As part of research for my book, Ayodhya: City of Faith, City of Discord, I was looking for reportage of the decades leading up to the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute in the 1980s, as well as the coverage of the firing incident in Ayodhya in 1990 that killed at least 16 kar sevaks. This incident and its widespread manipulation in mass media by the RSS-VHP-BJP led to Hindu masses rallying behind their cause of “liberating” the Ram Lalla idol from the 16th century Babri Masjid.

Those years of early Hindutva mobilisation were when Jan Morcha, already popular in the region, made its mark as a fearlessly independent Hindi newspaper that stuck to facts over the RSS propaganda which was being peddled by most Hindi and some English dailies.

In fact, Jan Morcha was the only local daily that published the figure of 16 killed in the firing that took place on 2 November 1990, when kar sevaks defied the curfew and tried to storm the mosque. Most other dailies ran provocative headlines such as “Ayodhya Bathed in Blood”, and “Blood flows in the Sarayu”. The news reports themselves were filled with exaggerated one-sided accounts of the “massacre” of kar sevaks in cold blood by the Mulayam Singh-led UP government,...

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