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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Times of India ‘regrets’ naming Tanishka-shooting accused Sahil as Sahil “Kumar”; police tightlipped about his full name

On Wednesday, Tanishka Sharma was shot 5 times by a stalker and his accomplices within hours of her wedding, while she was travelling to her marital home with her husband. She is battling for life in PGIMS, Rohtak, Haryana.

The shooter, named as just ‘Sahil’ (no other first or last name) in the police FIR, was arrested on Sunday and produced in local court on Monday. He has been remanded to three days of police custody.

HinduPost understands the full name of the accused is Mohammed Sahil and he is a Muslim man with a criminal background. The deliberate obfuscation over the accused’s full name by mainstream media and authorities of our secular nation state, is a classic case study of how our public narrative is distorted to keep citizens in a state of ignorance and denial.

India’s leading English-language daily initially reported the accused’s name as ‘Sahil Kumar’ (Kumar is a surname usually used by Hindus), but has since retracted and published a correction on the online version of their article: “An earlier version of this story had named the accused as Sahil Kumar. The police FIR mentions his name as Sahil. We regret the error.

The TOI reporter Sat Singh had earlier tried to defend his reporting, tweeting that he just went with FIR and official communication, and hence did not give the accused’s full name as Mohammad Sahil. But he had no answer as to why he chose to append ‘Kumar’ to the name when clearly the FIR (as TOI also now accepts) mentions the name as just ‘Sahil’.

Although TOI has made the correction in their online version, it remains to be seen whether they will issue a correction in print. The print version is much shorter than the digital one, and does not include details mentioned in the digital version about a panchayat meeting at the victim’s native village where villagers demanded a law against love jihad to prevent such crimes – a clear giveaway that the accused is a Muslim.

TOI is not alone – another national English-language daily Hindustan Times has misleadingly reported the accused’s name as Sahil Kumar.

Md. Sahil’s full name has also been reported by sites like OpIndia, and tweeted by senior journalist Swati Goel Sharma, who routinely covers such cases of stalking and grooming jihad. Swati spoke to Tanishka’s mother who told her the accused Sahil lived in the neighbouring village. He had been harassing Tanishka for the last few months. Swati revealed that Sahil’s father’s name is also Hindu-sounding, Dayawan, and it appears that retaining Hindu names is common among Muslims in parts of Haryana.

Hindi newspapers like Amar Ujala, Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar have all reported the accused’s name as Sahil, mentioning no other first or last name. But the Dainik Bhaskar report does state that police investigation has found that Sahil belongs to the vishesh samuday (aka ‘special’ or ‘specific community’, Hindi media’s term for referring to the Muslim community).

HinduPost spoke to DSP Mahesh Kumar who led the team that arrested Sahil. We asked him the last name of the accused. He said that Sahil only goes by one name. We then asked him whether Sahil is a Muslim – there was a pause, before the officer claimed that he could not divulge religious or community details of any accused as per police protocols, and due to court and govt orders.

When we tried to probe further on how police normally doesn’t maintain such secrecy over identity of an accused, he cut the call.

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