`Divisive' media report sparks row

BY TERESA REHMAN| IN Media Practice | 15/09/2011
"Come One, Come All" was the slogan at the Nyishi Dignity Rally on September 13. A report in the Times of India which was critical of the Nyishi tribe has brought the community together in a concerted effort to get to the root of the story.
TERESA REHMAN reports. Pix: The rally at Itanagar
After waiting for justice for several months the Nyishi tribe of Arunachal Pradesh came out in a huge rally at Itanagar to demand action on a report they dubbed as being communally insensitive and aimed at dividing the state. “Come One, Come All” was the slogan at the Nyishi Dignity Rally on September 13. Scores of people from the tribe, the single largest tribe of the state, thronged the state capital with umbrellas to beat the scorching heat at the rally organized by the All Nyishi Student’s Union (ANSU) and the Nyishi Elite Society (NES). 
The cause of their ire was a report which had ‘derogatory’ remarks against the Nyishis published in The Times of India on May 4. This news report by Pradeep Thakur is alleged to have drawn a wedge between the different tribes of the state and the protestors smell a larger political conspiracy, including the involvement of the present chief minister Jarbom Gamlin. The report stated that Nabam Tuki, who was a frontrunner in the race for the Arunachal Pradesh chief minister’s post after the death of Dorjee Khandu, belonged to the "Nyishi tribe, which doesn't enjoy a good rapport among other tribes".
The massive rally was organized after five months of protests including three bandh calls by the ANSU. They gave a seven-day ultimatum to the government to solve the issue and meet their main demands - immediate arrest of Thakur, unconditional apology, revelation of source of derogatory remarks and detailed call records of his two phone numbers.
The protests started right after the report was published. ANSU had lodged an FIR with Arunachal Pradesh Director General of Police demanding Thakur’s arrest for disturbing communal peace. On May 13 ANSU had submitted memorandum demanding an enquiry and action. As a knee-jerk reaction, a committee headed by Minister of Health and Family Welfare Attum Welly, was formed. The government also formed a second committee headed by state Home Minister Takar Marde but it could come to no logical conclusion.
On the other hand, the Times of India Group has pulled down the content that offended the Nyishi Community and has apologized on May 26, 2011. They wrote, “We wish to state that the report, which has since been removed from the website, was based on the assessment in political circles here, and that we did not intend to hurt the sentiments of Nyishis or any other community. We regret any offence that we may have inadvertently caused and wish the best to the people of Arunachal Pradesh.” Thakur has also tendered an unconditional apology but the agitated tribes have not been pacified as the source of the remarks has not been divulged nor have the details of call records been given. Organisations like the All Mishmi Students Union(AMSU) and Dibang Adi Students Union (DASU) also condemned the news report by Thakur.
"This sort of negative mindset by mainland Indian people does not augur well for a secular country like India," DASU stated in a press release. In a poignant comment to the media, the president of the ANSU said, “India is a democratic country. Each one of us has our own set of responsibilities including the media which has been endorsed by the Constitution of India. The strength of the Constitution lies on ‘We the People’. And you can see the people here.”
Interestingly, this mass rally against a media report was extensively covered by the local and regional media. In fact, NETV, a satellite channel aired from Guwahati even covered the rally live. And one of the organizers of the rally was effusive in thanking the print and electronic media for their support.
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