For Indian journos, April 1 comes 9 months early

Infallible Indian journalists have been spooked by a delightful Da Vinci Code style hoax played on them.

On Sunday, almost every newspaper reported the arrest of Johann Bach, an 88-year-old Nazi war criminal, in the jungles of Khanapur, close to Goa, on Saturday.

A classified advertisement inserted by the “Waffen SS” fugitive to sell an 18th century piano was supposed to have led Perus Narkp detectives to the “senior adjutant” who reportedly had a role in the “extermination” of 12,000 Jews at the Marsha Tikash Whanaab concentration camp in East Berlin.

Bangalore based newspapers went to town with the news:

# “Hitler’s stormtrooper held in Karnataka,” headlined Deccan Herald.

# “World War II criminal arrested?” asked The Hindu

# “Cops stunned over Nazi man’s arrest,” said The Times of India

# “Antique piano ad leads police to Nazi colonel near Belgaum,” said the New Indian Express.

On Monday, the up-country papers went a step further.

# “Traced to Goa, Nazi war criminal tried to enter Karnataka, arrested on way and flown to Berlin,” said The Indian Express, Delhi

# “Goa piano ‘thief’ found to be Nazi war fugitive,” said The Telegraph, Calcutta, with a helpful graphic (above) of the flight of the Nazi criminal.

Wanted by Interpol, octagenarian Bach, it was reported, had escaped the Nuremberg trials and evaded justice for over half a century. On the German government’s “Most wanted list” since the end of WW II, he had spent time in Argentina, Bulgaria, Yemen and Canada.

Apparently, the Israeli media had reported his sighting in Calungute, Goa, though V.S. Acharya, Karnataka’s home minister, denied any knowledge. Hemant Nimbalkar, Belgaum superintendent of police, said he was unaware of the incident.

But the papers said Bach had been picked up by detectives of Perus Narkp who are part of the German chancellor’s “Core” team in collaboration with Indian intelligence.

Anil Budur Lulla of The Telegraph “exclusively” reported that “Berlin also had information from Tel Aviv that an old German had bragged about overseeing the genocide of Jews to an Israeli tourist couple in Goa during a rave party a few months ago.”

Deccan Herald quoted a press release issued by “Perus Narkp”. Times of India said the press note was circulated by email. DH had this telling line: “A brilliant musician like his illustrious 18th Century namesake, this eccentric Bach later rose high in the Nazi SS hierarchy.”

The Telegraph, quoting “sources”, said that “after further investigations in Goa, proceedings would begin to take Bach to Germany, with whom India signed an extradition treaty in 2004.”  Deccan Herald said he would “be facing trial at the International Court of Justice at The Hague.”

And on and on it went.

Well, it turns out, it was all a super prank, obviously played by someone with some taste in western classical music.

churumuri bravely deduces that it was played/devised by someone called Bhawana Shakti Sharma or by someone who knows someone called Bhawana Shakti Sharma, because it is an anagram of “Marsha Tikashi Whanaab”. “Bach” is obviously a bastardisation of Johann Sebastian Bach, with the piano thrown in for good measure. “Perus Narkp” is an anagram of “Super Prank“.

Considering that the story has Goa as its epicentre, churumuri also sticks its neck out to declare that the “super prank” was played by a Goan/ Goans who have had their axe for their local media for some time now. Indeed, one Goan blog says “The Truth Behind Perus Narkp” will be revealed tomorrow with the teasing tagline: “One of the most telling stories on the Goan as well as Indian media.”

Why the prank was played, is a long story.

Maybe to show how gullible journalists have become in this age of instant news and even more instant analysis. Maybe to show how little research and background checking goes into modern-day reporting populated by greenhorns barely out of their teens. Maybe to show what a bunch of cultural ignoramuses we are, with scarcely any knowledge of music, Indian or western.

Or maybe to show how smart the prankster is.

Whatever the reason, it’s a lovely prank for which all of us fell. We have been had. Lie back and enjoy—and spare a thought for those stung by us.

Cross-posted on sans serif