On April 22, Reuters journalist Danish Siddiqui shared heartbreaking pictures of a funeral ground where COVID-19 victims were being laid to rest. “As India posted world record of COVID cases funeral pyres of people, who died due to the coronavirus disease were pictured at a crematorium ground in New Delhi, April 22, 2021,” Danish said, sharing three photographs he had clicked.
One of the pictures is a drone shot from above a cremation ground, with at least 50 funeral pyres burning, showing the dire situation in the national capital and the sheer number of people that have been succumbing to the disease. Several crematoriums across the country have said that they have been overburdened by the number of bodies that they have been receiving amid the second wave.
The pictures shortly went viral, and soon, in an orchestrated move, several right wing social media users are questioning the journalists for covering cremations and 'condeming' them for showing burning bodies. In a move that seems to be aimed at ensuring that these disturbing pictures don't come out, they are claiming that ‘foreign journalists’ are only concentrating on burning pyres, but are not showing burials of victims belonging to other religions.
Indian journalists writing for foreign publications were also slammed for depicting India’s ground situation, with several social media users, mostly right wing, abusing them and calling them “vultures.
“American liberal journalists sharing "stunning" photos of cremations in India. In New York, some 6000 Covid deaths in nursing homes were covered up by the liberal governor. Bodies of many who died in NY in April were sitting in trucks till Nov. And liberals point fingers at India,” tweeted one social media user.
Journalist Abhijit Majumder wondered if it was ‘necessary’ to report from cremation grounds.
Burning or burial of the dead is a sacred, profoundly private act. US media never disrespected their dead from 9/11 to Covid. Nor did media of France, Germany, Italy, UK, China or any self-respecting nation. It’s your prerogative, but just asking: Was this necessary? https://t.co/2tXAzkskhT— Abhijit Majumder (@abhijitmajumder) April 25, 2021
Only those like @BDUTT who take a macabre ghoulish delight at our misery will do this!Crematoriums are holy places where we mourn our loss,send our dear ones onwards,not places you use to gloat!You are a big disgrace to India @indumathi37 @avatans https://t.co/yjQqaMRjB0— Mohandas Pai (@TVMohandasPai) April 25, 2021
American liberal journalists sharing "stunning" photos of cremations in India— Abhishek (@AbhishBanerj) April 24, 2021
In New York, some 6000 Covid deaths in nursing homes were covered up by the liberal governor
Bodies of many who died in NY in April were sitting in trucks till Nov
And liberals point fingers at India
He works for @Reuters - same @reuters will dare not publish those pics of pain n grief in western nation citing privacy considerations - special place in hell is reserved for folks like @dansiddiqui who feed on misery of people - yes he earns money by selling those pics! https://t.co/AtfuYbg6fV— Alok Bhatt (@alok_bhatt) April 23, 2021
A Hindu outfit took offence to a tweet by Washington Post correspondent Annie Gowen, where she had called Danish’s photograph of the funeral pyres ‘stunning,’ and sought her expulsion, claiming that she was ‘mocking’ the deaths. The outfit, however, misidentified her as the current India bureau chief, a role that she served from 2013 to 2018.
Wrote @AmitShah @DrSJaishankar seeking immediate expulsion of @anniegowen, India bureau chief @washingtonpost & declare her a "Persona Non-Grata" for mocking deaths of hundreds of people in the #Covid19 pandemic. Her behaviour is a real-life case example of unethical Journalism. pic.twitter.com/ph7sRMMt7U— Legal Rights Observatory- LRO (@LegalLro) April 23, 2021
Journalist Barkha Dutt, who has been sharing pictures of her reporting on the COVID-19 situation on the ground, tweeted that many journalists are being asked not to share visuals of the situation on the ground.
“Sudden, organised cry for not reporting from cremation grounds and graveyards (none of which bothered the same people last year) is such a giveaway attempt to try and sanitise the scale of the horror unfolding. Old troll trick to attack the messenger won’t work. Save your breath,” Barkha tweeted. Several other journalists supported her stand and many, including politicians, hailed those on the ground covering the deadly second wave of COVID-19 in India.
Kudos to all the brave journalists—both domestic and foreign—who are bearing witness to this moment. Emotionally taxing to report on death anywhere, but in India you must also deal with hordes of angry hyper-nationalists upset that you’re “spoiling India’s image.” #COVID19India https://t.co/KCBCKHwqOP— Sadanand Dhume (@dhume) April 25, 2021
Every truly patriotic Indian stands with you, @RanaAyyub, & the other journalists who are risking their lives & peace of mind to bring the nation the truth about our present crisis. There is no substitute for honest reporting in a democracy. Keep up the great work. @KotaNeelima https://t.co/8yCoj7Vdxq— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) April 24, 2021
India's COVID-19 situation has been reported by global media outlets as well, with articles highlighting the oxygen shortages being reported across many states, the lack of ICU beds, and the sharply rising number of cases in the country. Global media has also pulled up the Narendra Modi-led government over its shortcomings in not being prepared for the second wave, and the steps that it should have taken - like ramping up health infrastructure - in the time when India was seeing a receding number of cases in the months of December 2020-February 2021.