Hyping the Islamist Threat: Stenographers at Work Again: A response from JTSA

Following is the text of the letter by Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA) sent to Indian Express in response to the story, “First Islamic State ‘Module’”. An edited version of the letter was carried by the newspaper in the letters section today.   

Dear Editors,

We are writing in response to the front-page sensational story about the busting of the “First Islamic State ‘Module’” in India (Indian Express, 6th May 2015). Except for the names of the accused and their alleged links to IS, it is a typical agency-fed story with vague details. Such are the ‘facts’ offered by this story: the accused visited Dubai in search of employment, but remained unsuccessful; that the accused joined an Islamic proselytizing and charitable group and was frustrated by its “quietism”. Even the story admits that these details are from a disclosure made to police, which is inadmissible under law.  ISIS_EXpress

The rest is of course filled in with inputs from friendly security agencies. If one were to run a simple google search on the line “they were planning strikes in India, highly placed police and intelligence sources said”, it would emerge as the single most used line in terror reporting. This, combined with the same unnamed sources revealing the dark and dangerous contents of the computers seized from the accused have now become the staple of so-called investigative reporting. It will no doubt be useful for getting extended police remands on the plea that forensic investigation is going on and the accused are required to be questioned.

The story speaks about “increasing numbers” of Indians joining the ranks of IS. Really? How many? Half a dozen? Ten? It’s a typical ruse to hype a threat. One can be sure that the reporters’ assertion about “fears more [IS modules] could be forming elsewhere” will be borne out by more arrests in the near future.  Breathless reporting and commentary is bound to follow. We have seen in the past narratives about ‘terror organizations’ congealing in a similar manner, where IB dossiers and news reports feed into each other.

Years down the line, when the cases come to fruition, these investigative journalists will not bother to re-visit their own news story. We have seen this being played out in scores of so-called SIMI, HUJI, LeT cases around the country.  In any case, guilt or innocence is not important, what matters is that “IS in India” becomes part of our commonsense.  For some reason, Indian Mujahideen seems to have gone out of favour, and SIMI remains too mofussil for an international angle.

Its just disturbing that Indian Express should offer itself up for this.

Sd/-

Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association

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