washington Post thinks Shah Rukh Khan’s son was being questioned because he is Muslim. However, when non-Muslims in such a case come to be questioned by authorities, their religion automatically vanishes. This narrative of “minority oppression” is, at the moment, nothing but a cover for a range of offenders, ordinary and small-time criminals to terrorists seeking to create havoc in the country.

The Washington Post’s indulgence in this biased and selective reporting is not new. Ever since the BJP’s victory in 2014, the grand narrative they have worked on has comprised primarily the highlighting of a certain kind of religious tussle which helps in building up the “Hindu nationalists are taking India downstream” image. In this quest they have portrayed the RSS as a “Hindu nationalist group going on charm offensive” even when the RSS has always been secular in its outlook. Similarly, in their  habit of biased reporting , The Washington Post has always addressed the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya as a sixteenth  century mosque. Not once has it told its readers that it has been proven by the Archaeological Survey of India and its experts that there existed a temple of Shri Ram on the spot prior to the building of the mosque. The Treta ka Thakur inscription of twelfth century Gaharwar King Maharaja Jaichandra is an indisputable record. Yet The Post writes only about the mosque. And when it does mention the temple, it slips in a line saying “the Hindus believe” a temple to have existed so as to provide an impression that it is merely a belief and not proven archeologically.

Two years ago, when violence erupted in Delhi after the anti-CAA protest, both Hindus and Muslims were killed. But the newspaper, again, published only partisan reports supporting Muslims and demonizing Hindus, and criticizing the BJP-led Government. “The violence has overwhelming religious overtones — unidentified groups have destroyed mosques and targeted Muslim-majority  neighbourhoods with gasoline bombs,” it said in one of its report.  Before that, the newspaper had declared CAA as an “official legal cover to its dream of entrenching Hindu supremacy” and had sort of concluded that the law will turn India into a “a Hindu nationalist state”. The Washington Post has carried many opinion pieces asserting that  India is becoming a Hindu nationalist state and a Hindu theocracy of sorts. It never sees religion in a jihadi terrorist or a Christian fundamentalist when they kill in the name of their religion or seek to establish their god across the world. But the Post did see religion in the Indian government’s measures in Kashmir.

It is beyond doubt that the reporting and opinions in The Washington Post are always centred around a specific narrative vilifying Hinduism and Hindus. The newspaper seeks not to establish a level playing field in the political reportage but has just become a vehicle to demonize Hindus and paint the BJP into a “Hindu nationalist” corner. A newspaper with such a dishonest record and dangerous intent is not just a threat to Indian democracy and to India’s social harmony and global standing but is a propaganda vehicle seeking to kill democracy in broad daylight.

Yogendra Singh Thakur

Yogendra Singh Thakur is a freelance columnist from Betul, Madhya Pradesh. He has written essays for IndiaFacts, Swarajya Magazine, Pragyata Magazine, and OpIndia. He is pursuing a BA, majoring in History, Political Science, and Sociology.