In order to initiate this thread, we must first create an understanding of what Radio Rwanda was and what was its role in enabling the mass genocide in Rwanda.
Radio Rwanda was one of the three primary radio stations that enabled the Rwandan genocide. Amongst them were Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) and Radio Muhabura. The Rwandan genocide was a mass slaughter of Tutsi or the Abatutsi, a socio-ethnic group by the extremist Hutus (another socio-ethnic group). The Tutsis at the time were the second largest population and the Hutus were the largest at the time and still is to this day. 800,000 Rwandans were killed during this genocide and an estimated 2,000,000 Rwandans were displaced all in the span of one hundred days.
Majority of the dead were Tutsis and the perpetrators were Hutus. The death of the then Hutu President of Rwanda, Juvenal Habyarimana is what sparked this genocide. Paul Kagame, his successor claims that the death of Habyarimana was orchestrated by Hutu extremist groups in order to provide a pretext for carrying out the well-planned out massacre of the Tutsi people. Within hours of Habyarimana’s death, a nation-wide campaign of violence initiated and did not subside for three months.
There were always ethnic tensions between the majority Hutus and the minority Tutsis. After the Belgian colonization ended in 1962, the Hutus came into positions of power. Then they started using the Tutsis as their scapegoats for every crisis. This trend can be seen in India as well when the British colonization ended, and the majority Hindus came into positions of power and Muslims are now used as scapegoats for every crisis. All forms of media were heavily used to influence Hutus to become extremists and target Tutsis at every given opportunity. Rwanda was a nation that had a heavy radio audience and therefore that was the most used form of media to initiate the genocide.
The contents from the radio transcripts that I read are like peeling layers of an onion. In the earlier stages leading up to the genocide, radio channels did not outright broadcast anti-Tutsi content. Instead, what they did is a constant ploy of victimizing the Hutus and blamed it on the supposed Tutsi ancestors. In India, you can see a similar pattern being used in terms of using the Mughal invaders as a scapegoat for inciting hatred against the current Muslims living in India. When, in reality, the current Muslim population in India has nothing to do with the Mughals or how they ran their empire. These factual observations always fall on deaf ears as the indoctrination of the Hindu-victimhood begins from an early age where young children are taught that Muslims in India are responsible for what the Mughals did to their ancestors.
Another thing that that these radio broadcasters constantly did was dehumanize the Tutsis. They often referred to them as “cockroaches” and compared them to other insects. This can be seen among Hindu extremists as well. Amit Shah was infamously reported to have called Muslims “termites” and talks about crushing them. Dehumanizing a section of people takes away a part of the psychological blame that one puts on themselves while abetting a massacre. When Hindu extremists don’t consider Muslims as humans, the mental trauma that comes from assisting in genocide is lesser.
Ancestral blame was another pillar that contributed to the genocide in Rwanda. The Tutsis were blamed for the geopolitical loss of the country. The Hutus blamed Tutsis for conspiring with Belgian colonists in destroying the country economically. There is a stark parallel if you look at India. Indian Muslims are often blamed for the partition that took place right after independence. They are always either told to “go to Pakistan” or are outright called Pakistanis. Arnab Goswami is famous for telling his Muslim guests to go to Pakistan. What this does is remove the national identity of a section of people. The right-wing of India, who worship Goswami, watch these “debates” and promptly follow suit. They tell Indian Muslims to “go to Pakistan” at every given opportunity.
There were non-African radio personalities who worked alongside the extremist Hutus in spreading anti-Tutsi rhetoric in order to further fuel the impending genocide. One prime example was Georges Ruggiu. He was a man of Belgian nationality who used his power at RTLM to incite violence against the minority Tutsis. He was quoted to have said, “Tutsis killed Hutu kings and enslaved the Hutu people”. He used this (false) bit of history to claim that Hutus were persecuted and were the victims of Tutsi ancestors who destroyed their heritage. In India, we have the Riggiu counterparts, they are Maria Wirth, Imam Tawhidi, David Frawley, Tarek Fateh, Ensaf Haider and Francis Gautier (to name a few). These international self-proclaimed spokespeople of Hinduism incite a vast amount of hatred against Muslims. They often make up distorted claims pertaining to Indian history in order to somehow say that the current Indian Muslims are to be blamed for what happened during the Mughal era.
There was also a constant aura of fear and hysteria. The Rwandan Radio constantly highlighted isolated crimes against the Hutus and spun it in a way where they make it seem like it was the norm. They would create a false ethnic narrative in order to twist facts and give the illusion that Hutus are being killed in their own country for just being a Hutu. This in fact is not true as the vast amounts of crimes at the time were against the Tutsis. This is happening in India as well.
Crimes that have no religious motivation are often portrayed as communal in order to give the sensation that Hindus are being killed just for being Hindus. The news channels in India oftentimes report fake news based on unverified facts. They do this knowing well that the news is fake but with the technology that is available now, news needs only a few seconds to be shared among 1000s of people. The main culprits in this are OpIndia and SwarajyaMag. There is a number of other “fake news” portals, but these two are the shining stars. They rely on their vast social media team who run many Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and have millions of followers to spread fake news with a communal angle.
Anti-Tutsi songs were also very common during that time. These songs were heavily broadcasted on radio stations leading up to the genocide. They often carried lyrics like “kill the cockroaches (Tutsis) if they’re against Hutus” and “the motherland (Rwanda) belongs only to Hutus, everyone else is a parasite”. Simon Bikindi was one of the most famous musical artists at the time for producing hate-filled anti-Tutsi songs that were almost played as the background music for the hundred-day genocide that took place. In India, anti-Muslim songs are getting more popular with each day. Recently, the song by Varun Bahar went viral for inciting communal violence. With lyrics such as “Those who refuse to chant Jai Sri Ram will be sent to the graveyard”, which is a direct call to action for the murder of religious minorities.
This is an excerpt from an RTLM broadcast.
Today is Sunday June 19, 1994
It is 16:22 in Kigali here in RTLM
Speaking to all cockroaches who are listening
Rwanda belongs to those who truly defend it
And you, the cockroaches are not Rwandans
Everyone has now risen to fight these cockroaches
Our military, the youth, the old and even our women
The cockroaches will not escape
We are lucky that the Tutsis are so few
We assessed 10% of the population
They are no more than 8%
Let us rejoice my friends
The cockroaches were exterminated
Let us rejoice my friends
God is never unfair
If we completely exterminate the cockroaches
Nobody in the world will judge us
There are a lot more similarities between Radio Rwanda and the Indian media but at this point, you all are probably well aware of them. Rahul Shivshankar from Times Now had recently made a claim saying the artists who wrote an open letter to the PM against the mob lynching of Muslims are wrong because “when was the last time a Hindu blew himself up while saying Jai Sri Ram?” These are simply the beginning signs of the fall of Indian media. Every day their broadcasts are enabling a genocide of the Muslim minorities in India. It won’t be long before they start broadcasting the same very content that once filled the airwaves of Rwanda.
Aashiq Kabeer is a Corporate Strategist and Data Analyst with an eye on Indian politics. He can be reached at Twitter.com/AashiqKabeer
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Cognate and The Cognate does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.