In a letter addressed to Aroon Purie, founder of Vasant Valley School and editor-in-chief of the India Today group, 165 former students spanning 18 batches of Vasant Valley School have expressed their concern over what they perceive as communal polarization in the television channels owned by the media conglomerate.
The India Today group, renowned for its TV news channels, including India Today (English) and Aaj Tak (Hindi), has been accused of undermining core democratic values, such as freedom, justice, equality, liberty, and fraternity, by some of its former students.
The former students express their dismay at the divisive rhetoric employed by some news anchors, particularly on Aaj Tak, which they argue contributes to communal tensions.
In a letter to Purie, the Alumni of Vasant Valley said: “We write to you today as the alumni of Vasant Valley School. The India Today Group are founders of Vasant Valley School and TV Today owns and operates multiple television channels including India Today and Aaj Tak. This is an association that many of us as Alumni have been incredibly proud of, given India Today’s historical legacy in holding the powerful to account even during some of our Country’s darkest days, including the Emergency, the 1984 Delhi Riots, the 2002 Gujarat Riots, to name just a handful of instances.”
Former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi shared the letter on social media, highlighting the need to address communal polarization within news reporting.
The letter cites instances of communal incidents leading to boycotts and the demolition of structures, where instead of seeking accountability and justice, primetime anchors have seemingly endorsed punitive actions, adding to the polarization. The alumni urge the India Today Group to provide clarity, demand accountability, and mitigate communal hatred rather than fueling it.
“However, it is extremely concerning to see the polarising tenor of some of India Today’s news anchors, particularly on Aaj Tak. 50+ panchayats have issued boycotts against the Muslim community in the aftermath of these riots. Bulldozer justice, which saw 1,200+ structures demolished, has become the tool to inflict retribution against Muslims after any communal incident. Instead of questioning the establishment over this tactic which is an embarrassment to the rule of law, primetime anchors have often justified these actions, cheering on the deliverance of collective punishment. In these times, we look towards organizations such as India Today to provide situational clarity, demand accountability, and douse the flames of communal hatred, rather than fanning its embers,” it stated.
Furthermore, the letter points out the media’s complicity in instances like the CRPF officer who cited news television as a source of inspiration for his actions.
“The officer justified his actions while carrying out this terrorist attack, citing the dog whistles he heard on news television. If the spate of communal incidents across the country isn’t a wake-up call, at least the ethnic strife and civil war-like situation in Manipur should serve as a lens into the disaster that polarisation can impart upon us,” it stated.
“Our school environment nurtured within us values of inclusivity, empathy and responsibility. You don’t owe us any answers, nor are we writing this to demand an explanation. Our only hope is that some of the values that were instilled within us as students, through our teachers, the school administration, our peers, and indeed Mrs. Purie, find their way back to the India Today newsrooms,” it added.