BBC journalist, expert on Maoist insurgency, lashes out at India Today’s Rahul Kanwal for simulating skirmishes


India Today’s Rahul Kanwal came under huge condemnation for simulating security forces’ skirmishes with Maoists in Chhattisgarh. The India Today journalist had broadcast the entire simulated operation on his TV show Jab We Met passing it off as real skirmishes between security forces and Maoist insurgents of Chhattisgarh.

His attempt to cause cheap thrills, seemingly in a bid to boost the much-needed TRP for his channel, evoked angry reactions on social media. Historian Ramachandra Guha shared an article published on website Scroll and wrote, “A devastating expose, that shows both anchor and channel in extremely poor light.”

And Guha was not alone left aghast and outraged by Kanwal’s disingenuous reporting on Maoist insurgency from the poll-bound state. Salman Ravi, a veteran BBC journalist with 30 years of experience covering Maoists, wrote a scathing piece lashing out at the India Today journalist.

Ravi, who’s currently in Bastar to cover 12 November’s crucial assembly polls, told Janta Ka Reporter that Kanwal’s fake reporting had endangered safety of countless other journalists, currently present in the strife-torn region to cover the election.

He wrote, “These people make our task difficult and dangerous. He (Kanwal) is making a mockery of all those who are risking their lives in the conflict zone. He is, at the same time, also making a mockery of the men in uniform that he is accompanying. A mockery of their sacrifices. Is this sham just for the sake of TRPs?”

Ravi went on to write that he could not do pulling off ‘something like this’ despite covering the region for 30 years.

“In these years there have been many occasions that I was subject to frisking and harassment by vigilante groups, police and even armed Maoist squads. I also faced detention from both the sides. Not to talk about the humiliation and threats that followed.

I did not make a news out of it knowing well it is a part of professional hazards while working in such areas. Even during this tour, covering the elections, I was stalked. Followed by unidentified men. The front glass of my car was broken. Unidentified bike riders suddenly overtook my car, took pictures and sped away. Still I did not make a news out of it,” he added.

Ravi, who said that after India Today’s broadcast of the controversial show led by Kanwal, Maoists in the region had become even more active, thereby posing increased risks to ‘real journalists’ covering elections.

Continuing his experience of reporting from the violence-hit region, Ravi wrote, “There were occasions when I happened to reach a spot at a wrong time in Bijapur when the security forces were trying to defuse a powerful land mine by exploding. It was a dangerous situation for all of us there at the spot.

“I was asked by the commandant who was leading the operation not to film the moment they were exploding the powerful explosive. I abided by what they said. I did do a walk-through at the spot with their permission. But, I did not speak to anyone of them who were tensed due to the situation and the threat to everyone’s life, who were present at the place where help couldn’t have come even after hours.”

Ravi concluded his post by saying that Kanwal’s action had left him and ‘other journalists’ present in the area ‘hurt’ adding that these reporters have been ‘risking their lives to bring out the real picture that sponsored and embedded journalists para dropping from Delhi will never do.’

“Even on Sunday, a group of local journalists in Sukma were detained for several hours and humiliated by an armed group of Maoist rebels. May be Rahul Kanwal’s next venture could be an expert book. Let me suggest the title of his book – Udta Bastar. Or Maybe- Doobta Bastar.”

Other social media users too condemned Kanwal, calling him a ‘corporate journalist.’ One user wrote, “A national journalist killed brutally at the entry of forest. But a corporate journalist take a easy tour like movie stunt. India heading towards another freedom struggle.” Another user wrote, “Do journalism and viewers a favour and display ‘Representative Video’ in large caption on the screen throughout. Explain to viewers that all of this is just play acting and not real.”

Not too long ago, a cameraman working for India’s national broadcaster, DD News, was killed after Maoists attacked the security forces that he was accompanying to cover assembly elections.