Like any other media outlet, Times Now TV channel too reacted with considerable enthusiasm to cover the Supreme Court’s decision to appoint a panel of mediators on the Ayodhya dispute case on Friday. However, its brazen biases have dangerously hinted at a fixed match, making its rival channel, Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV, look like the BBC on neutrality.
The Supreme Court on Friday announced the names of the mediation panel and their brief on the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case. The top court said that a three-member panel will be headed by retired Supreme Court judge, Justice KMI Kalifulla, while the other two members will be Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu. The panel will have to start their mediation process within four weeks and should complete the negotiations within eight weeks. Media will be barred from reporting on the process.
Times Now went berserk in its coverage on the Supreme Court’s judgement. In its excitement, the channel, which is often accused of pushing the RSS and BJP’s agenda, did not realise that it was essentially casting aspersions on the integrity of the Supreme Court. Soon after the Supreme Court announced the mediation panel, Times Now launched a Twitter hashtag #MandirByMay2019 suggesting that today’s ruling had paved the way for the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya before the Lok Sabha polls are concluded.
Having the Ram Temple constructed before the Lok Sabha polls has been a long desire of the BJP, which is facing a growing anti-incumbency against the Centre’s Narendra Modi government.
The channel owned by Times Group did not stop at just posting a dangerously revealing hashtag, but also fired questions to India’s Muslim community. For example, one question read, “Will Muslim side now accommodate wishes of Hindu community & provide a breakthrough for settlement of issue?” This made it amply clear that Muslims needed to be blamed for the current Ayodhya dispute.
Another question posed by Times Now appeared to have been borrowed from BJP spokespersons, who have often cited an old Supreme Court judgement that mosques were not integral to the practice of the Muslim faith. (See above).
Times Now did not end here. The channel’s head, Rahul Shivshankar spoke to BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP, Subramanian Swamy, and, during his interaction, he told the Muslim side to move ‘towards a more centrist position’ during the mediation process since the Ram Temple was a matter of faith for Hindus. Swamy praised him for accurately understanding the observation made by the top court.
#MandirByMediation | I am saying that this is a wonderful opportunity for Muslim community to show that they are different from Muslim communities in other parts of the world: BJP MP @Swamy39 (Subramanian Swamy) in conversation with @RShivshankar. pic.twitter.com/ZWNeue79RC
— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) March 8, 2019
Swamy concluded the conversation with a chilling warning to Muslims that even if they won the title suit case in the Supreme Court, they will not be allowed to take the ownership of the disputed land in Ayodhya because the Indian government will invoke Article 300A and acquire the land by nationalising the land in ‘public interest.’
Shivshankar thanked Swamy for putting everything in ‘perspective’ before issuing a sermon to India’s Muslims. He said that there was a ‘massive opportunity’ for Muslims to reach out ‘across the aisle’ since the matter, according to his understanding, had been declared a faith issue for Hindus by the Supreme Court.
In contrast, Times Now’s rival Republic TV, founded by Arnab Goswami, appeared unusually calm and measured in its coverage on the Ayodhya dispute case. For example, it used a very factual hashtag #AyodhyaMediation and asked a neutral question on Twitter without showing any biases, “Will the Supreme Court-monitored mediation in the Ayodhya case bring a final resolution to the decades-old dispute? What’s your view on this?”
Another question by Republic read, “Will the 8-week court-monitored mediation bring a resolution to the decades-old Ayodhya dispute? What’s your view on this?”
The channel even highlighted a controversial comment made by Union Minister Uma Bharti, who had warned that Hindus must not be treated as Guinea Pigs. Bharti is currently facing a trial for her role in the destruction of the Babri Masjid by armed Hindutva militants on 6 December 1992.
Lok Sabha polls this year are likely to be held between April and May. This explains why Times Now would demand using a Twitter hashtag to have the temple constructed ‘By May.’