On the 29th of January 2019, Rahul Kanwal of India Today decided to hold his Prime Time debate from Shaheen Bagh where Muslims are protesting against CAA and NRC.
On Newstrack we go where the news is. At 10 pm tonight join me on @IndiaToday for a live broadcast from New Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, which has now become the epicentre of the anti-CAA protests. What will be the impact of the Shaheen Bagh protests on the Delhi polls? pic.twitter.com/2RuuilHegL
— Rahul Kanwal (@rahulkanwal) January 29, 2020
Rahul Kanwal first went around asking the Shaheen Bagh protestors how they felt about the fact, that evidently, their protest is benefitting the BJP in the upcoming Delhi polls. After that, he proceeded to take soundbytes from his guests, that included journalist Saba Nazqi, senior journalist Javed Mansari, Political Analytics Manisha Priyam, lawyer Raghav Awasthi and writer Shantanu Gupta.
While the protesters spoke to Rahul Kanwal graciously, since he was favouring them, they heckled Lawyer Raghav Awasthi and writer Shantanu Gupta.
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When it was Raghav Awasthi’s chance to talk, he started by saying that he admires the women who have braved the cold weather and are protesting for what they believe in, however, they should not allow people like Sharjeel Imam to misuse this platform. He also explained that the CAA has nothing to do with Indian citizens.
Read: ‘Jinnah wali Azadi’ slogans raised at Shaheen Bagh: The true face of anti-CAA protests and what these slogans mean
The moment Raghav said this, all hell broke loose. The crowd at Shaheen Bagh got enraged that Raghav had mentioned Sharjeel Imam. Soon, Raghav was pushed around and shoved while several people started chanting slogans. Raghav Awasthi says that the crowd started pointing at him and identifying him to everyone else as the person who had mentioned Sharjeel Imam and crowds started approaching him menacingly.
Sharjeel Imam is the mastermind of Shaheen Bagh protests who has now been arrested for making seditious statements and talking about cutting off Assam from India. The media and the Shaheen Bagh Islamists have been trying their best to whitewash Sharjeel and at the same time, distance him from the protests even though he was the mastermind of it. This could explain why the crowd got enraged upon hearing Sharjeel Imam’s name.
While the crowd at Shaheen Bagh identified Raghav, they said that “the man with long hair” named Sharjeel Imam. Then, while pointing at Shantanu, they said that he was too with the “man with the long hair”.
Read: From The Wire to everything else, the Anatomy of an Islamist: Into the mind of Sharjeel Imam, mastermind of Shaheen Bagh
Raghav told OpIndia that there were several “protestors” from Shaheen Bagh who started pointing at him and saying that he had named Sharjeel Imam and that they should catch him.
Raghav Awasthi and Shantanu were also asked to leave the area while being pushed and shoved, though Raghav tells us that he refused to leave the stage since he and Shantanu were scared as to what might happen had they left alone. They were certainly scared that the “protestors” would try to harm them. According to Raghav, when they were being heckled, senior journalist Javed Mansari even tried to explain to the protestors that what Raghav had said about Sharjeel Imam may have been misunderstood and he only meant that the ‘movement’ should not be misused by people like him, but to no avail.
Later, Raghav Awasthi and Shantanu Gupta were escorted out from the back of the stage where the police have put up barricades and were taken to safety.
Raghav Awasthi later tweeted that Rahul Kanwal should ensure the safety of his guests and not ignore when they are being shoved and “dragged off-camera”.
Rahul when you invite someone to your show you are not supposed to ignore them when they are being shoved and dragged off camera. Would have been nice if you had tweeted about that too. @shantanug_ and I were your guests. Do release footage of how I was prevented frum speaking 2 https://t.co/oXBcV1DFUP
— Raghav Awasthi (@raghav355) January 29, 2020
Interestingly, Rahul Kanwal had not tweeted about this shameful incident at all. Only after Raghav tweeted to Rahul Kanwal, he feebly said that it “terrible” how they were not allowed to say their piece.
Raghav to that was surprised and said that what was most shameful is that the India Today crew and Rahul himself did nothing to stop the heckling.
Shantanu too narrated his ordeal and his story was the same as Raghav.
It was quite scary at one point. When they took us off camera and someone was shouting – Kaun bool ra tha, Kaun bool ra tha?
While we were escorted out – someone shouted – ye bade baal wala hai (pointing to @raghav355)
Then someone said ye bhi sath mein hai (pointing me)
— Shantanu Gupta (@shantanug_) January 29, 2020
Further, Shantanu responded to Rahul Kanwal by saying that after their opening comments, Raghav and he were being pushed and heckled while Rahul Kanwal simply walked off. He also said that there was nobody from India Today to manage the crowd at that point of time.
.@rahulkanwal, it’s NOT about me & @raghav355 not being allowed to say our points. We did make our opening comments. It’s about being man-handled, being identified & pushed with very angry & hateful gestures by a grp near the stage & no one frm @IndiaToday team escorted us out. https://t.co/qvxkC7YWPS
— Shantanu Gupta (@shantanug_) January 30, 2020
This is the footage that someone cropped from the entire show and one can see that while in the background, the guests are being heckled, Rahul Kanwal simply walks away, taking the camera with him.
Clearly @raghav355 gets mobbed here, and worse part is @IndiaToday not bothering about that part.
Rahul even makes it worse by changing the camera angle n spot immediately. Ridiculous !!!@RanvirShorey @shantanug_ pic.twitter.com/6JY5Pu9BWU
— Ravindra Kenchappa ???????? (@Ravi27572) January 30, 2020
In another footage from the show that emerged later, one can see Raghav being heckled while Rahul Kanwal moves on to the next panellist. In fact, towards the end of this video, one finds Raghav missing from the frame as he was being dragged away and heckled while Rahul Kanwal carries on with his show.
Watch how @raghav355 was heckled and surgically removed by the crowds at #ShaheenBagh the moment he started stating facts & logical points about #CAA & #NRC-watch till the end and you find him missing. @rahulkanwal who took him there, doesn’t care much and moves on!! @shantanug_ pic.twitter.com/2LS9xwlkvi
— Yo Yo Funny Singh (@moronhumor) January 30, 2020
Shantanu also confirmed the sequence saying that Rahul Kanwal took the camera away to show female protestors at Shaheen Bagh while the two were being pushed, heckled and dragged away.
.@RanvirShorey Video only shows verbal heckling. @rahulkanwal & ???? moved to the female protestors. Me & @raghav355 were identified & pushed towards right side of the stage with angry gestures by a group. There was no one frm @IndiaToday team. Fellow Panelists somehow took us out. https://t.co/Y4z7GaNHES
— Shantanu Gupta (@shantanug_) January 30, 2020
Speaking to Opindia, Raghav said that India Today should have displayed some professionalism and not left their panellists to be lynched by the protestors at Shaheen Bagh. Further, Raghav said that while he was in Germany, he had out of curiosity attended a White Supremacist rally and even their, while the crowds chanted “Das ist unser Land” (This is our land), as a brown man he wasn’t as uncomfortable and scared as he was in Shaheen Bagh.
It is worthy to note that in an almost concerted and conscious effort to not show the Islamists at Shaheen Bagh in a negative light, India Today has not even uploaded the snippets of Shantanu and Raghav as they have for the other panellists.
Rahul Kanwal has had an agenda which has been clear for a long time, however, this is a new low even for him where his panellists were almost being lynched and he had nonchalantly moved on, ensuring that the camera does not capture how the Islamists at Shaheen Bagh were behaving. Further, the “journalist” who seems to be training under Rajdeep Sardesai, also of India Today, and outrages at the smallest reason, has not found his voice to even condemn the goons of Shaheen Bagh after this entire sequence of events.