Newspaper front pages on acquittal of Babri Masjid accused show how Indian media has been hollowed out of courage and conviction since 1992

When the domes of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya were brought down in 1992, the year after the liberalisation process began, there was great clarity in the news media and its consumers on the foundations on which the Republic of India stood.

Blazing front-page editorials minced no words in denouncing the conspicuous destruction of the nation’s founding principles—and in calling out the culprits: L.K. Advani, Ashok Singhal, Kalyan Singh, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati, Vinay Katiyar et al.

Even the prime minister of the day, P.V. Narasimha Rao was not spared.

In circa 2020, with the majoritarian forces that sowed the “dragon seeds of hatred” now installed in power and running riot, with the foundation stone for a Ram Temple in Ayodhya laid on a dubious court judgment—and with owners and editors perpetually looking over their shoulder—there is not as much certitude in the media.

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On the day after a CBI court acquitted the perpetrators for “lack of evidence”, not a single newspaper demonstrates the courage to offer an editorial comment on the front page on the nauseating miscarriage of justice.

Only The Telegraph comes close.

And to a lesser degree, Mumbai Mirror.

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Very few even have the court judgment as an uncluttered, edge-to-edge, 8-column banner headline.

On a significant news day, most of the rest take the easy way out, giving space to competing news events (like the surreptitious cremation of a gang-raped Dalit in Uttar Pradesh, or the further lifting of lockdown restrictions).

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