Ever since the Delhi Gangrape tragedy and the death of the victim almost everyone is talking about women. Er… let me correct that. Everyone is talking about Indian women. Not good enough; let me correct it again. Everyone is talking about ‘Hindu’ women. There’s only one group of women in India (or Bharat if you like) and that is “Hindu women”. From ‘Karwa Chauth’ to ‘Mangalsutra’ to ‘Clothing’ to ‘Marriage’ the Hindu woman has been analysed every which way. Sheela Bhatt on Rediff even wants us to answer a question: “Are you a 21st century man”? And I’m still checking the boxes in her questionnaire with hope that it doesn’t prove I’m from Jurassic Park. She also suggests the ‘Mangalsutra’ is a symbol of inferior status of Hindu women. Even Swami Vivekananda wasn’t spared for his “masculine pose” being somehow connected with the Gangrape or condition of women in general.
What was the response of our media to the entire episode? Well, it started with a report, then covered protests and before long it had predictably turned into a circus. Trust the creativity of our media folks. Even in tragedy our media editors (they have a union too) couldn’t get together and decide on one single ID for the victim. They wouldn’t use her real name since the law prohibits naming a victim. So TOI came up with ‘Nirbhaya’, someone else came up with ‘Braveheart’ and, of course, NDTV came up with the very secular ‘Amanat’. They didn’t stop there. Each one was trying to outdo the other with debates and campaigns. CNN-IBN started with “Stop this shame” and has now shifted to “Agenda for change”. NDTV did a run of old and new “We the Peepli” with previous victims and ran high on emotions. What about TimesNow? They even started searching: “Where is my India”? My naming a few channels doesn’t exempt others who haven’t been named. The people protesting in Delhi came up with a name too: “Damini”. That is from a 1993-movie about bringing rapists to justice. Funnily, Damini is not a “victim” in that movie. Since the incident and till the death of the victim and after, rapes have been reported by the dozen from everywhere. Some as gruesome as the incident in Delhi!
While their theatrics continued, none from our media seriously bothered to even investigate the full and real story about the Delhi incident. Everyone was busy discussing patriarchal society, changing mind-sets, tougher laws… Blah, blah and another big blah! On January 2 Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit led a march with hundreds of women to Rajghat for “Women’s Dignity”. Heard anything more ironical? But the media let it pass. If some other party had done this our media would have screamed “let’s not politicise this”. There are answers to this. I recommend you read “Delhi’s Broken Windows” if you haven’t already. Every crime from the smallest offences to the most high-level corruption and criminal activities seem to be okay with some of our govts. Each time you come across an ordinary auto or taxi in these places it’s your ‘moment of truth’ with these broken windows. Even Delhizens put off their sorrow and turned up to watch the Indo-Pak cricket match on January 6. This included politicians and ordinary folks. I’m deliberately avoiding mentioning the bizarre utterances of some of our media folks.
Even in analysing rape-crimes it wasn’t any Indian media house but the WSJ’s IndiaRealtime that at least dug up the statistics and presented a graphic view of the crime zones. It won’t take an expert to understand that North India accounts for a big chunk of rape-crimes. There is no reason to believe it would be any different on other crimes. It’s not just rape-culture; it’s a general crime-culture that dangerously survives in the entire zone. East is another danger zone too. The other zones simply need to see this as a warning signal. As Al Capone would say: Life goes on!
Ajay Singh, Managing Editor of Governance Now, summed it up quite accurately in an article with the most accurate headline: “Media helping Govt replace Gangrape reality with mythology”. It couldn’t have been said better. Our media was, in fact, in a major cover-up operation of all the bungling and absolutely pathetic response to the victims and thereafter. The police arguing over jurisdiction, which hospital to take the victims to, public transport and citizens not helping. Do read the full article but the following excerpt sums it up:
“On the other hand, the state, rattled by the outpouring of people's anger, took the shield of law and morality to prevent skeletons tumbling out of its cupboard. In fact, the fierceness with which the Delhi police have been trying to guard the identity of the victim and her friend is no match for its efficiency in tackling the crime. That is why the Delhi police are so shaken by the Zee News interview with the victim's friend. The friend’s narrative of the events on that dark night was in stark contrast to the myths woven around the victim by the state and a pliant media. The state's hideous face was exposed and its efforts to keep the ghastly incident "faceless" blown to bits. The cases filed against newspapers and journalists for revealing the true story is a panic reaction of the state whose project to efface the memory of the Delhi rape victim and replace it with a convenient mythical narrative through mainstream outlets was suddenly grounded. (Why is there no outrage at this sordid intimidation of the media?) One simple question, "whose interest does it serve to hide her identity even after her death?" The rape victim’s name and identity are known in her home town in Ballia and entire eastern UP. In Delhi, everybody who matters to the family knows the identity and there is no indication that the family is facing any trouble because of that. The family itself has said that they are not scared of revealing their identity or ashamed of living on as the family of a rape victim. It is only the state and a section of the mainstream media which are keen on perpetuating the myths to obliterate the reality”.
The first news-site to cover the story’s stark tragedy and the family’s extreme sorrow was, again, not from India. It was the UK’s Mirror. It revealed the name of the victim and the ordeal the family was and is still probably going through. Hiding behind pseudonyms given to the Gangrape victim the Indian media cleverly didn’t tell the real story at all. India Today was the first group to reveal the woman’s identity though on December 31 and also narrate the sorry tale of the timeline from the time the woman was taken to hospital to her death. Even her shift to Singapore sounds fishy as many suspect. The victim’s friend, Awindra Pandey, narrated his version of the story to Zee News and the Delhi police promptly decided to prosecute the channel. The rest of the media shamefully watched this atrocity of Delhi police and not a sound came out in support of Zee News except the India Today group who repeated the interview. The so-called moral brigade of TimesNow, CNN-IBN and NDTV simply buried the story. In another article called “The Unforgiven” India Today profiles the “Savage Six”. The one named “Rahul” was reportedly the most violent of the lot. If he turns out to be a minor he may get away lightly. No one is willing to address him with his “real” name. I wonder if the Youth Congress will burn India Today copies in protest.
While allotting pseudonyms to victim and narrating stories from the past it looks like our media was mostly busy with covering-up the truth behind the whole tragedy. They found useful idiots from politics and other fields to issue silly statements to divert from the issue as well. One has to wonder if the media is fixing the holes on behalf of the authorities. Are these channels people’s messengers or govt’s ‘plumbers’ fixing the leaks?