From student to anti-national to terrorist – how TV channels constructed Umar Khalid

From student to anti-national to terrorist – how TV channels constructed Umar Khalid

On February 10, a day after the controversial cultural meet-turned-protest against the hangings of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhatt were held by some students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Times Now channel’s flagship show The Newshour hosted a debate on the matter.

Anchor Arnab Goswami accused the students – two of whom were on the show – of being anti-nationalist and threats to the nation, and termed their actions sedition.

“I have run out patience with you with the shallowness and half literate nature of your arguments” Goswami told PhD student Umar Khalid, cutting off the latter’s audio to prevent his response from being heard.

On the same day Zee News too aired a debate where Khalid tried to argue his stand.

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On February 12, following the JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar’s arrest, Khalid went missing.

News X aired the “news” that intelligence source had revealed that Umar Khalid was a Jaish-e-Mohammad sympathiser.

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Other reports followed suit. And allegations that his father was the former chief of the banned outfit SIMI were also used to substantiate the case against Khalid. His father has since clarified on his involvement with SIMI.

Umar Khalid’s father then appeared on the news channel News24 where the anchor, while saying he sympathises with him, asked him to apologise on behalf of his son.

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On Wednesday The Hindu debunked these intelligence reports cited by these news channels claiming Khalid’s associations with the terrorist organisation JeM. “It is a figment of someone’s imagination,” the report quoted an unnamed senior Intelligence Bureau official as saying.

This did not deter some news channels from continuing to accuse him of having terrorist links. The media hunt for Khalid continues, with speculation from where he is hiding to supposedly establishing that he was the person in charge of the protests at JNU.

Now according to India Today TV, his phone records show that he made calls to Jammu and Kashmir.

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