A 26-year-old veterinary doctor went missing on November 27 near Hyderabad. A day later, her charred body was found at the underpass of a National Highway in Chatanpally village. The victim was gang-raped and subsequently murdered and burnt by four. The accused, Mohammed Pasha, Naveen, Keshavulu and Shiva, were identified by the police after scanning CCTV footage installed near a toll plaza where the victim had parked her two-wheeler.
In a press briefing, Hyderabad CP police said that Pasha is a 26-year-old lorry driver, Shiva and Naveen are both 20-year-old lorry cleaners and Keshavulu is a 20-year-old lorry driver. Pasha, accompanied with the others, had parked his lorry at a toll plaza in Shamshabad when they spotted the victim park her scooty. She came back to the toll plaza around 9 pm to collect her vehicle. “By this time the accused had already consumed alcohol and planned how to trap this lady,” said the police. Naveen had removed air from the back tire of the scooty. In the pretext of offering help, Shiva took the vehicle to a nearby repair shop while the others forcefully took the victim to a compound and committed rape. Shiva joined in later. “All these people while they were doing this offence had closed the mouth and the nose of the victim because of which she died on the spot. These people immediately moved back the vehicle, loaded the dead body into the cabin…they bought petrol and took diesel from their own vehicle and burned the dead body in Chatanpally village,” the police added.
The press release by the police also gives similar details with the exception that all the accused raped her one by one and Mohammed Pasha aka Areef was the one who suffocated her to death.
A report in The Hindu says that the accused confessed to the crime.
The communalisation of rape
The names of the four accused were revealed hours before the police held a press conference. The rape, however, was heavily communalised by members of the BJP, supporters of the party and a section of the media.
BJP MLA T Raja Singh only highlighted the name of the rapist with the Muslim identity,
So did Amitava Chakraborty, State Joint General Secretary (Organisation) of BJP Odisha, and Khemchand Sharma of BJP IT and Social Media Campaign Committee.
IAS officer Sanjay Dixit, who has often been featured on Alt News for sharing misinformation, incidentally shared a report that carried the names of all the four accused. Dixit, however, wrote only Mohammed Pasha’s name in his tweet.
After the news of the rape and murder came to light, one of the top trends on Twitter was #Balatkari_Mohammed_Nikala.
A popular name in the disinformation ecosystem, Parshant Patel Umrao tweeted, “Mohammad Pasha with his Gang, raped Hyderabad doctor & burned alive. They have become denger to survival of Humanity & every Hindu Woman is on target on them.”
He also wrote, “Why are you feeling shame in taking name of Mohammad Pasha,” to a tweet where ANI reported that the accused persons have been arrested by the police.
Other usual suspects who communalised the rape were Rishi Bagree, Mahesh Vikram Hegde, Payal Rohatgi, Koena Mitra and Madhu KIshwar.
“हैवान मोहम्मद पाशा ने दोस्तों के साथ प्लान बनाकर किया था डॉ. ***** का बलात्कार, फिर ह्त्या कर जला दिया था लाश को (Devil Mohammed Pasha raped ***** after making a plan with his friends, then burnt her after the murder.)” – reads the headline of a report by Sudarshan News.
But the fuel was added to the fire by Suresh Chavhanke, the channel’s CMD and editor-in-chief. “Hyderabad police has arrested two Hindus for the murder of *****. This is not a balance exercise under the pressure of Owaisi brothers, right? I demand this to be investigated,” he said in a video.
Swarajya and Opindia too communalised the rape and murder. Both platforms highlighted the name of only the Muslim accused.
Other media outlets that did irresponsible reporting were ETV Andhra Pradesh, TV9 Telugu, Orissa Post and Free Press Journal.
It is noteworthy that Andhra Pradesh Mahila Congress had also posted a communally-charged tweet which was later taken down.
Andhra MC claimed that the tweet was a “mischief of a volunteer who acted on her own volition…The said person has been fired from her position with immediate effect.”
A disturbing phenomenon is observed in recent times where crimes as heinous as rape are communalised. The trend is not only true in the case of social media but for also prominent individuals in the government and media outlets capable of shaping public opinion. Since the brutal incident was reported, the police had identified all the four accused. But a social media campaign attempted to paint a communal picture. Irresponsible media reports, with clickbaity headlines, furthered the misleading narrative instead of dousing the hate.