Even though scientific, research based predictions of an impending geological crisis in the hill town of Joshimath in Uttarakhand had been predicted decades ago, it had been ignored by the authorities. Also complicit are the mainstream media who had not raised alarm bells when the first cracks had been reported a while ago in the Bharatiya Janata Party governed state’s holy town.

The locals had been complaining about the early damages, and said that were only amplified by locals, activists and scientists. There were no ‘brave’ anchors stepping out of their television channel studios to talk to the locals on their fear, and urgent need for support and rehabilitation. Even after the cracks appeared, it was a few independent journalists, photojournalists, and video bloggers (vloggers), who visited and gave the crisis a voice. The TV news was still not moved. Till it is almost too late. Then some have fallen back on the formula of invoking ‘predictions’, political flashbacks, and the TRP pumping ‘mythology’ and religious ‘warnings’.

With Joshimath still reeling under severe crisis after around 700 of buildings developed cracks due to the shifting soil base, a 2013 video of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj has been revived and shows her speaking in Parliament on an imminent threat to the Uttarakhand hills. This threat she tells her fellow MPs is from the dams being built on the Ganga river. This is from when the BJP was an Opposition party.

Swaraj can be heard purportedly saying that there was some kind of ‘divine’ or ‘godly’ anger at work. “It is not just a coincidence, I want to tell the House that on 16 June 2013, the Dhari Devi temple was submerged, the same day there was a deluge in Kedarnath and everything was destroyed,” she said and added that to saying that the money spent on the dams “will be less than the amount that will have to be spent over the rehabilitation of those displaced”.

On Monday, the Supreme Court of India asked petitioners seeking relief and that the Joshimath crisis be deemed a ‘national disaster’, to approach the Uttarakhand High Court. It had been a religious leader Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati, who had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) on the issue in the SC, reported the legal portal LiveLaw. According to the news report the SC “also took note of the fact that an application is pending in the Uttarakhand HC on this issue.”

According to the news report as the counsel for the petitioner kept making submissions the Chief Justice of India (CJI) observed, "You don’t want to use this proceeding for social media sound bytes."

It was all about soundbytes, amplified on social media by some channels which kept broadcasting ‘news’ about how Joshimath’s sinking soil and boulder bed was in fact a ‘Kalyug Prediction’. Even newspapers such as the Marathi edition of Hindustan Times were not far behind from news channels and explained that a ‘prophecy’ was now coming true.

According to this report there is an ancient idol of Narasimhachi in the temple at Joshimath and one hand of the statue “becomes thinner year by year”. It reported that “it is believed that the day Lord Narasimha breaks his hand, the road to Badrinath will be closed. Nar Narayan mountain will be one.” Implying that there was an impending disaster of bigger proportions.

IndiaTV News echoed it with headlines screaming “Joshimath disaster is linked to Lord Vishnu's idol at Narsingh temple? Will it affect Badrinath yatra?” Not to be left behind was Navbharat Times who had headlines ike” सदियों पहले 'सनथ संहिता' में की गई भविष्यवाणी होने जा रही सच?” which also ‘wondered’ if ancient prophecies were coming true. This report too claimed that the sinking land mass was predicted and it is a part of a larger ‘divine’ plan of sorts. A similar report emerged in Amar Ujala, which added a video ‘explaining’ the religious prediction that is supposed to have foretold this sinking.

Then there are channels like Sudarshan News, that have also tried to claim that what is happening at Joshimath is a natural disaster brought about by what they called “kudrat ka kehar” or nature’s fury. It also said this was not the first place to repost land subsidence and went on to bizarrely give examples of Jakarta, Manilla, Shanghai etc. This claim indirectly refutes the locals firm belief that it was badly planned and executed development projects that are to be blamed and that the displaced residents should be suitably reimbursed, and rehabilitated.

What is being now spread by mainstream media is that the problem in Joshimath is “very old while the project started only a few years ago”. Some like Aajtak anchor Sudhir Chowdhary was heard saying it was the deluge of outstation “tourists who go to the hills and ear maggi” and the unplanned construction of hotels and resorts that was responsible for such a crisis in the hills. This directly puts the blame on the citizens, and indirectly about the government ordered constructions of various projects.

An Aajtak news bulletin voice over also said “they built houses cutting through mountains, so mountains said leave my place alone,” add to that dramatic background music. All this while the people in the same bulletin have said that the government is not listening to the people’s woes. The voice over also blamed “growing population”. They also called it “nature’s warning”.

As reported by The Citizen, there is palpable anger among the people on the attempts being made through pliable media to convey that the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) Limited, which is executing the Tapovan-Vishnugad hydro power project, is not responsible for the present crisis. The unbiased, factual reportage and analysis of the Joshimath subsidence may be read here on The Citizen.