A Deep Dive into Media Narratives: How Media Outlets Diverged in Reporting the Jaipur-Mumbai Train Shooting Incident
A 33-year-old RPF officer, Chetan Singh, allegedly fired 12 rounds from his automatic service weapon on board the Jaipur-Mumbai Central Superfast Express on July 31, killing his colleague ASI Meena, before moving from one coach to another, killing three passengers. Hours after the killing, The Indian Express reported that the “shooting followed an argument that took a communal turn.”
However, many media outlets jumped to conclusions and gave the accused the benefit of the doubt by calling him ‘mentally unstable’ and ruling out any other angle even as videos surfaced online of the officer addressing the passengers after shooting down one of the 3 others killed.
On July 31, at 12:32 IST, ‘The Hindustan Times’ in an article titled, ‘‘Short-tempered’ RPF constable kills senior, 3 others on Jaipur-Mumbai train’ seeped in the possibility of the accused suffering from mental health issues. The Railways on August 2, said in a statement that no mental ailment was detected in the latest periodic medical examination of the RPF constable accused in the Jaipur-Mumbai train shooting incident but withdrew it within hours.
‘Times Now’ in their news article ‘RPF Jawan Who Killed 4 Including His Boss, On Mumbai-Jaipur Train Was Upset Over Transfer’ on July 31, at 10:43 am IST claimed that Chetan Singh was ‘angry and mentally disturbed’ without hinting at the communal reasons and the video which was viral by then across the social media platforms. The article mentioned the “investigation team” while citing Chetan as angry and mentally disturbed. It is important to note that the actual incident happened around 05:15 am IST on the morning of July 31 and this article came out citing the investigation team as soon as 10:43 am IST.
‘Times of India’ in their piece titled ‘Shooter had mental issues, say Railways; was in therapy, claim kin’ published a day after the incident on August 1 at 05:52 IST described Chetan as ‘mentally unstable’ and as someone who was ‘undergoing psychiatric treatment’ and also quoted inspector general-cum-principal chief security commissioner, Western Railway, PC Sinha, as saying the constable was “short-tempered” and was “suffering from mental health issues”. The article centered on Chetan’s commendable qualities and the unanimous affection he garnered from everyone. The reporting provided no mention of ‘Modi and Yogi,’ which were the last words uttered by Chetan Singh before he opened fire on the passengers.
It becomes interesting to note that on August 2, ‘The Indian Express’ reported that railways had mentioned that no mental ailment was detected in the last periodic medical examination of the RPF constable but withdrew the statement within hours. But on August 4, ‘The Outlook India’ reported that the police had excluded the possibility of a hate crime from the FIR and focused on the RPF constable’s mental health evaluation in remand copy.
‘The Wire’ in their article titled ‘RPF Constable Kills Officer, Three Muslim Passengers in Hate Crime Onboard Running Train’ and ‘The Hindu’ in their piece ‘RPF jawan shoots four people dead, including his senior, in moving train near Mumbai’ on July 31, have duly highlighted the communal angle and specific mention of ‘Modi’, ‘Yogi’ and ‘Thackeray’ in their online edition during the course of the event.
As per recent updates, the spouse of the accused has furnished a statement to ‘The Times of India,’ affirming that her husband has been grappling with mental health challenges and has been receiving treatment for an extended period.
We also analyzed the e-paper versions of prominent Indian newspapers for August 1, the day after the incident. In their printed edition dated August 1st, ‘The Indian Express’ purposefully omitted any reference to the “speech” given by Chetan referring to ‘Yogi’ and ‘Modi’, but mentioned ‘Hindustan’ and ‘Pakistan’ for their front-page coverage. It also omits any mention of the religion of the accused and the victims. This apparent media stance, in conjunction with the railways, appears to be oriented towards protecting the accused by depicting him as a victim of mental health issues.
However, on the fourth page, they have chosen to reveal additional details and also reports of verifying if the accused had mental issues.
The editorial strategy employed by ‘The Hindustan Times‘ in formulating its front-page content exhibits a calculated approach. While it remains evident that they omitted coverage of the accused’s diatribe against Muslims, they also made a deliberate omission of references to ‘Modi’ and ‘Yogi’. By branding the incident as a hate crime in their headline, they navigated a cautious and astute course of action.
Subsequently, comprehensive coverage was dedicated to the potential factor of Chetan Singh’s alleged “mental illness,” posited as a plausible explanation for Chetan’s abhorrent act. A full paragraph was allocated to this alleged cause, albeit devoid of any reference to the venomous monologue articulated during the perpetration of the crime.
‘The Times of India’ took an additional stride by opting to employ the phrase ‘three political personalities’. This strategic maneuver underscores a shrewd editorial choice, deserving of acknowledgment.
‘The Hindu’ refrained from categorizing the incident as a hate crime and abstained from alluding to the offensive discourse conveyed by the accused, wherein he urged passengers to record his actions for media dissemination.
Prominent Hindi newspapers also adhered to a similar approach. In their printed edition dated August 1, the newspaper ‘Hindustan‘ did not make any reference to the communal aspect in the little section of the news allocated to the significant incident on their front page.
Employing a strategic maneuver, Navbharat Times refrained from explicitly articulating the contents of Chetan Singh’s speech. Instead, they implicitly presented his offensive comments subsequent to his targeting of the Muslim passengers.
‘Jansatta’, rather than directly addressing the inflammatory discourse of the accused, opted for a more convenient approach by suggesting the potential presence of ‘mental illness’ in the accused. This highlights that not only prominent English newspapers but also Hindi newspapers partook in the effort to shield the accused individual, intentionally propagating the notion of his possible mental instability.
Upon analyzing the media coverage in their print editions, it becomes evident that deliberate omissions of Chetan’s speech that references to ‘Yogi’ and ‘Modi,’ as well as ‘Thackeray’ along with the religious aspect of his crime, have been made. The role of the Railways also holds importance, given their questionable statements that appear to suggest the possibility of the accused’s “mental illness,” thereby prompting inquiries into potential efforts to absolve him of responsibility.
The thoughts and opinions expressed in this are those of the author and not necessarily WeThePress.