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‘Biased’ News: No Response from Aroon Purie yet, Vasant Valley Alumni may Re-send Letter

Neelam Gaur |
Former students from the school run by the India Today group had urged its TV channels to stop airing communally polarising programmes.
Aroon Purie, editor-in-chief, India Today

Aroon Purie, editor-in-chief, India Today. Image Courtesy: Twitter/ @aroonpurie

New Delhi: Former students of the Capital’s prestigious school, Vasant Valley, run by the India Today group are dismayed with no response yet from the owner Aroon Purie, to their appeal on not airing communally polarising TV news. With the number of signatories rising, the former students are now planning to re-send the letter.

Last week, 165 alumni had written an open letter to the owner of the India Today group, expressing concern that TV news channels run by it were going against the grain of the values taught to them in the school run by the group.

“If the spate of communal incidents across the country isn’t a wake-up call, at least the ethnic strife and civil war-like situation in Manipur should serve as a lens into the disaster that polarisation can impart upon us,” the letter from 165 former students said.

The India Today group, headed by Purie, runs TV news channels such as Aaj Tak, India Today among others.

Incidentally, among the 14 TV anchors being boycotted by the opposition INDIA bloc for churning out “communal hatred” in their programmes, four belong to the India Today group TV channels -- Sudhir Chaudhry, Chitra Tripathi, Gaurav Sawant and Shiv Aroor.

Speaking with Newsclick, some former students said they may write another letter to Purie, as the letter had gained traction with more members of the alumni wishing to sign, taking the number to a total of 192.

“Our only ask in the following letter is that as Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of the India Today Group, you clamp down on the hatred emanating from your airwaves and hold accountable those that openly engage in communal polarisation under the garb of news reportage,” the letter had said.

The letter urged the chairman Purie to “clamp down” the hatred and hold the people accountable that are engaged in communal polarisation. 

The letter further talked about how the school had taught them the constitutional principle of freedom, justice, equality, liberty and fraternity, however, the same values do not reflect in the TV news being served by the India Today group.

“We were really concerned about what TV news has become today. The high hatred and polarisation have come from the stalwarts of journalism. Mr. Purie is one of them. The constitutional values that we were taught in the school are completely being undermined by the India Today group”, Aditya, one of the former Vasant Valley students who signed the letter, told NewsClick.

The letter which was originally sent to the group on September 13 had signatures from of 165 former students from 18 batches. However, another alumnus who wished to not be named, told Newsclick that the letter has been getting traction. The letter now has 192 signatures, he said. 

“We were expecting the India Today group to at least initiate a dialogue on the hateful content and dog-whistling that takes place in the garb of news. We have not received any response from them yet, and are planning to send the letter again once we complete 200 signatures”, they added.

They also said the alumnus had been concerned about the news coverage by the media group for a long time now, though taking an initiative was something that got discussed last year by few of the alumni.

The media group’s silence on the Manipur ethnic clashes and then the ‘whataboutery’ presented by the anchors like Sudhir Chaudhary on the ‘viral video’ of the assault on Kuki women made us take this step, they said.

The letter also mentions the primetime show ‘Black and White’, hosted by Chaudhary calling its “commentary extremely reductive, devoid of nuance, and does nothing to hold those in power accountable”. 

The letter appreciated the past coverage of the India Today group from the Emergency days to the Gujarat riots 2002. It also takes note of the Aaj Tak’s reporter Srey Chatterjee’s current reporting on aftermath of Nuh riots and the accuracy of the Axis- My India exit polls calling it a ‘gold standard of psephology’. 

Cara, another former student, told NewsClick over a phone interview from Mumbai that the involvement of Mrs Purie (Aroon Purie’s wife) in school’s activities made the students feel like part of the democratic values that the school and group advocate. However, the group’s news coverage doesn’t hold the same values which it used to stand for in the past, she said.

“Empathy, compassion and secularism were some of the values we were taught in school. Mrs. Purie herself was a wonderful and regular presence on campus and shared these ideas. So, it’s disappointing that these very values that we learnt to cherish are not reflected across the India Today group”, she said.

NewsClick has sent a mail to Aroon Purie seeking his response to the letter. The story will be updated once a response is received.

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