Questioning Intentions: Western Media’s Manipulated Portrayal of Bharat


Paromita Das 

GG News Bureau
New Delhi, 8th May. There has been controversy recently over reporting from Western media on Bharat; these reports are frequently scheduled around important occasions like state visits or national elections. For instance, “exclusive” pieces published in publications such as The Guardian and The Washington Post have claimed that Bharatiya are involved in extraterritorial assassinations and violations of human rights. These reports cast doubt on the intentions underlying the way Bharat is portrayed in Western media as well as any possible repercussions.

The Rage of Western Media

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been the target of criticism for The Washington Post, The Guardian, BBC and The New York Times, among other well-known Western media publications, for their unfavorable representation of Bharat. These media sources have released news and pieces that draw attention to societal instability, political disputes, and alleged breaches of human rights in Bharat.

For example, The Guardian published a story that they claimed was “exclusive” and that Bharat had been involved in “20 assassinations” in Pakistan since 2020. Once more, the timing of this study aligns with important political developments in Bharat, suggesting a purposeful attempt to reshape the perception of Bharat’s actions internationally.

In a similar vein, during Bharat’s national elections, The Washington Post released an “exclusive” piece titled “An assassination plot on American soil reveals a darker side of Modi’s Bharat.” This timing begs the question of whether the report’s purpose was to sway public opinion at a pivotal juncture in Bharat’s political history.

An article in The New York Times titled “In Hosting Modi, Biden Pushes Democracy Concerns to the Background” seemed to minimize the significance of Prime Minister Modi’s state visit to Washington, DC, and instead focused on perceived shortcomings in Bharat’s democracy.

Reviewing Timing

It is not accidental that these reports are being released at the same time as important events in Bharat. Events such as state visits, national elections, or other political turning points provide Western media with an opportunity to draw attention to problems in Bharat, frequently depicting them in a negative way. The timing points to a calculated attempt to sway public opinion both domestically and abroad.

Western media outlets may have an impact on election results or the public’s view of Bharat’s administration and policies by publishing reports at these crucial times. This strategy may be used for a number of reasons, such as to assert Western influence in international affairs, to further ideological or financial goals, or both.

The Reasons for Rage

There are a number of reasons for the Western media’s animosity towards Bharat, including liberalism’s increasing sway, financial incentives from many sources, and Western exceptionalism.

Exceptionalism in the West

It alludes to the idea that Western countries—especially the US and Europe—have special traits or ideals that set them apart from other countries. This kind of thinking may be seen in the skewed media coverage that presents non-Western nations like Bharat in an unfavorable light.

Western media sources may view themselves as defenders of democracy, human rights, and liberal ideals, which makes them more critical of nations such as Bharat. The selective emphasis of Bharat’s shortcomings while downplaying comparable problems in Western nations is blatantly biased.

The idea that Bharat is a “problematic” democracy or that it is inimical to Western ideals can be used to support interventionist views and uphold Western superiority.

The Influence of Finance

Financial interests, such as investments or partnerships from nations like China, Saudi Arabia, or Qatar, may have an impact on Western media outlets. The interests of their investors may be reflected in editorial choices and coverage as a result of these financial links. China, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar have large stakes in Western media outlets, which may sway editorial decisions to avoid disparaging these nations or their supporters.

Narratives that do not endanger profitable economic transactions or advertising revenue from these countries may be given priority by media outlets. A skewed image of Bharat could result from these countries’ financial clout, especially if it goes against their political affiliations or interests.

The impact of liberalism

In Western societies, liberalism—a cultural and political movement that promotes social justice and raises awareness of structural injustices—has grown in popularity. Through highlighting concerns with identity politics, colonialism, and historical injustices, this movement can have an impact on media coverage. Covering Bharat via the prism of caste injustice, colonial history, or religious tensions is a common practice among Western media sources influenced by awakened ideology.

The emphasis on social justice concerns could result in sensationalized or overblown stories that depict Bharat as fundamentally backward or oppressive. The focus placed by liberals on intersectionality may serve to marginalize the opinions of some groups while elevating those of others, resulting in skewed depictions of complicated situations in Bharat.

Liberal Selectionism and Incongruous Standards

The way that similar issues are handled differently depending on whether they occur in the West or Bharat is a pattern of selective liberalism and double standards that is frequently exposed in Western media coverage of Bharat. This disparity calls into doubt the objectivity and consistency of reporting by Western media, highlighting inherent biases in the process.

Handling of Violations of Human Rights

Human rights breaches in Bharat, such as purported violations in Kashmir or instances of religious violence, may be heavily covered by Western media outlets.

They might, however, minimize or disregard analogous violations of human rights in Western nations, like institutional racism, mass incarceration, and police brutality. This selective focus raises the possibility of bias against Bharat, where identical problems in Western nations are given less attention while occurrences are emphasized to cast the nation in an unfavorable way.

The inability of Western media to hold their own institutions and governments responsible damages their credibility and feeds the belief that they are applying different rules to everyone.

Criticising Democratic Procedures

Bharat’s democratic procedures, such as elections, political disputes, and problems with free speech, are frequently examined by Western media.

They might, however, ignore or minimize democratic flaws in Western nations, such as intimidation of voters, corporate control in the political system, or assaults on press freedom. This discrepancy points to a propensity to evaluate democratic methods differently depending on the nation in consideration. The West’s media feeds preconceptions of non-Western democracies as “backward” or “chaotic,” and it perpetuates a narrative of Bharatiya exceptionalism by disproportionately highlighting democratic concerns in Bharat while ignoring comparable issues in the West.

Amplifying Social Movements

Protests and social movements in Bharat, including those for minority rights or farmers’ rights, may receive more attention from Western media. They might, however, misreport or underreport social movements in Western nations, including labor strikes or Black Lives Matter demonstrations. This disparity is indicative of a bias in the way social action is portrayed; movements against authoritarianism in Bharat are frequently shown as valiant battles, but movements of a similar nature in the West are occasionally characterized as disruptive or polarizing.

Western media perpetuates preconceptions and misconceptions that influence how the world views social and political movements by giving priority to some narratives over others.

Highlighting the Narrative of Khalistani

The way Khalistani activists and militants are portrayed in Western media is a complicated matter that frequently reflects larger prejudices and geopolitical objectives. A planned autonomous Sikh state in Punjab, Bharat, known as “Khalistan,” gained popularity in the 1980s as a result of Sikhs’ perceived discrimination and aspirations for more autonomy. But the movement also saw the emergence of militant organizations that supported armed secession, which brought about an era of terrorism and conflict in Punjab.

Western Media’s Representation

In comparison to other terrorist groups, Khalistani activists and militants are frequently depicted differently in Western media. Although organizations such as Al-Qaeda or ISIS are categorically classified as terrorist groups, in certain situations, especially among Sikh diaspora communities in Western countries, militants from Khalistanistan may be portrayed as “activists” or “freedom fighters”.

A number of things, such as political sympathies, historical grudges, and views of religious persecution, can have an impact on this portrayal. Furthermore, Khalistani narratives frequently highlight Sikh identity and complaints against the Bharatiya government, placing the movement in the framework of human rights and self-determination.

In addition to giving Khalistani extremists a place to live, Canada has been a major sponsor of their activities. Canada developed become a center for Khalistani separatist activities in the 1980s and 90s, with several Canadian politicians and Sikh community leaders publicly endorsing the cause of Khalistan.

A notorious occurrence linked to Khalistani terrorism was the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182, which claimed the lives of 329 persons, mostly Bharatiya-Canadian nationals. Talwinder Singh Parmar, the attack’s planner, was wanted by Bharatiya authorities for his involvement in terrorist activities, yet he was able to operate freely in Canada.

Some segments in the Canadian government and media have minimized or disregarded the threat posed by these groups, contributing to a narrative that legitimizes their operations despite evidence connecting Khalistani militants to terrorist acts.

Influence on relations between Bharat and the West

Adverse media portrayals of Bharat in Western nations can have noteworthy consequences for the relations between Bharat and the West, including attitudes, diplomatic connections, and collaboration across multiple domains. Negative representations of Bharat have the power to sway public opinion in Western nations, influencing decision- and policy-makers as well as possibly having the following effects on bilateral relations:

Diplomatic Tension

Tensions and misunderstandings may arise as a result of negative media coverage, which could affect diplomatic ties between Bharat and Western nations. It may be difficult for Western companies and investors to do business in Bharat due to unfavorable opinions of the country formed by media coverage. Reduced faith in Bharat’s stability and economic prospects could be detrimental to trade partnerships.

In particular, biased media representations can jeopardize Bharat-Western security collaboration in defense and counterterrorism domains. The efforts to address common security concerns may be hampered by a compromise in mutual trust and intelligence-sharing.

Strengthening Interpersonal Communication

By highlighting Bharat’s democratic credentials and dedication to pluralism, one can both defend against authoritarian incursions and bolster the case for an international order founded on rules. Biased reporting can engender mistrust and obstruct efficient government-to-government communication. An optimistic story builds goodwill and understanding between Bharat and the West, setting the stage for more cooperation and engagement.

Positive media coverage helps people comprehend Bharat’s place in the world more nuanced and fairly by showcasing the nation’s accomplishments, contributions, and prospects.

The way that Bharat is portrayed in Western media frequently reflects prejudices influenced by woke ideology, commercial interests, and Western exceptionalism. Inconsistencies in the labeling and reporting of topics like terrorism and human rights are highlighted by the use of double standards in reportage. These representations may put strain on bilateral ties and have an effect on trade, security cooperation, and diplomacy.  In order to promote mutual understanding and collaboration between Bharat and the West and a more accurate portrayal of Bharat’s complexity and contributions on the international scene, a more nuanced and balanced approach is urgently needed.

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