Analysis: Mainstream media reportage of temple attacks – IndiaFacts Staff

TV News India

IndiaFacts“Highlighting a very tiny number of incidents of church attacks and giving it frequent and repeated coverage while downplaying the real fact of repeated attacks against temples—almost one temple attack per day—certainly lends itself to the conclusion that the media is indeed creating, shaping, and pushing a false narrative.”- IndiaFacts Staff

Of late there has been a spate of news reports, articles, panel discussions and editorials on attacks on churches in India. Most of these reports have been consistent in blaming Hindu groups for these attacks. Equally, in an age of social media and free access to information, doubts have been raised both about the attacks and the veracity of these reports.

On the other side, there is almost no coverage, analysis, editorials, and TV shows on attacks on the places of worship of non-Abrahamic religions including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. Could it be the case that there were no attacks at all on these places of worship?

INDIAFACTS commissioned a study-cum-analysis of mainstream English media’s coverage of attacks on Hindu places of worship. The findings are quite revealing.

To begin with, secularism is an article of faith for the Indian English mainstream media. With that in mind, and with coverage of temple attacks as the context, our analysis also examined three broad aspects:

  • Does the Indian English mainstream media really practice the secularism it preaches?
  • Is our mainstream English media being fair in its coverage?
  • Is our mainstream English media making an attempt to narrow the focus to a particular set of incidents with the intention of creating a false narrative?

Methodology

The INDIAFACTS team sourced news reports, articles, opeds, and TV shows mainly from the Internet, and print for good measure. These news sources were spread across the most popular and widely read newspapers, online news channels, and TV media.

Data was collected based on coverage related to attacks, thefts, vandalism, hate crimes, corruption, misgovernance, and land grab with respect to temples (where temples are generically defined as stated earlier: places of worship of non-Abrahamic faiths). Data was collected for a period of six months: between 01 October 2014 and 31 March 2015, which is a decent sample size to be considered as representative to arrive at reasonably accurate conclusions.

Preliminary observations

Two preliminary, high-level observations stand out in our analysis:

There were 145 incidents of attacks on temples during the stated period—that is, approximately, at least one temple was attacked every day (more precisely, 0.8 per day).

A vast majority of them were Hindu temples, and a few were Jain, Buddhist and Sikh as well. For the sake of brevity and ease of presentation, they’re generically grouped as Hindu temples and could be de-grouped as needed, on a case by case basis.

Detailed analysis

This geo-data map shows the spread of attacks on Hindu temples across India. A darker gradient of red represents states with the highest number of temple attacks. As is evident from the map, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh top the list, followed by Kerala, Telangana and Karnataka.

Figure 1: Tamil Nadu & Uttar Pradesh have the most attacks on temples, followed by Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana.

Figure 1: Tamil Nadu & Uttar Pradesh have the most attacks on temples, followed by Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana.

Weekly attacks

The following chart shows the number of attacks on Hindu temples every week for the six month duration of our study. In our study, we have considered Sunday as the starting day of the week and Saturday as the ending day.

The height of the bar represents the total number of temple attacks for that week. Attacks on Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Buddhist temples are differently colour-coded.

Note: October being the starting point of our study, the first week has only four days—1 October thru 4 October 2015.

Figure 2: Weekly attacks on temples.

Figure 2: Weekly attacks on temples.

Subsequent weeks follow the Sunday-Saturday scheme. 11 January 2015—31 January 2015 appears to be the most peaceful period with only one attack per week.

Media coverage of temple attacks

The following graph shows the number of articles published by news media for the temple attacks shown for the six-month period. Although some of the reports were actually published a few days later, falling into the subsequent week, they were counted for the week on which the incident actually occurred. This would simplify the counting.

 Figure 3: News reports covering temple attacks.

Figure 3: News reports covering temple attacks.

Number of media reports on temple attacks increase or decrease corresponding to the attack incidents, indicating a correlation with Figure 2.

The 145 incidents of attack on temples were covered by 293 news articles from various publishers and media outlets—that is, there were an average of 2.02 news articles published per incident.

State-wise analysis

The following graph shows the state-wise grouping of temple attacks, based on the actual location of the attacks.

Figure 4: State-wise temple attacks.

Figure 4: State-wise temple attacks.

Red indicates incidents that could have been prevented by ensuring good governance and law and order mechanisms,and blue indicates attacks due to breakdown of law and order/lack of security. Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh top the list followed closely by Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Telangana. In other words, South India has witnessed the worst attacks on temples.

The next graph shows the number of news reports published related to these attacks in their respective states.

Figure 5: Media reports on state-wise attacks on temples.

Figure 5: Media reports on state-wise attacks on temples.

Red indicates reports on temple attacks incidents that could have been prevented by good governance and blue indicates reports on incidents that needed effective law and order mechanisms.

Comparing attacks on temples and churches

The following graph shows a comparison between attacks on temples and attacks on churches for the period under consideration.

Figure 6: Comparison between temple attacks and church attacks.

Figure 6: Comparison between temple attacks and church attacks.

Exactly four incidents of attacks on churches took place across India in the period under consideration.The overall picture that emerges is clear: there’s a huge gap in the attacks against temples compared to Christian places of worship. In other words, temples are targeted more frequently whereas churches remain largely unmolested.

State-wise grouping of attacks on temples and churches

The following graph shows the state-wise grouping of the attacks on temples including the four attacks on Christian places of worship.

Figure 7: Attacks on Christian places of worship added to the state wise chart shown in Figure 4.

Figure 7: Attacks on Christian places of worship added to the state wise chart shown in Figure 4.

Media coverage comparison

Upon including the reports published in the media about attacks on Christian places of worship into the graphs of respective states, we obtain the following graph.

Figure 8: Media reportage on temple and church attacks.

Figure 8: Media reportage on temple and church attacks.

Upon including the attacks on Christian places of worship into the week-wise chart of media reportage on temple attacks, we arrive at the following graph.

Figure 9: Week-wise media reportage on temple and church attacks.

Figure 9: Week-wise media reportage on temple and church attacks.

Conclusions

  • On an average,the English mainstream media reported about 46.25 news articles per incident of attack on Christian places of worship whereas it reported a mere 2.02 news articles per incident of attack on Hindu places of worship
  • Further, the 46.25 reports per incident related to attacks on a Christian place of worship had approximately 80 oblique references to the BJP, Narendra Modi, parliament debate, elections, ghar wapsi. However such oblique references were rarely found in reports related to attacks on temples.
  • According to the concept of secularism as commonly defined and understood, the Indian English mainstream media should ensure that its reportage remains religion-neutral. Unfortunately, as our analysis shows, the 46:2 ratio of its reportage on attacks on places of worship of Christians to those of Hindus doesn’t pass this religion-neutral test by any standards. Therefore, there is very little evidence to show that the mainstream English media is reporting news based on the spirit of secularism it claims it adheres to.
  • The same ratio also shows that our mainstream English media is being significantly selective and therefore unfair in its coverage.
  • Highlighting a very tiny number of incidents of church attacks and giving it frequent and repeated coverage while downplaying the real fact of repeated attacks against temples (almost one temple attack per day), certainly lends itself to the conclusion that the media is indeed creating, shaping, and pushing a false narrative.

Based on such hard data, it is not entirely inaccurate to conclude that the Indian mainstream English media is behaving like the mouthpiece of select religious institutions. – IndiaFacts, 11 May 2015

Indian Media

2 Responses

  1. Protecting Churches is not THE ONLY duty of govt of India.It is only another of the many jobs that it is doing.Why can’t the churches employ watchmen or at least install cameras and burglar alarms?I have installed both and so many people in our middle class neighborhood have done so.The reason why the church is not installing these simple and inexpensive devices are simple.They are not interested in the genuine security of the churches.They simply can then blame the so called fringe Hinduta elements,ably supported by msm without any shred of evidence.Who knows,the church authorities may also be involved in these so called attacks.

  2. The article below has appeared in a magazine that is a front for the Roman Catholic Church. The article, deliberately, does not mention that the ‘armed groups’ (read terrorists) belong to a Protestant Church. However, if the American Ambassador, Richard Verma, reads this, he will immediately make a press release that the Roman Catholics are being harassed even in Manipur. This type of reaction is the real interest of the magazine, and not the welfare of the students in Manipur. – Ashok Chowgule

    7 Catholic schools shut following ban by armed group in Manipur – Indian Currents – April 27, 2015

    Seven Catholic schools in Manipur have failed to resume classes despite student bodies and parents protesting the indefinite ban imposed on Catholic schools by an armed group,

    Students and parents of Manipur’s Little Flower school and Christ Jyoti school staged a sit-in demonstration on 21 April but school authorities refused to resume classes.

    A Kangleipak Communist Party-Military Council (KCP-MC) statement, released in March end, imposed a ban on Catholic schools starting April 1, and said that the outfit had launched Operation Manga I which aims to fulfil the right to compulsory education by fighting the prevalent system of admission, tuition fees, selection and reservation norms in all schools,

    Catholic schools in the area include: Catholic School, Christ Jyoti, Little Flower School,
    Nirmalabas High school, Sacred Heart, St Joseph and St George.

    The outfit warned that school managing committees would be responsible for any untoward incident that may occur if the schools reopen.

    “We are not in a position to open the school as of now. We don’t know what the consequences would be unless the matter is resolved,” sisters of Little Flower school said.

    A similar sentiment was echoed by the principal of the Nirmalabas school.

    On 21 April the students went to schools following appeals by the Democratic Students Alliance of Manipur (DESAM) and All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU).

    “If necessary, AMSU volunteers will form a human chain from April 22 to allow normal classes,” AMSU president Sanasam Subhachandra said. (Hindustan Times)

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