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The greatest thing about India is it’s secular, inclusive: Photojournalist Steve McCurry

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New Delhi: His boots and cameras have traversed nearly all of the globe, but hold a very special place for one of his favourite places on the earth – India. Steve McCurry, whose camera captured the haunting and iconic “Afghan Girl” for an NG cover, said “secularism and inclusiveness are one of the greatest things about India” although there could be contradictions about the country.

McCurry, one of the most renowned photojournalists in the world, was speaking to IANS from New York, before the launch of his book ‘Steve McCurry: India’ (Phaidon, £39.95, 208 pp), which presents a vibrant India with “contradictions and excitements”, as he terms them.

“The greatest thing about India is it is inclusive and secular. It is a home to people of many religions, castes, and communities. India has always been a place of extreme drama – things constantly fascinating yet equally disturbing. It’s a place of extremes,” McCurry told IANS in a telephonic interview.

He has travelled to innumerable countries, but the “openness and ability to speak freely” in India makes him feel “comfortable and safe”, he said.

As much love as he has for the country, Kashmir posed him with a life-endangering moment while he photographed the conflict-prone state, McCurry said.

“In Kashmir, I felt there was always tension. The time I felt my life was in danger was one time in a taxi from Srinagar to Kargil. There was a convoy at 7 or 8 in the night on very precarious mountain road in Himalayas and we were told to switch off our lights, because there was shelling from the Pakistani side. It was a a very alarming experience,” McCurry explained.

He stepped into India first in 1978, from where he went to Peshawar to photograph the “Afghan Girl” in 1985. Since then, he’s been in India 75 times, spending a total of five years spread over different periods. He holds a “deeper appreciation for the country than a casual traveler,” McCurry said.

McCurry’s picture of the “Afghan Girl” in a red scarf, her green eyes staring intently at the camera, became one of the most famous pictures in the world. He had again located the girl nearly two decades later, but “that isn’t possible at all times, as the interactions happen on a remote level with the subjects”, he said.

There is mystery, contradiction and diversity in a “vibrant and colourful” India, that McCurry displays. In his new book, McCurry captures India through an inverted Taj Mahal in the water, the colours of Rajasthan, the stark contrasts and inequalities India’s cities come with and other striking elements of India.

“India has been very dear, through the conversations I’ve had with people on trains, or being a part of the festivals and many regional characteristics each state holds. Although the whole world is getting globalised, India has a very strong and diverse character, which I don’t see anywhere else,” he said, overwhelmed by his love for this country.

As a photojournalist, McCurry had worked in many conflict situations, like the Afghan Civil War, the Gulf War, Iraq-Iran War and others, capturing on film the “essential soul peeking out and experiences etched on a person’s face” during conflicts.

Asked if he was ever caught in a situation like Kevin Carter (a South African Pulitzer-winning photojournalist who killed himself after his photograph of a starving child waiting to be killed by a vulture was published), deciding whether to press the camera’s trigger or save a life in a conflict zone, McCurry said: “There is no picture worth a human life.”

“There was a time in Afghanistan when a colleague and I shifted this wounded man to hospital and probably saved his life because he wouldn’t have made it through the night. One must work with compassion and there is no picture worth a human life,” he said.

Inspiration for all his impactful photographs comes from his travelling and meeting people, he said, adding that it’s “overwhelming to see the past I have captured through my shots.”

Rubin Museum in New York would be displaying McCurry’s photographs on India from November 18.

McCurry said his next project would be around people reading, where he photographs people reading all around the world in some of the most unusual circumstances.

(Bhavana Akella, IANS)

 

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Brutal media, the beloved minority, and the tortured majority

The media has changed its sphere of projecting people who are national and the anti-national elements are tragically boasted for their deeds

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This glaring aberration in the world of media is visible as clearly as stars in the darkness of the night.
This glaring aberration in the world of media is visible as clearly as stars in the darkness of the night. Wikimedia Commons

I’m afraid, it’s quite clear that the ferocious jaws of the media and the fierce claws of the minority are well up to the annihilation of the whole civilization of the Indian subcontinent. Wake up, wake up from your slumber! The “secularism” is a sharp-edged dagger handed over to you to cut your own root.

– SALIL GEWALI, Shillong

If something that really makes one look at certain reputed media with the eyes of suspicion then it is for their blatant play of double standards. The double standard itself is disgusting. The integrity of the service is greatly compromised here. When such unethical trick is played at the cost of humanity then the consequences could be very disastrous. This could steadily push the society into the sea of frustration. Thereafter the social anarchy.

This glaring aberration in the world of media is visible as clearly as stars in the darkness of the night. Those who are suffering from a varying degree of mental glaucoma may fail to see it.

Have we not witnessed that media fraternity often sets off the alarm bells when the victims of the crime instances are from a “particular community” but it maintains a “brutal silence” when the perpetrators are those it considers minority or Muslim? Yes, the particular minority are eternally beloved, so they are blameless. Even the traitorous terror-makers from the minority are unblemished to such media folks and a major group of columnists associated with the media. That’s why such elite media and its associates zealously stand up to sympathise with terror-sponsored stone-palters in Kashmir, a bunch of secessionists in the academia and so on and so forth.

Also Read: ‘Don’t Sensationalize or Glamorize Suicide’ Asserts WHO ; Says Media Can Play a Significant Role in Preventing Suicides

No wonder if one who sings ‘Vande Mataram’ then he certainly stands to lose the support base of such media, no matter how influential he is, no matter how dedicated and truthful he is. So, I humbly advise any active citizens, particularly those who want to serve the country, not to utter this jingoistic phrase when alone. Better not at all. On the other hand, if you roar – ‘Bharat ke tukde tukde’ or ‘Pakistan Zindabad’, which are heard more aggressively and more frequently these days, then all defensive forces become hyperactive to safeguard you. These subversive activities by any brats will be soon celebrated and interpreted as a part of the fundamental right, that is ‘freedom of expression’. Have we not noticed in Kashmir where CRPF or other security personnel receiving humiliating bashings, the video clips of which often go around on WhatsApp, from the local? And in case the bold security persons retaliate then those elites from their armchairs thunder that the democracy in the country is under threat? The majority are attacking the minority, blah, blah, blah..!

Elite media and its associates zealously stand up to sympathise with terror-sponsored stone-palters in Kashmir.
Elite media and its associates zealously stand up to sympathise with terror-sponsored stone-palters in Kashmir. Wikimedia Commons

I believe everyone knows how certain so-called student leaders often openly incite their unruly crowds at JNU and other academic institutes. But when the questions of sedition are raised against them then the media comes forward to denounce the government. Mr Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya, Shehla Rashid Shora, Mr Jignesh Mewani… are lovable sweeties to those intellectuals because their treacherous adventures make them more cheery and lustier. Each anti-nationalist “scream” by these jerks never get wasted. It is systematically used to degrade the nation, demean the culture and denigrated the religion.

Till some years back college ruffians were nonentities but now they are held all of a sudden as leaders and opinion makers. These dangerous creatures are applauded and discreetly advised how best to go about. Many national political leaders as well jump to embrace and defend these troublemakers. But, on the other hand, the same warmth, attachment, and love are not at all showered upon any patriots by any mainstream media. So, citizens who want to sincerely endeavour to bring peace in the country are not at all given any platform, nor encouraged. Rather, the nation’s lovers are intensely scoffed at. They are non-existent, nay subhuman, to the pseudo-secularists. Of course, those people, often branded as ‘bhakts’, are aptly dragged only to paint them with bad colours.

Also Read: Fuelling propaganda: Has the modern media lost its sense of objectivity?

This Republic day brought a great grief to many. A 22 years old student – Chandan Gupta of Kasganj, UP, was heartlessly murdered. His crime is his participation in the ‘tiranga yatra’ singing Vande Mataram. No noticeable outcry of condemnation from any influential elites. Again, Ankit Saxena, a photographer who loved a Muslim girl, was attacked, and girl’s relatives silt his throat in cold blood. Most of the media carried the news as “honour” killing as if it was in some way justified. What would have happened if the same heinous crime was perpetrated by the majority? It would have been Dadri-2. In another monstrous incident, a BJP party worker Mr Santosh was stabbed to death in Karnataka. The killing of patriots is too frequent in Kerala. But no ‘award wapsi gang’ gets ever freaked out at the news …!

Such brutal attacks upon the majority are a very regular phenomenon. But what is “very less known” to the whole general public is that over 95% of such gruesome attacks, and also various kinds of sexual atrocities upon females of the majority, are “not at all reported”. Only those which can’t be suppressed get published. But they usually die down well before the dead bodies begin to rot. Well, no scream of criticism, no alarm of “intolerance” is ever raised by any over-conscious citizens when the people from the majority are killed. No media panel discussion ever called in otherwise cases. Nor even the condemnation of the “onslaught on the humanity” ever heard.

Kanhaiya-Kumar was responsible for openly inciting unruly crowds at JNU.
Kanhaiya-Kumar was responsible for openly inciting unruly crowds at JNU. Wikimedia Commons

Well, had there not been a double standard in reporting the attacks on the “humanity”, if ever the ‘freedom of expression’ is truly valued, such barbaric perpetrators, no matter which community they are from, would not have at all reared their ugly heads. Is it not probable in near future that those beloved villains might “double-cross” and pose continuous threats that would toll the death nail for the double-tongued journalism, apart from the majority! The prelude to that situation is double clear now than ever before.

Also Read: Macaulay’s harrowing effect on Indian media

Lastly, please note, none of the horrendous crimes by the particular community ever become a “Dadri” — the stench of which is still being felt by our depraved columnists. Is this not a part of the grandiose scheme? The situation is dangerously ominous! I’m afraid, it’s quite clear that the ferocious jaws of the media and the fierce claws of the minority are well up to the annihilation of the whole civilisation of the Indian subcontinent. Wake up, wake up from your slumber! The “secularism” is a sharp-edged dagger handed over to you to cut your own root. This is a bitter truth nobody can refute!