Monday, September 21, 2015

Media disinterest, silence on Jhabua blast: Why it was not considered a major news, extremists' links not probed?

It may seem a bit late to comment on the deadly blast in Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh that resulted in death of 104 persons.

But, it is still pertinent to ask why an explosion that led to such a large number of deaths apart from injuries to hundreds, was not considered a breaking, national news?

The fact as we all know is that the explosion took place at the restaurant of Rajendra Kaswa in Petlawad town in Jhabua (MP) on September 12.

Here are certain points about the incident that comes to one's mind and the questions about role of investigative agencies and media.

Reflections on Petlawad explosion in Jhabua

1. Such was the severity of the explosion that the bodies were blown to pieces and victims' couldn't be identified. The body parts were found strewn into the area. Yet most of the TV channels ignored it, and it was not carried as first lead despite the number of deaths.

2. Jhabua is located in Western part of MP, on the border of Gujarat. Western MP and Malwa region (around Indore) are known for habouring extremists of both the religious communities--Hindu and Muslim.

3. Not just right-wing radicals involved in Samjhauta Express strike, Mecca Masjid Hyderabad blast, Malegaon blast and Ajmer Dargah terror strike, belonged to this region of MP, the region produced radical Muslims too.

4. Strangely, the 'terror' angle was not discussed at all. Our security experts and top journalists on 'national security beat', who rush to 'conclusions' minutes after a minor blast, didn't pay any attention to this incident, and none bothered to visit MP.

5. Such was the neglect that even after 24 hrs, certain top media groups kept running the story [report] as 'deaths due to cylinder blast'. It was assumed initially that it was LPG cylinder blast [despite the enormity of the mishap]. Can cylinder blast leave such destruction and devastation across a vast area?

6. Even though it became clear that this was because of huge quantity of explosives stored that included gelatin rods and detonators, there was no attempt to correct it.

Actually, the so-called national media was mostly not following it up, at all. There was no attempt to even look into the possibility that such a huge cache of explosives was kept for any disruptive purpose? Everyone seemed to already made up their mind, that it was for 'illegal mining'.

7. Jhabua was not TRP though another town in faraway West Bengal where none had died in a blast had got TRP a few months back. The 'all-knowing sleuths' in law-enforcement agencies that tip journalists were also missing in action.

8. Neither NIA or ATS teams seemed to be interested in even looking at the case despite that it was the worst explosion in terms of deaths in central India ever, and also among the worst in India. In a case like Burdwan (WB), top security experts were ready to rush there.

9. In the past, when there was no blast, and no death, still, just recovery of explosives from 'Muslims' led to immediate conclusion that it was 'terror plot' that was unravelled. But here, even after 104 deaths, there was no interest in investigating.

10. Even UAPA was not invoked on the absconder, when the FIR was registered in this case. Was it because the person owning the restaurant doesn't have a Muslim name? If this is true, then that's a very sad situation for this nation, the media and the society.

Role of 'national media' in covering the tragedy at Jhabua

How long will Muslims suffer and face suspicion just because of their religion, while others get away for the same reason. Rajendra Kaswa is the main accused and remains absconding even though ten days have passed after the huge explosion that ruined lives of more than 100 families in Madhya Pradesh.

No wonder, people question media credibility, and ask how media can be so biased, one-sided and show such double standards?

Media has responsibility towards people, as it helps in forming opinions.

The local newspapers, specially, Hindi press in Madhya Pradesh, comparatively focused much more on the incident, as it was a local issue.

But for national media it was not even the lead news for a day.

But the local media too didn't at all consider it as 'terror angle', and for them it was just a 'mishap' that was a result of irregularities--availability of explosives for mining, and storing them, in violation of norms.

When there are clearly different sets of reporting standards in newspapers and TV channels, people do have the right to question its fairness. Will Indian journalists look inward, do introspection and take corrective measures? Any chance!
[Photos: Courtesy Patrika newspaper website]