Daily Archives: 17 June 2010

How media kept Bhopal’s quest for justice alive

The Bhopal Gas Tragedy—not the 1984 one but the 2010 repeat—had everything going for it to be quickly consigned to the deepest crevices of our consciousness. A ridiculously long overdue verdict, a farcical sentence, poor (mostly Muslim) victims in a non-metropolitan city, the short memory of the public.

And then the fact that 1984 happened before the era of satellite TV.

Will media activism secure justice for Bhopal?” was, therefore, a question well worth asking on 8 June, after Judgment Day saw the eight accused get a comical two-year term (with a proviso for immediate bail) for killing 15,274 and maiming 574,000 people 25 years and six months earlier.

Would the media go hyper like it had done for Aarushi, Jessica and Ruchika, was a doubt on many a cynic’s lip.

To its redounding credit, it has.

The Bhopal issue has had an incredible run over the last two weeks, each day unravelling new and unknown facts and facets of the complicity of politicians, bureacurats, diplomats, industrialists—all those who allowed the tragedy to happen, all those who let the killers to run away, all those who want us to forgive some and forget the rest.

The media is often accused of lacking stamina and hunting in a pack. But for once, print and television—and indeed online—rose to the challenge, in India and the United States. And if the prime minister has had to constitute a group of ministers, the other reason is media pressure; the main reason of course is obvious.

The grid above gives a sampling of the vast array of people the media tapped over the last 12 days. Quotes, photographs, videos, official documents, CIA reports, newspaper clippings have all been unearthed to get to the bottom of the story and piece together the jigsaw.

So much so that former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson‘s house was staked, and his wife was interviewed at her doorstep.

The media hasn’t done a favour to the nation, of course, but a service that is expected of it. But in the ocean of cynicism that surrounds the media—of political patronage, ideological bias, paid news, corruption, etc— surely there is no harm in saluting a passing island?


The K-word, the P-word, the G-word, the A-word

The ghosts of Jammu & Kashmir seem to repeatedly haunt the BJP Rajya Sabha member and editor-in-chief of The Pioneer, the very erudite Chandan Mitra.

Over a decade ago, the journalist-activist Kuldip Nayar, then a member of the upper house, moved a privilege motion for an overly enthusiastic editorial that questioned Nayar’s patriotism.

In February this year, Mitra had to issue a front-page condemnation for the “wilful misrepresentation of views” expressed by him by a Kashmiri commentator in Kashmir Times.

Wrote Mitra:

“I am aghast at the diabolical attempt by certain persons with obvious separatist sympathies to distort my article “A ‘moth-eaten’ India?” by Ifthikar Gilani. A canard is being spread by a Kashmiri commentator Iftikhar Gilani, who writes for the Kashmir Times, that I have argued against the BJP’s stand on Jammu & Kashmir and advocated “free Kashmir or joint sovereignty” for the State. I am truly appalled by the deliberate and motivated distortion of my beliefs by Gilani and his ilk.”

And now this self-explanatory apology for a piece by G.N. Shaheen, general secretary of the J&K high court bar association, which carried the G-word thrice and began thus:

“Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talks of ‘zero tolerance’ on human rights abuses, but does nothing to rein in the Army from implementing a new policy of genocide which targets children—this renders his calls for peace bogus.”

The piece also carried this paragraph:

“Under the new pattern of genocide carried out by the authorities, young school-going children are targeted purposefully to deter future generations from embarking on the path of freedom. Asiya and Nelofar’s double murder at Shopian, the death of a class 7 student, Wamiq Farooq of Rainawari, the killing of class 9 student Zahid Farooq of Brian Nishat are but symbolic of this official policy. None of these children were militants or remotely connected with any political party, yet they had to loose their lives at the hands of the armed forces.”

Read the original piece here: New genocide policy in J&K

Also available here: Defence Forum of India

Also read: How Chandan Mitra has his halwa and hogs it too

The best editor The Pioneer never had?

Why (perhaps) the BJP sent Chandan Mitra to Rajya Sabha