Backlash: India Today stings ABVP, finds fresh harvest of morphed and spliced videos
The India Today Group launched an investigation into the violence unleashed on the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus on 5 January 2019 and found that it was orchestrated by armed members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
The response to the investigation was the sudden surfacing of several questionable videos that tried to defame a senior editor of the India Today Group, Rahul Kanwal, who supervised the investigation by a team of India Today reporters. ThePrint.in reported that these were spliced videos meant to instigate right-wing nationalist sentiment against the India Today editor and anchor. A spurious video was used to claim that he had said that chanting the Indian national song, Vande Mataram, was anti-national. The entire clip showed that a fake video had been created.
The India Today Group reported that there were attempts to malign its journalists. In it, they released the following statement from the group:
When public opinion is so polarised on almost every issue facing us, it becomes a daily challenge to do journalism without fear or favour. We, at the India Today Group, strive to do exactly that to uphold the Gold Standard of Journalism we have strived hard to achieve. This co-ordinated, vicious attack on social media for doing honest journalism is ill-informed and malicious.
A large section of JNU students had claimed that ABVP activists had attacked them, mostly those not associated with the university. The ABVP–the student affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)–had claimed innocence.
The first confirmation of their participation was during a debate on the TV news channel Times Now when a functionary of the ABVP Delhi admitted on air that they had been asked, on a WhatsApp messaging group, to arm themselves when they went to JNU. When the news anchor asked who had asked them to arm themselves, the ABVP functionary did not respond.
The ABVP activists had released videos and photos trying to pin the violent attack on the JNU students union president and several others by releasing several attacks. The Delhi Police later held a press conference in which they carried the same photos and video grabs as shared by the ABVP to deflect the attention to the leftist students union, who were protesting a fee hike imposed by the central government, currently ruled by the RSS` political affiliate–the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The India Today group launched a series of stories on the violence in a bid to, quite literally, unmask the perpetrators of the violence, who had covered their faces. The investigation also claimed to show the role of the leftist students bodies.
One video showed an ABVP activist who was boasting about wearing a helmet and participating in the attack on the students. Another unmasks a woman who was an armed participant of the violence.