Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Media's surprising softness towards Maoists: Even terms like 'militant', 'radical' or 'left-wing extremists' not used after seven policemen killed in blast

Seven commandos were killed in a Maoist attack in Gadchiroli in Maharashtra on May 11. As expected, this incident wasn't treated as a major news on electronic media throughout the day.

But what was more surprising was that the newspapers seem to have gone extra soft towards Naxalites. There was a time, till a few months ago, when terms like 'Red terrorists', 'Left-wing extremists', 'Leftist militancy' or 'Radicals' were used after such acts.

However, none of the newspapers used these words. Even words like 'explosion' and 'blast' were avoided. The headlines were too simple like 'Seven policemen killed in Gadchiroli' or 'Maoist attack leaves 7 cops dead in Maharashtra'.

Of course, one doesn't expect 'screaming headlines' when a group other than suspected jihadis commit an act of any magnitude. But on this occasion, even the shock or anger over so many deaths was missing in the newspaper reports.

The words used were not terrorists, extremists or militants, but REBELS, MAOISTS et al. Terminology, words play a very important role. Either the choice is deliberate or you just don't get the words while writing on killings by a group though you seethe with anger when the killers are different, leaves a lot to think.

It has impact on society too. Naxal attack won't anger society as much, as newspapers and TV channels largely ignored it. One or two papers took it on their front page. A 'powerful IED' was used to engineer the blast that targeted police vehicle and later there was indiscriminate firing on police personnel.

But neither the cops were 'blown up' or 'butchered' in media reports. They were just killed. Plain, straightforward reporting. At places, 'suspected Maoist rebels' was used. The use of words can increase or decrease gravity of any incident. The difference in coverage of incidents, shapes public perception.

When there is such one-sided, blatantly biased reporting in cases where certain groups are suspect, and on the other hand softness shown towards certain others, it raises questions. Generally, there is anger over death of men in Khaki. No panel discussions were held in studios in the evening.

Strangely, it appeared that these deaths were nothing 'unusual', unlike other cases when even 'no death, just injuries' in a 'terror strike' is seen as 'attack against nation'. Incidents like killing of 30-odd Congress leaders and policemen in Chhattisgarh were almost termed like terror attacks, but a lot seems to have changed.

Compare to Chennai incident, Bodoland killings

Now see the difference. Take the recent case of the blast in a compartment in a train in Chennai recently that killed 1 passenger (a woman). Even before it was clear that whether it was indeed a bomb or something else, the names of Muslim outfits were poured by anchors. Also, it was dubbed 'terror strike' instantly.

This was the lead news of all newspapers. There has been no arrest so far and yet, the follow-ups continued for days.And just for the sake of record, we must talk about another incident--a genocide or a pogrom in North East.

When 46 Muslims were killed in Bodoland region in Assam recently, the killers were termed as 'separatists' and 'insurgents'. At a couple of places, the word militant was used too. NDTV used the term 'violence' in Bodoland, so that the group involved in the attack, wasn't even named.

Word play, isn't it! Shouldn't we wonder, why?