During the recent events surrounding retired Lt.Gen K.S. Brar, there has been hysterical reporting by certain sections of the Indian media. While the Indian media is not exactly a paragon of impartiality and balanced reporting, the recent coverage has left most readers we have spoken to in disbelief. It varies from misreporting and hysteria, to publishing material that is simply false.
This has created a potentially dangerous situation, in a country where religious differences can be easily exploited for political gain, and where there is well documented history of these differences spilling over into communal violence. Today after a week of arrests and investigation we have learned that two Sikh men have been charged with “wounding with the intent to do grievous bodily harm”, a full week after the incident on 30th September. During the initial investigation UK Police did not comment on the religion or ethnicity of the individuals it was detaining for questioning. This is in stark contrast with the Indian media who began with reports of unidentified assailants on the 1st of Oct. This then developed into reports of “four bearded men” on the 2nd; by the 3rd it had descended into a full scale international conspiracy in which law abiding Sikh organisations, including religious, charitable and political bodies were labelled as being linked to ‘terrorism’. This situation has been used to make unfounded allegations in the wider Indian media of the rise of Sikh extremism globally, no doubt to justify the recent arrests and torture of Sikh political activists in the Punjab, which prompted Human Rights Watch to call on the government of India for an investigation and to “promptly enact the Prevention of Torture bill and…take immediate steps to implement its provisions, including ending all torture and ill-treatment by security forces and prosecuting those responsible”.
The most shocking comments came in reports that featured remarks from Foreign Office (FCO) Minister Hugo Swire (the minister is in charge of trade with India). The minister was reported to have said “It (the attack on Brar) is of great concern to the United Kingdom. We don’t want these people here exporting their terrorist views because they represent a real threat to people in the UK apart from anything else”. Given the way the Indian media has handled this incident these remarks give the impression that the minister was referring to Sikhs in general. The NSYF Press Office contacted the FCO for clarification, and in a statement issued to the NSYF the FCO made it clear that “The Minister’s comments were quite clearly referring to the perpetrators of this crime and were not directed towards any community”. They further commented that they “…don’t have any control in the way the (Indian) media is reporting this incident”, and that interpreting them in this way was “completely incorrect”.
The NSYF Press Office will be providing a full analysis of the reporting in this incident, and writing to individual news agencies about the misrepresented facts of the Indian army invasion of Amritsar code named ‘operation blue star’.