The horrific viral video of a terrorist brutally killing a 50 year old Muslim daily wage labourer in Rajasthan on December 7 has highlighted the role the media has played in the propagation, legitimisation and normalisation of the term “love jihad”.
Apart from recording the lynching, the murderer also delivers in the video, a chilling warning to the entire Indian Muslim community, telling them they would meet a fate similar to the murdered man. Clearly, this man is armed with an ideology to terrorise the minorities in the country. The accurate way of reporting the events that unfold in this video is to either call it a hate crime or an act of terror. At the very least, it’s a brutal murder.
Instead, we saw headlines that legitimised the killing. Instead of calling a spade a spade (an act of hate crime), the media actually bought into the killer’s rant.
The single worst headlines was from The Times of India, which called it a “reprisal”. This not only legitimizes the killing, but actually justifies it. The usage of the word “reprisal” implies that the elderly man had committed a crime and that his killing was a retaliation.
CNN News 18 also reported it as an act of revenge or retaliation, with the headline, “Man burnt alive allegedly for committing love jihad in Rajasthan’s Rajsamand”. Notice the usage of “committing”, which is used to preface a crime, a mistake or something illegal. Numerous other news outlets also used similar headlines.
While reporting on the recent Hadiya judgement by the Supreme Court, the media also followed the same path. The media described Hadiya’s consensual marriage and conversion as the “Kerala ‘love jihad’ case”. At least, there was the courtesy to use inverted commas or double quotes over the two words. While the use of double quotes does nothing to take away from the legitimization, it at least denotes that there is some dispute about Hadiya’s detention or the claim that she was forcefully converted. This is why double quotes are also used to describe “honour killings”.
Now, all such pretences have been dropped as the normalisation is complete. The double quotes are not being used anymore.
There were only a few media outlets that reported on the murder with conviction. Janta Ka Reporter carried the accurate headline “Elderly Muslim man attacked with axe, then burn alive in Rajasthan.” NDTV also used an appropriate headline, “Chilling murder in Rajasthan on video. Man hacks labourer, burns him.” However, the words “hate crime” failed to appear in these reports.