The Dainik Jagran flip flop on Raja Bhaiya

BY devsagar singh| IN Regional Media | 03/03/2003
After painting a negative picture of Raja Udai Pratap Singh over the Vasantha issue, the newspaper slowly changed its version.


From Devsagar Singh

 Kunda:  The media  coverage  of  Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias  Raja Bhaiya`s arrest  as also  the arrest  of his father  Udai Pratap Singh  evoked  a roller coaster  reaction  from  people  of this  sleepy little  town 170 km  from Lucknow. 

 "The  newspapers  knew nothing about  Raja Bhaiya or  his  father. They  have  been  made  to write  all rubbish  because  of  local politics. Otherwise how  could  Raja Udai Pratap Singh  be  painted as a villain. He  is a saintly  personality  busy  in pooja (worship)  most of the time",   said  Raj Bahadur,  a resident  of Kunda,  reacting  to a question  as to what he thought of  the arrest  of Raja Bhaiya and his father.

His defence of the erstwhile princely family  was  as total as his loyalty. "Even up to  this age (he said he was 55)  I have not seen  Raja Udai Pratap Singh. But  we all know  he  helps  the needy. Poor people go to him  for  help for their daughters` marriage  and  he never disappoints  them by  giving them  generous monetary help",   Raj Bahadur said emphatically.


Three time  independent  legislator  from Kunda  and  a former  state minister, Raja Bhaiya   was  arrested  by  the Mayawati government    about a month ago  under  the dreaded  law  POTA  (prevention of terrorism  act). Subsequently, his father  was arrested  too  under  similar charges.


"Look  how  Jagran (a major Hindi daily from Uttar Pradesh)  cooked up  story  against  Raja Udai Pratap Singh. It  concocted  a story  of the Raja  keeping  a concubine  called  Vasantha  from  the age of 12.  What a shame in the name  of journalism?  We locals  know there  never  was a thing  like that",  said  Raj Bahadur  in total  disdain for the media.  "I  have  heard  that many papers took  this line  after  Jagran  wrote this trash",  he stressed.  At  least  one  major English daily, Hindustan  Times  had  reported similarly.


Raj Bahadur  is not the only one  full of  hate for the  newspapers  for  what  they  called  entirely  wrong  reporting  about  the princely family. Said  Pares  Patel ( a Kurmi  by caste):  " No  one  had  heard  such  bad  things  for  Raja Bhaiya  and his  father. I do not know what has happened  to the newspapers.  Things were going  so smoothly. Suddenly they turned upside  down  for  Kunda. God  knows  what will happen now."  Over 70 and ailing, and yet  supervising  the standing crop in  his field, Patel  was full of  praise  for the  princely family  and full of venom  for the  newspapers.


But the reaction  from  a  group of Muslim  residents from Kunda  was  significantly  different. They  were  hesitant to talk  about  Raja Bhaiya  and  his father`s arrest. But  drawn  into  conversation slowly,  one  of them  said  without revealing his name: "There must be something. Otherwise  how  can anyone be arrested?"     Kunda  does not  have  a sizeable Muslim population  unlike  many  UP towns  although  it is nestling  close  to Allahabad.

A rather  muted  reaction. But  it spoke  the mind  of a particular community. The  conversation  came to an  end  abruptly  after  some non-Muslims  came  within hearing distance at the roadside  dhaba.

But what  is  interesting is  that  Jagran  reportedly   slowly changed  its  version of  Vasantha.  After  painting  a  bad picture  of  Raja Udai Pratap Singh  over the Vasantha issue,  it  slowly turned  its position  as  if  to  correct itself  without being  asked to  do so.  Why  and how did it happen?  On Feb 4 issue  , for example, Jagran  published  a story  headlined: "Eik  thi  Vasantha"  (There was a Vasantha)  creating  a suspense about the life  and times  of  Raja Udai Pratap Singh.  Within  a week  of  the report  getting  published, Jagran  came out with  another report  headlined "Rajgharana" on Feb 9, extolling  the virtues  of  Raja Udai Pratap Singh.


While how and why it happened  is still a matter of debate among UP journalists,  one thing  remains  certain:  that the paper`s  credibility  became  suspect.


Devsagar Singh is a former Lucknow correspondent of the Indian Express. Contact:

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