Posts Tagged ‘Chhattisgarh’

‘TV doesn’t want debate; it wants whipping boys’

12 June 2013

The dastardly ambush of a Congress party convoy by Maoists in Chhattisgarh on May 25, in which 28 people including the founder of the Salwa Judum movement Mahendra Karma perished, led to the by-now ritual witchhunt of human rights activists on television—and their ostracism by newspapers.

On one level, in a Pavlovian sort of way, the media randomly accused “Naxal sympathisers” of staying silent. On another level, the media was accused of allowing them to speak. (In fact, one former IAS officer even goes so far as to say that he “almost felt like taking a gun and shooting these people, as also the TV anchors who gave them time and space.”)

Lost in the noise is nuance—and balance.

Here, Nandini Sundar, a professor of sociology at the Delhi school of economics, provides perspective on how the media is distorting the debate with its shrill “us vs them” tone.

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By NANDINI SUNDAR

I am sick to death of TV panel discussions which ask whether human rights activists are soft on the Maoists, romanticise the Maoists and so on. Why doesn’t someone ask if our honourable politicians and security experts are soft on police torture and extra judicial killings?

Television is not interested in a serious discussion – all they want are whipping boys.

The sight of Arnab Goswami mocking Prof Haragopal for giving an “academic analysis” was especially nauseating, compounded by his showing off about “Emily Durkheim” (sic).

Why bother to have a panel at all,  if only hysterical calls for the army to be sent in to wipe out the Maoists count as ‘analysis’, and every other viewpoint is seen as biased?

The media’s vocabulary is also very limited.

I remember a particular excruciating interview with Binayak Sen where he said he “decried” violence and the anchor repeatedly asked him if he “condemned” it. As far as I know, the two words mean roughly the same thing.

Nowadays, even before the media asks me, I start shouting “I condemn, I condemn.” I wake up in my sleep shouting “I condemn.” I am scared to use other words to describe complex emotions, because the media is unable to understand anything else.

The only reason why I agree to participate in any TV discussions at all or give interviews to the media, is because I have such limited space to express my views. Most of the time the media is completely unconcerned about what happens in places like Bastar, and when there are large scale deaths of civilians, no-one runs non-stop news or panel discussions.

Perforce “human rights activists” have to speak in unfavourable circumstances, because that’s the only time when the media is interested in our views; and that too, not because they want to hear us, but because they need a “big fight” to raise their ratings.

That’s what is called ‘balance’.

One can almost see visible disappointment on the anchor’s part when panelists who should disagree actually agree on many issues.

Since May 25 I have been inundated with calls from journalists asking for my views. But when I want to write, there is little space. A leading national newspaper refused to publish me on the killing of Mahendra Karma, till they had enough pieces which promoted a paramilitary approach.

Even when I do get published it is under strict word constraints. I wrote the first opinion piece ever written in the national media on the Salwa Judum in 2006, but was given 800 words, under the fold. In the first year of Salwa Judum, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of articles on Salwa Judum.

I personally met several editors and showed them photographic evidence; and begged TV editors for panel discussions, but no-one was interested. If they had been interested then, perhaps things would not have come to such a pass.
I am unable to write my own book on Salwa Judum because of the court case and all that it takes.

I have been wanting to write on it since 2005 because I am, above all, an anthropologist.  In any case, my mental space is so clogged by the media noise and the strain of being confined to “opinion pieces” that keep saying the same things because no one is listening, that I can’t write.

I am almost glad the IPL has taken over again, and we can all forget about Bastar and the Maoists till the next major attack.

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I reproduce below an extract from my article, Emotional Wars, on the public reactions to the death of the 76 CRPF men in April 2010.  This was published in Third World Quarterly,  Vol. 33, No. 4, 2012, pp 1-17:

“Government anger was directed not just at the Maoists but at their alleged ‘sympathizers in civil society’, whose verbal and written criticism of government for violations of the Constitution and fundamental rights, was morally equated with the Maoist act of killing in retaliation for those policies.

“Within minutes then, given the government’s role as the primary definer of news, whether the alleged sympathizers had adequately condemned and expiated for the attack, became as critical to the framing of the news as the attack itself. 

“The largely one-sided government and media outrage – the targeted killings or rapes of ordinary adivasis rarely, if ever, invite direct calls upon the Home Minister to condemn each such incident – easily summon to mind Herman and Chomsky’s distinction between “worthy and unworthy victims” as part of what they call the media ‘propaganda model’.

“While news coverage of the worthy is replete with detail, evokes indignation and shock, and invites a follow-up; unworthy victims get limited news space, are referred to in generic terms, and there is little attempt to fix responsibility or trace culpability to the top echelons of the establishment.

“…In times of civil war, the emotions performed by the state range from the inculcation of fear to a calculated display of indifference to the exhibition of injured feelings, as if it was citizens and not the state who were violating the social contract, and that the social contract consisted of the state’s right to impunity.”

Also read: EPW tears into TV’s ‘hawks, hotheads, hysteria’

‘TV is now a site for manufacturing news, consent’

‘Is news TV becoming a national security hazard?’

How media misuses subsidised land: Episode 324

23 August 2012

The misuse of land allotted for media houses is rampant. In Chhattisgarh, several newspapers—including Dainik Bhaskar—have now been slapped with notices for violating the deed under which they were given government land at a concession. An audit found these premises being used for commercial purposes.

The Indian Express reports on six of them:

DAINIK BHASKAR

Audit report: Land given in 1985. A new building, where the paper is likely to shift soon, is under construction. “Construction is on above ground+3 floors, which is illegal. According to the display board of Bhaskar Group at the spot, DB City, Corporate Park, is being constructed, and contact numbers are also mentioned for taking shop/office on lease/rent… the government should cancel the deed and take possession of the land. But the authorised officer did not conduct a ground survey and the Bhaskar Group is being given undue benefit.” The report said the newspaper had taken unauthorised possession of an adjoining 9,212 sq ft belonging to the jail department.

In September 2009, the Raipur administration sent a notice to the newspaper to deposit Rs 7.62 crore by March 2011. Reminder sent in April 2011; amount not deposited.

Present status: When The Indian Express called the number 8962112000 displayed on the “DB City, Corporate Park” billboard, a person who identified himself as Rajneesh Tiwari, marketing executive of Bhaskar Group, said only a few floors in the building would be for press purposes and the remaining would be corporate offices. “Agreements have been signed with several MNCs and they are soon opening their corporate offices. We are also planning a rooftop restaurant.”

Newspaper’s response: “No violation of the land deed.”

Read the full report: Chhattisgarh newspapers get notices

Also read: Power plans of DB Corp, Dainik Bhaskar & DNA

‘Media houses are sitting on land leased at one rupee’

Bangalore journos named in site allotment scam

Aman Sethi bags Red Cross journalism prize

20 October 2011

Aman Sethi, The Hindu‘s correspondent in Chhattisgarh, has bagged the international red cross committee’s award for best print media article on humanitarian issues, for his March 2011 piece on homes and granaries that were torched by police commandos in three villages in the Naxal heartland.

Tehelka ‘s Umar Baba took the second place, while the third prize went to Reji Joseph of Rashtra Deepika. The consolation prize went to Anup Sharma of The Times of India .

Bombay-born Sethi, who studied business journalism at Columbia University’s graduate school of journalism, worked for the Hindu‘s sister publication, Frontline, before being posted to Chhattisgarh. His debut book “A Free Man“, an account of the life of a homeless, migrant labourer was published recently.

Read the award-winning piece: The Hindu

Read an excerpt from his book: Caravan

Read Aman Sethi’s articles: Kafila

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Also read: EPW journalist bags Appan Menon award

Rema Nagarajan of ToI bags Nieman fellowship

Mint‘s Monika Halan among Yale fellows

Chameli Devi prize for Tehelka scribe, K.K. Shahina

Pallava Bagla bags ‘Oscar’ of science journalism

Saikat Datta bags prize for using RTI for story

India-China friendship award for Pallavi Aiyar

Knight fellowship for Frontline’s Dionne Bunsha

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