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Rahul Shiv Shankar is a Hindu far-right news anchor who has mastered the skill of manipulating information to suit the agenda of Hindu nationalism/Hindu supremacism. With his embedded anti-Muslim convictions, Shivshankar’s show India Upfront incessantly infuses Hindu militant narratives into the national mainstream. His programs are meant to demonize, criminalize and dehumanize Muslims.
His channel, Times Now, to further the conspiracy theory of forced conversion of Hindus to Islam, in June 2017, reported on “rate cards” allegedly circulating in the southern state of Kerala that offered cash rewards of up to $10,000 for converting Hindus to Islam. Anchor Shivshankar said the rewards system was the work of the Islamic State (IS), which had set up “a base in India”. The news was found to be fake by fact-checkers at Alt News which held that Shivshankar had used a doctored image that was circulating on the Hindu extremist WhatsApp groups.
He also ran a hashtag #CaliphateConvertsHindus on his show, where he falsely claimed that the Islamic State had set up a camp in Kerala. By naming a village in Kerala, Gaza Street, he said, “Even Hindus are being hunted by their recruiters and turned, ladies and gentlemen, and turned into ISIS terrorists. Times Now has traveled to the IS zone, aptly called Gaza Street. In Kasargod in Kerala, where we are being told that even police fear to tread. In this area, which is called Gaza, a symbol of Islamic resistance in West Asia, that only underlines just how radicalized the inhabitants have become.”
In August 2017, he ran another show titled “Hindu girls are hunted, converted, exploited in Kerala” in a bid to demonize Muslims living in the state. Later, a police complaint was filed against Shivshankar and the Malappuram Judicial Magistrate Court issued summons asking him to appear before the court.
On April 6, 2018, Shivshankar, on his show published a spurious list of Twitter handles and claimed that the handles belonged to people who were a part of Rahul Gandhi’s troll army. He called the people ‘gutter snipers’ and ‘Amit Shah baiters’ among other things and alleged that some of them were even ‘Hindu haters.’
The circulation of the fake list endangered the safety of those whose Twitter handles he portrayed as ‘Hindu haters.’ One, Riyaz Ahmad, lost his employment and received various threat calls as well.
His Islamophobic and the hate-mongering campaign continues unabated despite the admonitions of the National Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA). Two of his India Upfront episodes, dated 14 and 23 September 2020, were held by NBDSA as ‘impartial’. Shivshankar had accused in the show that Muslims who were protesting against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) had conspired to ‘riot.’
On his show titled ‘Hindu Renaissance under Modi’ in November 2022, at the inauguration of a temple corridor in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, he peddled the narrative of Hindu Supremacy and Hindu resurgence and said, “why governments after Independence viewed Hindu civilizational Renaissance through a religious lens. Mystifying it beyond my understanding but the
reticence had the undesirable effect of preventing India from restoring vast weights of its wounded civilization. Already many skeptics are questioning why the prime minister of a secular Republic is actively partaking in a religious celebration or identifying himself with one denomination(Hindu) because the debate of course will continue to rage. Thank you very much for speaking to us this evening viewers. Of course, you saw this glittering ceremony and I want to get a further perspective on this Hindu Renaissance under the Prime Minister and its meaning and let’s try to locate it in the broader narrative that Mr Sridhar has also talked about”.
He often floats the stories of supposed ‘Hindu suppression’ to dilute and delegitimize the predicament of Muslims in the country.
In one of his shows on alleged violence in some Hindu religious processions in Deoghar, Jharkhand, he displayed taglines like “Why Sanatan (Hindu) Culture Under Siege”?
“Mosque roofs are launch pads.” He asked the viewers to focus on how Hindu deities and customs are ridiculed in India and how Muslim religious institutions operate under impunity. He comfortably and similarly spreads lies and falsehood day in and day out and incites hatred against Muslims.