In this excellent piece in Newslaundry, titled “Dhulagarh Riots: Why did Bengal media ignore it?”, Deepanjana Pal writes:
For approximately four hours, Dhulagarh burned. Shops were set on fire in the local bazaar and looted. The mob attacked homes, looting them and lobbing bombs – crude contraptions that are far more dangerous cousins of the pataka – at them. Eye witnesses say Hindu households were targeted. “You have to understand, everyone knows everyone in places that are this small,” said one reporter. “Hindus and Muslims live in separate neighbourhoods, but together. So when this happened, some of them recognised those who were attacking them and when they didn’t recognise them, they knew these were outsiders.” One temple was attacked and its idol – of Kali, the goddess best known for her all-destroying rage – was broken. There are reports of Hindu families having fled to neighbouring villages.
All this violence took place in broad daylight. In the videos that have been circulated, no one is seen wearing masks. It’s all out in the open and witnessed by locals who tried to get in touch with journalists. From the videos and photographs that were shared, it almost seems like the locals did the actual on-ground reporting. They were desperate to talk and be heard. Unfortunately, few listened and Dhulagarh was barely mentioned in mainstream Bengali news. (emphasis mine)
“What we were told was that since this is a communal issue, we should approach it cautiously and underplay it so that things don’t flare up,” said one journalist.
So the excuse being offered is that because reporting a communal incident might provoke other communal incidents, mediamen refuse to cover communal flareups.
The only problem with this is simply this.
It is not true.
Large sections of media, be it in Bengal or at the national level, has absolutely no problem in reporting communal incidents. They covered Dadri for months. Gujarat, 2002, they are still covering, and it is now 15 years.
It is only when the incidents run counter to their stated narrative, that India is being ruled by a fascist Hindu Hitler-wannabe who has instituted a reign of majoritarian terror, that the Indian media behave the same way as parents do when their children ask “Does Santa really exist? If he does why is the gift he brought the same as the one that has been lying in the trunk of our car for the last two days?”, namely with silence and then with an attempt to change the conversation. In Bengal there is the other reason for covering up communal incidents. Pretty much most of the media is mortally afraid of the TMC or indebted to it (usually both), and anything that shows the party in a bad light, a party that has been pulled by no less than the High Court for appeasement of a certain community, will not make it past the desks of the editors.
But for now, let us concentrate on our nation’s media mavens, the ones who win “Best Journalism Awards” instituted by their own channels, whose name echoes in time as the Bane of NRIs in Madison Square Garden.
You know where I am going with this.
While the riots are going on, when media involvement usually forces the government to act, when bad things can be prevented through press intervention, one of our country’s premier “journalist”s, based out of Delhi, parrots the Trinamool Congress line and denies the riots. He subsequently then puts “” around riots, in the same way I have put it around “journalist” in thie preceding sentence.
It is only after Zee TV gets involved, perhaps because their politics is more aligned with BJP, that his own channel India Today, perhaps because one cannot let a rival take the TRPs with a story, goes to the region and files a report, of helpless people having their life-savings looted, of a mother ruing her son’s irreplaceable study notes being burned in addition to having all their valuables taken, that the whole of India at least has the opportunity to look at the world, as it is.
Of course an FIR is filed against Zee TV for reporting the incident. Usually something like this brings forward a tidal wave of press outrage, of impassioned editorials and flowing pens, ruing the fascism of the Hindu majoritarians, but since this time, very inconveniently, it was not quite fitting into their narrative, we were treated to the manufactured diversion of “trolling in social media”. Double points here, because it is an issue that personally affects these media mavens, in the same way that Arnab Goswami’s barbs did, so it’s absolutely deserving of hours of media coverage, and impassioned chest-beating. The trolls make our social media life miserable. What? Your child’s laptop, the one you saved for years, was looted, and you have no house to stay in? Sorry, pal, tyranny of distance, my moral compass just can’t point there. Here, have some quotation marks.
The irony of this kind of targeted censorship is that it ends up hurting the very agenda that is close to their hearts. Since the media will try its level best not to report a particular type of communal violence, it then becomes very easy for Hindu fanatics to cook up or grossly exaggerate incidents of communal violence, then use social media to spread their message, and people will be more inclined to believe whatever they get on their FB walls or Whatsapp, the lack of coverage in mainstream media, perversely, validating the story: if the news channels aren’t covering this, it must be true.
India is a country where minorities are in constant peril, regardless of who is at the center. Anyone, of any religion, can be a minority, and whether you belong to a minority is a function of where you are located, who are around you and in what number, how organized they are, and who the local government is aligned with. So, yes, even in an India ruled by a Hindu nationalist party, there are significant sections where Hindus are minorities. By refusing to give coverage to violence perpetrated on them and worse by casting doubts on its truth, in one swell swoop, the media strengthens both extremes of the political spectrum and ossifies the culture of violence and intimidation of minorities, which we inherited during Partition, a culture which no party in India has the slightest interest in dismantling.
Not that our media superstars don’t know this. They are not that dumb. It’s just that their “anti-establishment” is basically anti-one-establishment, their anger deepened by the fact that the “wrong person” won in 2014. Which is why they have no compunction in echoing the TMC talking points, because they believe that TMC is also anti-that-one-establishment, even though in the context of the Bengal riots, TMC is the establishment. Which is why their moral compass keeps steady while refusing to cover or to resign to the back of the paper, anything that does not conform to their political narrative, of the fascism of the Hindu majoritarian rule in Delhi, no matter the human cost of what they choose to ignore.
21 thoughts on “Dhulagarh and the Media Narrative”
Excellent article. Hope Anandabazar has seen it
Well, they didn’t the first time so I doubt.
Excellent article that lays bare the hypocrisy of Indian liberals, pseudo-seculars and “prestitutes”. Where is Aamir Khan, #AwardWapsi brigade and #Intolerance brigade (silent since Bihar elections), Kanhaiyya Kumar, JNU, Farooq/Omar Abdullah, RaGa, AK, Mahesh Bhat, Javed Akhtar? Sorry, wrong time to call us…. 😦 Waiting for the next state election? They’ll definitely come out of their slumber just before UP, Punjab elections.
Very insightful article. Keep’em coming. 🙂
Also the local media was truly repressed at the time of Muharram this year which collided with the Durga bhasan in Kharagpur. Kharagpur was under curfew and burning everywhere with police constables severely attacked. But not a peep in the media! Which in a way was good for us because otherwise it would have spread statewide! So dhulagarh is just one of them…
You really think so? That reporting such incidents would lead to state wide riots?
Similar incidents have occurred throughout smaller pockets all over bengal.
Incidents happened at hazinagar….a small pocket in Naihati in the outskirts of kolkata.
Media ignored them….and so did the government.
I don’t think that not reporting them was a good idea. In fact I wondered why they were not reported at all. This was reported only as a tiny newspaper clip very much toned down much after the days of the incident.
When I said it was good for us, I meant we were really scared of it spreading. The tensions all over Kolkata and statewide was at flashpoint already, because the CM was rumored to have said that the idol bhasan was to be on hold until the muharram was over, while the high court had reversed it saying that all bhasan had to be done before muharram began. In Kolkata, since almost all durga puja happen with police permission, the police did indeed make it deafeningly silent and smooth for the court order to be implemented. That really helped in some way. But in places outside Kolkata, where maybe the police could not know in detail about every mohalla puja, things really did get out of control. Curfew had to put up for days in Kharagpur. We only came to know because of people who live there. I haven’t even heard of Naihati.
The local TV news channels are very flashy and sensational. That they would have reported in a manner that would have been objective and properly journalistic is really too much to expect. Multiple channels would simultaneously appeal to either community that they started it. A civil war within a state is really not what one wants to be stuck in while being in that state!
As it is, seemingly not so tragic news (such as scams, demonetization, etc) causes statewide riots, and this was truly tense.
Oh..you think its good not to published the truth in media only because of the fear of would be incident.. You like people are responsible for such happenings…
I doubt the fact that pro-violence people wait to read the news before preparing an attack/riot. Arnab from Canada can write about this, so the real question is was the event “underplayed”?
There was a gentleman from dhulagarh working in our office. That day he kept googling the newspapers number and calling them one by one, sobbing hysterically. Nowhere he got anything other than promises.
Then he called his home and put the phone on speaker and we were stunned to hear explosions going on and on and on.
All of us, who were present on office that day kept looking on met or TV channels at canteen if there was any news.
Thank you for putting what we felt that day in such a nuanced and articulate way.
We do respect our administrative law and order. But now a days we are quite missing those things. We want only peace nothing else. Print and electronic media are requested to publish the truth.
Bengal is ruled by a local party..the people here are more concerned about local politics and bengalism…Bengali comes first for 90% of the people here then only the Nation comes.the government,no mater which party’s, use to satisfy the minority for chair. Bengali people pretend to become Bhadro Manus..they only can suppress weaker section in Bengal..such as bihari,gorkhas,south indians and so on. The Press also acts here in the same way. For them Govt come first and the truth later..
Dhulagarh has not even been officially declared a riot. Fair enough I guess, as a riot is not really a riot when only Hindus are affected. In such cases, it is a simple matter of disgruntled minority community giving vent to their “frustration”, and we have to therefore address their “grievances”.
Of course, the bhadralok brigade in Calcutta are still expressing their doubts about the veracity of the incidents, and whispering about possible “aggravating gestures” from the majority community (read RSS) which would have likely incensed the minorities who are always on the boil owing to the aforementioned “grievances”
40% of Bengal today is Muslim, so they are a minority only on paper. If you talk of border districts, the number is as high as 80%.
Mamata has already gone on records saying she supports triple Talaq.
I don’t know what is stopping the imams to start demanding imposition of Sharia in Bengal. Mamta would be only too happy to oblige, and may even extend it to non muslims, as not doing so might “offend the feelings” of the “minority!
@Arnab: Any thoughts on why suddenly Anandabazar has started publishing an article on Bangladesh Cricket almost every day….Given your love of Bangladesh cricket, would be nice to hear your take on it.
I am not Arnab, but I can think of two reasons:-
(1) Circulation (both online and print version) could be one reason.
(2)Anandabazar had put in all its might behind the “jot” (the CPIM+Congress combine) prior to the state elections. The main archotect behind that campaign was Aveek Sarkar, the editor-in-choef. Upon the decimation of the jot, Aveek had to resign, and I can only assume that a new dispensation has taken over, which has different priorities. I can sense a distinct pro-Mamata shift in their news nowadays, accompanied with the usual Modi bashing. It was just the oppsite under Aveek Sarkar. Maybe the Bangladesh cricket coverage is another aspect of the same change in guard…. just guessiing
I am wondering why a Strong BJP Govt at the centre couldn’t do anything about it?
Excellent analysis Arnab. The only positive i see if at all is the BJP campaign in bengal getting a little stronger after this. Bengal definitely needs a move on from TMC, CPM to a party like BJP with strong leadership and clarity of thought. The only issue is Bengal BJP doesn’t have many tall leaders unlike they do in other states and centre.
Bengalis (unfortunately that includes me) deserved this. And Deganga, Canning, Naihati and many more.
Frankly, get circumcised, buy burqas, and be done with it or vote in a VHP / Bajrang Dai type outfit next time (even BJP types won’t do).
There is no middle way now.
This has been happening for long. Take a train from Majherhat after 7pm and in no time you will know. 40 years of opposition to federal government has not helped and now so called mass DD will complete the destruction of WB –