By Gaurav Sharma
Media occupies a cardinal place in the functioning of any democracy. As a watchdog, it serves a critical role in ensuring the honest working of the government.
The professional essence of this fourth estate is to provide reliable information based on principles of truthfulness and impartiality.
The mainstream Indian media is, however, totally adrift from such a mode of working. Far from making judicious use of the power of information, it highlights every accident, rape and murder as ‘breaking news’ in a desperate attempt to win over TRP’s from its closest competitor.
Apart from such regular cases of motivated sensationalism, the mainstream media, rather the anglicized media, is characterized by a seething alienation towards the majority section of the Indian populace, the Hindus.
While the Hindus have been subjected to rapidly increasing cases of violence, abuse and inhumane treatment both in India and in foreign lands, the Indian media has willfully remained oblivious of their plight.
Deliberately choosing to magnify sporadic and limited cases of minority discrimination, the media has turned a blind eye to more widespread and regular instances of brutality against Hindus.
The Hindu population in neighboring nations of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka has declined abysmally, a fact which has been either overlooked or subsided by the mainstream media.
In Pakistan, Hindu numbers have declined by a whopping 90 per cent. According to the Pakistani Human Rights Commission, as many as 20-25 cases of abduction and forcible conversion of Hindu women are reported every day. Consequently, a majority of the Hindus have been forced to flee Pakistan.
Also, Hindus now constitute less than 10 per cent of the total population in Bangladesh, down from around 20 per cent in 1972. Cases of violence perpetrated against Hindus, restrictions on the practice of their religion along with exercise of discriminatory property rights abound in erstwhile East Pakistan.
The Tamil Hindus in Sri Lanka are a victim of even greater atrocities. Their religious and civil rights have been curtailed largely due to a large scale Buddhisization of the northern and eastern part of Lanka.
The Centre for Policy Alternatives, a leading think-tank noted in its March 2013 report, “Access to temples in High Security Zones and areas restricted by the military, military intrusion into religious practices and rituals, Buddhist and other religious symbols being set up in the vicinity of Hindu religious sites, allegations of destruction of kovils (Hindu temples with Dravidian architecture) and shrines, concerns of conversions from Hinduism to other religions, are the major impediments Hindus are facing.”
Similar cases of forced conversion, or at the very least, neglect of Hindus have resulted in the marginalization of Hindus in Fiji, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Malaysia. Majority of them have migrated to USA or UK in search for a better and more respectable life.
The Indian media has remained a mute spectator throughout this religious persecution, a carnage that has engulfed the Hindus right in their own backyard.
The government is equally negligent of the gruesome subversion of Hindus. Israeli violence against Palestinians in Gaza finds a mention in the Indian Parliament, while a puny utterance of the dismal condition of Hindu refugees seems like a Herculean task for the politicos.
The main reason for such a hypocritical and seemingly biased behaviour, both by the government and the media, stems from a warped interpretation of Secularism.
Secularism means segregation of religious and spiritual matters from governance. However, in India, this entails financial and legal privileges for those belonging to religions other than Hinduism.
Such a narrow perception of secularism is ingrained and embedded in the modus operandi of the mainstream media in the country. For example, while the Godhra riots are castigated as communal violence against Muslims, the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits barely finds a mention in the mainstream media discourse.
There is enough evidence to cite that the Godhra riots began as a retribution of the burning of a train which had killed 58 Hindu pilgrims and religious workers.
However, the Indian media chose to showcase the state government under the leadership of the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as complicit in the mass killing of Muslims, a charge which the Special Investigation Team (SIT), under the Supreme Court outrightly rejected.
The demolition of Babri Masjid is another case which was widely sensationalised by the media. However, the desecration of a wide number of temples (208) in Kashmir, which followed the fall of Babri Masjid failed to find a place in the media reportage.
More than 75 historic temples in Bangladesh were destroyed in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid tragedy. Similar large scale attacks on Hindu places of worship in Pakistan and other neighbouring countries could not alter the media’s one-pointed, belligerent discourse on Hindutva.
The media failed or chose to remain silent on Allahabad High Court’s crucial observation discrediting the testimonies of historians and archaeologists who appeared on behalf of the Sunni Waqf board.
Another example of the one-sided media approach towards contentious issues is the phenomenalization of the banning of Wendy Doniger’s book, The Hindus: An Alternative History. At the same time, the media was mum on author Tasleema Nasreen’s horrendous assailment at the hands of Islamist mobs.
The media became fixated with the ban, which was attained through constitutional means but remained oblivious to Tasleema’s plight, after the criticism of Islam forced her to shift home from Calcutta due to violent protests from MIM leaders.
The media bias does not end here. There has been a furore over mass conversions of Muslims and Christians into Hindus, under the creation of a ‘Ghar-Wapsi’ campaign.
On the other hand, the evangelising and proselytizing of Hindus, which has continued since independence and much before that, through billions of dollars of Church grants, escapes the short-sighted glance of the Indian media.
Such religious apathy inevitably translates into selective presentations and motivated reporting that has now become a vital part of the Indian media functioning. By undermining fairness, truth and objectivity, the basic planks of journalistic ethics, the Indian media is doing a great disservice to the nation.
Introspection holds prime import for the Indian media, if it does not want to lose the tiny shred of credibility that covers its naked body.