In an editorial published on April 6, Star of Mysore seemingly referred to the Muslim population in the country as ‘bad apples’ and virtually called for the elimination of the community as an ‘ideal solution’ to the crisis the country is currently facing in the wake of the spread of coronavirus pandemic.
Bad apples in the basket
The editorial, titled ‘Bad apples in the basket’ read: “Referred to as a rotten apple, a bad apple is a negative person who infects those around him with his bad influence. The term bad apple or rotten apple comes from a proverb: One bad apple spoils the whole basket, an ancient saying that has stood the test of time. The nation is currently hosting an annoying 18% of its population self-identifying as rotten apples.”
Making a call for genocide it added: “The presence of bad apples cannot be wished away. They are there in whatever way one wants to identify them, doesn’t matter if it is religious, political or social, taking care not to generalize. An ideal solution to the problem created by bad apples is to get rid of them, as the former leader of Singapore did a few decades ago or as the leadership in Israel is currently doing.”
Newspaper issues an apology
After the members of Naavu Bharatiyaru served a notice to the newspaper, demanding the editorial’s retraction and warning legal action, the newspaper on April 10 issued an apology in print. It read: “To our readers, an apology. Following the publication of the editorial titled ‘Bad apples in the basket’ … we learn that it has hurt the feelings of some of our readers. It was mainly focused on the spread of the deadly COVID-19. If it has hurt the sentiments and feelings of our readers by our lapse in judgments, SOM sincerely regrets and apologises for the same.”
Though the article has now been removed from the newspaper’s online portal, some of the netizens on social media have called for the editor-in-chief’s arrest.
Call for Muslim genocide
Commenting upon the incident, Faizan Mustafa, the Vice-Chancellor of NALSAR University of Law, claimed that the editorial of Star of Mysore is a call for Muslim genocide and is a punishable offence. He felt that the apology was not enough given the serious nature of the insinuations made in the article.
He claimed that the act comes under the head genocide. According to Article II of the first human right treaty of United Nations, convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide, adopted by the general assembly of the united nations on 9 December 1948 and ratified by 152 countries, genocide means any of the mentioned acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. Including, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.
Prof Mustafa asserted that the editorial of Star of Mysore has caused severe mental harm not only to the Muslim community but also liberal, secular, humane, persons committed to human rights.
According to the ARTICLE III of the convention, conspiracy to commit genocide; direct and public incitement to commit genocide are punishable. Mysore newspaper has directly incited public to commit genocide in its editorial.
Stages of genocide
Describing the various stages of genocide as mentioned by Genocide Watch and how they apply to the editorial of Star of Mysore, Prof Mustafa said the first stage of genocide as per genocide watch is Classification. The editorial classified people as ‘us & other’. The second stage is symbolization. The editorial differentiated Muslims by mentioning their ‘attire’. The third stage is discrimination. The editorial discriminated Muslims by saying that they should not be in government. The fourth stage of genocide is dehumanization. The Star of Mysore has dehumanized Muslims by equating them with rotten apple.
Crime against humanity
Prof Faizan Mustafa pointed out that according to International Court of Justice, genocide is crime against humanity hence states are duty bound to ensure no such thing happen in their territory.
Govt. also responsible for Tablighi incident
Prof Mustafa noted that news channels and social media are spreading fake news to demonise Muslims taking Tablighi Jamaat incident as an excuse. Calling the congregation of Tablighi Jamaat a reckless act, Prof Mustafa said government is equally responsible for the incident because according to WHO responsibility of the people’s health lies on the government. He asked why government allowed foreigners and why the police station which was very close to the Markaz did not take timely action against the foreigners.
Stigmatization of Muslims
Prof Faizan Mustafa cited several incidents which occurred in the country as the result of stigmatization of Muslims by newspapers and TV channels, including suicide of a Tablighi Jamaat member after villagers taunted him over spread of virus, attacks of Muslims in Karnataka, etc.
Star of Mysore violated journalistic norms
Prof Mustafa noted that Press Council of India in its 2010 edition of Norms of Journalistic Conduct has listed principles and ethics of journalism. According to them, accuracy and fairness should be maintained by the press. Press should play a positive role in response to rumours. Name of the community would not be mentioned. It says press will maintain communal harmony and bind the social fabric of the country. Saying this, Prof Mustafa observed that the Star of Mysore has ripped apart social fabric of the country.
Citing Rwanda’s example Prof Mustafa claims such act by the press as carried out by the Star of Mysore requires conviction and punishment. He further stated that section 107 of Indian penal code deals with that punishment.