An MLA and the meat factory – did media make minced meat of facts?

The Dadri incident and subsequent developments has yet again raised some disturbing questions on the role of Main Stream Media (MSM), described as the fourth estate and the flagbearers of truth. Despite the fact that their credibility has eroded in the last few years because of the numerous scandals that some of the eminent scribes have found themselves in, there are still many who look upon them hoping against hope that they will change. But all that we saw in the days of Dadri were shrill headlines, which according to many tarnished India’s image internationally and could even have led to a communal strife.

So, did the media really play mischief with facts post Dadri? What better way to understand than to scrutinise one of the stories that were pushed amidst the chaos. So here we take a closer look at the story of BJP MP Sangeet Som and the meat factory.

It all started with this tweet by @htTweets, the twitter handle of leading New Delhi-based newspaper Hindustan Times. “#BeefBan votary Sangeet Som is director of meat processing unit’’.

som1

Coming at a time the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were being targeted over Dadri, the story had all it takes to stir a storm. But a twist in the tale came when a little later, BJP Social Media man Arvind Gupta tweeted a reply. “Dear @httweets, screen shot from the Corporate database does not list Sangeet Som as a Director. Clarify?’’

som2

While Gupta waited for an answer, Ankit Lal, the Social Media head of Aam Aadmi Party came up with this. “Hope this form 32 will clarify”.

som3

(Form 32 is filed with the Registrar of Companies at the time of appointment of MD, Director, secretary etc of a company or while effecting any changes among them)

But Gupta was quick to question Lal’s `findings’. “It does clarify -> that he resigned from the directorship in 2008. There is a change in address, ownership since 2008’’, he tweeted.

som4

Gupta was in all probability referring to the last part of the form 32 – tweeted by Lal. It reads as follows.

som5

But Lal was in no mood to give up. “Yes. At the same time it also proves that he was director of the beef-producing company Al-Dua till 2008,’’ he retorted.

som6

But then lies have limited shelf life. So it was Gupta’s turn to call the bluff. He tweeted, “As per this document from @SKS_Mumbai Operations only began in 2012. And 2012 comes after 2008.’’

som7

Here is a more detailed view of the document.
som8

And phew, that ended the war of words.

In the meanwhile, HT seemed to have had realised its blunder and corrected its copy. A new story under the header “BJP MLA Sangeet Som purchased land for meat processing unit in UP’’ appeared online and had this note of apology at the end, “An earlier version of this report erroneously stated that the land in Aligarh was purchased in 2009 and that Sangeet Som is currently a director of Al-Dua Food Processing Private Limited. The errors are regretted.’’

som9

The damage, however, had already been done. Modi-bashers retweeted the story and shared it on Facebook in frenzy. But then we can’t blame it all on those social media users alone, can we? The mischief seems to have come from none other than newspaper which filed the report. How? Read the story again.

  It sayssom10

In short, Som, according to information that HT provides, was associated with the project from 2005 till March 2008.

So what really is the mischief here? The problem is that the news story doesn’t say (for whatsoever reason) anything at all about Som’s political affiliation during the period from December 2005 when he reportedly bought the property or in March 2008 when he resigned as Director of Al-Dua.

Maybe he didn’t have any political affiliations at all then. So let’s not risk making any wild guesses either. But hey, look what a simple Google search threw up – a report dated June 30, 2008, by the same reporter (S Raju whose byline appears in the meat factory story) and in the same newspaper (Hindustan Times).

som11

(Link here: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P3-1502926451.html)

Is the Sangeet Som mentioned in this story dated June 30, 2008, and BJP MLA Sangeet Som one and the same person? I cannot vouch for it. So I request HT to clarify that. But if yes, then it means he was a leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in June 2008, i.e. even three months after he had resigned as director of Al-Dua.

Surprisingly, no other report available online except this one in the Indian Express (http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/mla-who–shared-video–hops-parties-delights-in-guards/1168617/?socialmedia) gives any hint of Som’s political affiliations before he joined BJP. According to this, BSP announced his name for Sardhana Assembly seat in 2007 but did not field him.

som12

The report also says he “joined the BJP and Left in 2009’’ and “rejoined the party in December 2011.

som13

Would it have served the cause of objective journalism more had those reporters on the ground given us that little additional piece of information about Som’s political affiliation during the period 2005-2008? But they didn’t. Why?

I rest my case. The object of this exercise was not to draw any conclusions or impute motives or malign reputations, but only to bring some new facts to light. As for interpretations and drawing conclusions, that’s up to the readers.

(Disclaimer. This report was compiled solely from material available online and nothing offline.)

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