Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Racist Indian Media?

The Racist Indian Media?
by Mayank Krishna
First Published: Feb. 3, 2007

Indian media is racist, albeit of a different kind. It bats for glamour, power, influence, high and the mighty. It seldom plays for people who don't have a voice, are weak and without power or influence. In other words, Indian media practices the fine art of racism of not giving a voice to people without voice, which is essentially at the core of any enlightened media.

The biggest irony with Indian media is its obsession with insignificant issues and its ability to transform such trivial matters into a national debate. At the same time, it is well versed in the fine art of trivializing the significant issues worthy of national debate. More than 50 innocent people, most of them laborers from Bihar, got killed in Assam by outlawed outfit called ULFA and the news hardly created a whisper. Numerous children got physically molested and brutally chopped into pieces by two maniacs in Nithari in Noida and the news lasted just a few days. On the other hand, a silly English lady called names to a not so famous Indian actress on the sets of Big Brother in distant England and that created a national fury in India thanks to the Indian media. It became an issue of national importance and generated many a serious debate on electronic media as if the issue was as serious as Pakistan planning an attack on India! If there is an apt example to explain the meaning of the phrase “blown out of proportion”, it has to be Indian media’s handling of Shilpa Shetty issue.

This is not the first time Indian media is behaving like a bottle fed toddler. The truth is that it is biologically and genetically incompetent to handle issues as per their worthiness. Perhaps the only consideration for Indian media today is – how saleable is the story in generating eye balls. And this phenomenon is not limited to odd issues that crop up from time to time. Blindness of Indian media is omnipresent all the time. The bias is so evident that it stinks.

Take the example of negative stereotyping of Bihar, an economically poor state of India thanks to the myopic policies of Indian government, by the Indian media. Even if something great happens in Bihar, Indian media finds, or perhaps concocts something negative about it and puts it in national glare. And if it can’t find anything negative, it simply ignores the good news. On the other hand, it seldom reports anything bad about so called progressive states of India. Roads of Mumbai are worst of its kind with potholes and craters, but when Indian media has to talk about bad roads, it always moves to Bihar. Rape, murder and abductions are rampant in the economically well of national capital region (NCR) comprising of Delhi, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, Noida, and Faridabad; but when talks of crime start it always moves to Bihar. Talks on caste also lead to Bihar, even though the neighbouring West Bengal never had a single chief minister from the backward class. Talks on corruption again lead to Bihar, when the most corrupt politicians and bureaucrats are in Mumbai!

Bihar is economically and socially poor not because of itself. A large part of blame should go to the policies of central government of India in last 60 years that propped other states on the pillars of prosperity at the cost of development of Bihar. These included unjust allocation of funds meant for development of agriculture, infrastructure, irrigation facilities, etc. These unjust allocations combined with regressive policies like Freight Equalization Scheme virtually destroyed all possibilities of development of industry in Bihar despite abundance of natural resources. Many of us are blissfully ignorant of numerous historical injustices of this kind meted out to Bihar by the economic planners of India. Indian media never highlights this, may be by design or by ignorance.

And the same Bihar, which is trying to rise today from ashes like a phoenix, is today facing the worst kind of reporting racism practiced by Indian media. A few days back, a global Bihari meet was organized in Patna which had eminent speakers like Honourable President of India Mr. A P J Abdul Kalam, noted economist Lord Meghnad Desai, Ex-governor of RBI Mr. C Rangarajan, Chairman of ITC Mr. Y C Deveshwar, and which was well attended by NRIs. The meet was to discuss the agenda of Bihar’s growth and to attract investments. This high profile event was hardly reported in any national media, though local media covered the event on a grand scale. My question: Was it not a duty of any enlightened media to highlight this meet to create positive vibes about Bihar and help it in its endeavour to walk on the path to development? Well, perhaps Indian media was preoccupied with glam doll Shilpa Shetty!

But the irony of all ironies is that even on Shilpa Shetty type issues, Indian media is biased. It talks of racism in case of remarks on Shilpa Shetty. But where was this same Indian media in all its glory when a lower rug Indian actor, Deepak Tijori, made a similar racist comment on Biharis on the Indian reality show called Big Boss? Indian media, it seems, suffers from selective amnesia. Or, does it wear a mask to hide its racist face to fight another racist?

To me, it seems, Indian media has become impotent and it needs a big dose of Viagra to perform like an enlightened media. Amen!

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