The Indian media, by and large, is not as bad as it could be. Even though I shall mainly talk about their faults in this article, I don’t think they are all bad guys. This article is to show where they could and should be better.
Let me start with a Muslim-unrelated news. Manipur is reeling. Is the media concerned? Apart from some isolated news here and there, hardly any coverage is offered to this unnecessary topic.
There is a media stereotype of the Muslims. One of bearded, angry, intolerant and foolish men, who are unable to think, but needs protection because they are also human beings. Sometimes the stereotype becomes more dangerous and tends to promote misunderstanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Mumbai vs Malegaon
Compare the Media’s coverage in three different cases. Gujarat, Mumbai Blast and Malegaon Blast. Two recent bomb blasts in India took place in Mumbai and Malegaon. The media was traumatised by the atrocity, justly enough, about the serial blasts in Mumbai, that killed 200 unsuspecting innocent civilians. The incidence was covered extensively for the next one month. Compare that with Malegaon blast, where Muslims were targeted. The media did report the Malegaon blast, but the front page space was spared only for two days. The incident quickly evaporated from the mind of the average Indian, as we became busy in our daily lives again.
The media failed to report that the police has been lazy to take action. Apparently they were either afraid of or sympathising with the criminals. Or maybe just pressure from top?
One more issue is perhaps relevant here. Muslims vehemently protested against the Mumbai blast. The Urdu press was awash with reports and analysis condemning the blast. The mainstream media did not bother to report that. So we here from the Hindus : ‘you never protested against Mumbai blast’. Muslims have enough reason to be frustrated.
2001 vs 2006
Gujarat got a good coverage. Starting from Godhra. The media covered the sad burning of about 58 people, mostly women and children, in a coach on 10th September . It is said, though open to challenge, that a mob of Muslim men has killed the people. Most of them pilgrims from Ayodhya. After that, as everybody knows, a violent mob was let loose on the Muslims. Not only Muslims were killed and abused and ill-treated wherever they were seen, also a systematic destruction was started on their properties. Many has seen the police assisting the mob. All these were reported by the media. That was in the beginning of Sep 2001. Post 911 propaganda was yet to begin.
After 911, there was a change. Western media is unbelievably powerful in propaganda and setting the mood.
In Assam there are quite a few branches of problems. Clashes of bengali and assamese cultures and the communal flames. All the Muslims are branded as bangladeshis by the Hindu right wing, who now find a sizable support. And all these hardly find a space in ‘mainstream’ media. The whole of North-East lives 50 years behind us. Violence is normal. Who cares?
All these seem to suggest there are two Indias: one is of the powerful and one of the powerless. Media merely reflects that.