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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

TN Police Files FIR Against OpIndia CEO And Chief Editor Based On Fake News Peddler Zubair’s Tweets

The CEO of OpIndia, Rahul Roushan, and Editor-in-Chief, Nupur Sharma, have been booked by Thiruninravur Police, which falls under the jurisdiction of Avadi city police commissionerate, for spreading “fake news” about alleged attacks on migrants from Bihar in Tamil Nadu.

The police have booked the case under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 153-A [Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony], 505 (1) (b) [Whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility] and 505 (2).

What The FIR Says

The FIR has been registered based on the complaint filed by DMK IT Wing member Surya Prakash who accused OpIndia of spreading false news and creating a sense of fear among the public and migrant from Bihar and other States.

“Opindia.com website has published a report quoting that Hindi daily one Dainik Baskar has published a report stating that several migrant laborers originally from Jamuai District in Bihar working in Tamil Nadu have confirmed this attacks. They have alleged that has many as 15 people have lost their lifes in the “Taliban” style attacks being carried out against the Hindi speaking migrant laborers in the state. As a result terror has gripped these migrant laborers who are now fleeing the state in large numbers.”, the complaint filed by the DMK member noted in his complaint based on which the FIR has been filed.

What OpIndia Reported

The OpIndia article, which was published on 3 March 2023, was based on the report of Hindi Daily Dainik Bhaskar which stated that several migrant labourers from Bihar working in Tamil Nadu were attacked and that more than a dozen of them had lost their lives. The article published in Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar on 2 March 2023 claimed that as many as 15 Hindi-speaking migrant labourers lost their lives in “Talibani” style attacks in Tamil Nadu. This article which was published by Dainik Bhaskar in both print and online was reported by OpIndia.

However, these reports were found to be exaggerated with many incidents cited in the original Hindi article being feuds and altercations that happened in other states.

OpIndia on its part carried the versions of Tamil Nadu police as well as the versions mentioned by Dainik Bhaskar.

Political Slugfest

It is to be noted that not just OpIndia but even political parties fell victim to the exaggerated misreporting by a few Hindi media outlets. Since it was carried in the print version of Dainik Bhaskar and a few mainstream Hindi news channels picking it up, it turned political with subsequent amplification of these reports by BJP Bihar. This had unleashed a political slugfest with migrant workers in Tamil Nadu facing the brunt. The opposition BJP and Lok Janshakti Party in Bihar raised the issue  state Assembly before staging a walkout on Friday (3 March 2023), demanding that a team of House members be sent to Tamil Nadu to investigate reports of attacks on Bihari migrants working in Tamil Nadu.

Zubair, The Serial Fake News Peddler

The FIR against OpIndia has been filed by the Tamil Nadu police based on the complaint given by a DMK member who had referred to the tweets of self-proclaimed ‘fact-checker’ Mohammed Zubair of Alt News.

Mohammed Zubair has a history of peddling fake news and propaganda against Hindus.  A few instances of Alt-News and its co-founders Mohammed Zubair and Pratik Sinha peddling inaccurate, fake, and deliberately provocative content over the years can be found here and here.

It was Zubair who had shared an edited clip of former BJP leader Nupur Sharma’s remarks, which eventually led to targeted reverberation of ‘Sar Tan Se Juda’ solgans in different parts of the country with mobs baying for Nupur Sharma’s blood. It also led to the killing of several innocent Hindus who had supported Nupur Sharma.

What Serial Fake News Peddler Didn’t Tell

North Bharatiya migrant labourers, primarily from Tiruppur and surrounding areas, were fleeing the state fearing attacks against them. There have been several incidents of violence reported against workers from other states across Tamil Nadu in the last few months.

In Tiruppur, a feud broke out between a local and a migrant worker from a garment unit at Thilagar Nagar West in Velampalayam after the former blew cigarette smoke at his face. The migrant worker retaliated and moved away from the spot. Later, the local along with a few friends entered the garment unit and attacked the worker. With the support of his colleagues, he retaliated.

Students at the RVS Engineering College in Kannampalayam, Coimbatore clashed with migrant workers at the college mess over the quality of chicken dish served.

Bengali construction worker who was stranded near Kelambakkam in Chengalpattu district was blindly attacked by local youths who mistook him for a thief. Six people were arrested and charged with murder in connection with the attack.

North Bharatiya migrant workers travelling in Vaigai Express train were abused and attacked by a Vizhupuram man who claimed that their jobs were taken by Hindi speakers. He was arrested after the video of the attack became viral.

While the incidents mentioned in Dainik Bhaskar are untrue, these multiple instances of violence against migrant workers from other states can be seen as a fallout of the continuous hate campaign unleashed by DMK leaders including several Ministers, Seeman’s Naam Tamilar KatchiDravidian Stock YouTube channels and other fringe elements. Slurs like ‘Vadakkan’, ‘Paani Puri wala’, ‘Panparag vaayan’ have been normalised by DMK leaders and their sympathizers on through social media. The DMK had hitherto of peddled hate against north Indians with xenophobic rhetoric. In the run up to the 2021 Assembly elections, the DMK had also released political ads in which youngsters can be seen alleging that Edappadi Palaniswami government is giving Tamil Nadu jobs to north Indians. Full page ads were given in which it was peddled that Hindi-speaking north Indians were grabbing jobs of Tamils.

MK Stalin, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, himself had incited hatred against North Bharatiya’s working in Tamil Nadu during the election campaign.

However, as migrant workers were reported to be departing the State in large numbers, Mohammed Zubair was on a tweet spree sharing videos of migrant workers claiming to be safe. His tweets had no mention of the hate speeches made by DMK leaders against north Indian workers. His covering of the incident seems like an attempt to buttressing and salvaging the DMK government shielding its past antecedents.

Many on social media pointed out that his tweets reeks of bias as he had never pointed out the hate peddled by DMK.

(This article first appeared on thecommunemag.com on March 7, 2023 and is being republished as part of a content-sharing agreement via smart4bharat.com with minor changes to conform with HinduPost style guide)

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