Thursday, July 18, 2019

Shameful role of Hindi newspapers in spreading lawlessness, mob violence and hate crimes: How can goons be termed 'gau rakshak' or gau bhakt'?

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Role of newspapers in giving legitimacy to lynchers and goons by calling violent mob as 'rakshak' [protector] or 'gau bhakt', is a common practice in North India.

In fact, this needs to be said clearly and more forcefully now as India has seen rise in hate crimes and mob attacks in recent years. There are circumstances that are created which embolden the members of these self-styled Senas and Dals. And vernacular media plays a significant role in it.

I will give an example. A couple of days ago in a city in MP, goons claimed that they got whiff of 'cattle transporters & meat trafficking', hence they gathered and attacked the transporters, beat them up. Subsequently, the injured persons were handed to the police.

But one of the papers on front page gave a headline that termed them as valiant warriors. This vigilantism and lawlessness was praised and the term 'gaubhakt' was used to make this act sound 'positive' though no police statement was mentioned in the report so that reader could have got the correct facts a bout the incident. 

Yet another Hindi paper that is based in UP, highlighted the vigilantes' excesses but still called them, 'gau bhakts' [See photo]. The 'gau rakshak' is not an honorific or a post for anybody taking law in their hands and committing violence. But newspapers term them 'gau-bhakts'--i.e. those who serve the cows or cow protectors.

A similar incident had occurred in Khandwa recently, when many people were accused of transporting cows. These people were beaten up, tied to a rope and humiliated. Those who committed this insane act are not shown negatively in Hindi media.

In fact, those people who were mistreated, beaten and humiliated, were seen as cow traffickers even though there was no police probe over by then or any proper briefing to media that whether they had documents or not (and whether transportation was an illegal act, at all!).

This was an unfortunate incident. The victims included mostly poor Hindus and a couple of Muslims too. But more than that, it is about human dignity.

Just think of it--Indian citizens were humiliated on their own land. How can anyone can beat them up, round up, force them to chant slogans and tie them up. It is cops' job to act or check papers or this has been outsourced to vigilantes!

However, the character and composition of newsrooms in Hindi media is such that there is always a clear bias and support for right-wing goons.

When Hindi media treats this sort of lawlessness as a positive act--majority of people in newsrooms support these Dals-Senas from their hearts, have power to create false perception, change opinion & such page 1 coverage pushes govt-cops to wall, what's the hope?

They write as if the vigilantes had the right to catch and beat the people. Just see the headlines and the reports, you will realise this sympathy and support, putting the vigilantes on a higher pedestal. Readers get impression that these vigilantes are doing something right. Also, in process the belief in system and police is affected.

Naturally when majority of people who form opinion on the basis of these mass-selling papers, read daily about gaurakshaks and the 'supposed bhakshaks', the biases are strengthened. Media in India can't escape the blame as it is responsible for the situation, for this divide in society, weakening the nation & institutions.