Rendering statements provocative

BY Madabhushi Sridhar| IN Media Practice | 03/08/2013
The TRS chief has long been discovering the mischief that media can do and the coverage of his speech to government employees yesterday was a potent instance,
says MADABHUSHI SRIDHAR. PIX: TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao

The media misinterprets, misquotes or quotes one or two sentences out of a statement, which can put a politician in a very embarassing position. A recent example is the reporting of a statement made by Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR).

While attending the August 2 meeting of Telangana non-gazetted officers, KCR said:, "After division of the state Telangana employees have to be in the Telangana Government, for that they have to come back from wherever they are and Andhra employees will be part of Andhra Government, for which they have to go from Hyderabad wherever the capital is built.  The employees will not get any options, when a division leads to distribution of employees they have to go as decided." 

The Hans India daily on August 3, 2013 reported his statement thus: "Government employees whoever had come from the Andhra region have to go back to their respective places, since the Andhra Pradesh Government has to function there. They have no other options, KCR observed….He made it clear that he had never put the Andhra employees to any sort of inconvenience." 

Hindustan Times reported: "Andhra employees working here should move back to their respective places. Telangana people would work in our government. Andhra people can work for the government there," Rao said in Hyderabad. The statement quoted was correct, but it was preceded with this sentence: "Even as Seema-Andhra burned for the third consecutive day in protest of a decision to divide Andhra Pradesh, K Chandrasekhara Rao, political face of the Telangana movement made an explosive comment that could add fuel to the anti-Telangana fire."

The Government Order 610, issued in 1985, was to correct a situation where thousands of jobs in Telangana region were held by Andhra people. Some estimates put this at close to 50,000 - most of them in police and school education. This order was given pursuance of Presidential Orders 1975 as per Article 371D which empowered the President to secure equitable employment opportunity for people belonging to different regions. This Article was the result of the agitation by Telangana supporters in 1969 and the Jai Andhra agitation in 1972. The state was divided into zones and the proportion of employees belonging to that zone, and that of others, was prescribed in Presidential Orders. But this was violated left right and center, which was established by Girglani Commission appointed by AP Government. 
Yesterday KCR was referring to his earlier statement (couple of years ago) about Telangana wala jago and Andhra wala bhago (Telangana man wake up and Andhra man go away). He said that the 610 GO and the division of state into zones as per Presidential Order 1965 necessitate that a scheduled percentage of employees must be essentially from the same zone, and if found in excess they should be repatriated.

This was supported by Girglani, the IAS, senior officer who studied the implementation of this GO and Presidential Order and recommended repatriation of thousands of employees from Hyderabad. KCR said that they should go which was the meaning of his comment that Andhra wala bhago. Only this part of the clip was shown on TV deleting context in which it was made. Though print media covered it as a news item, TV bombarded him only using the video clip which embarrassed him. He explained it yesterday, yet his other comments were again shown again in the same way. 

The fact is that every successive government has violated this government order. When Chandrababu Naidu was the chief minister, he got the breaches in 610 GO over seven years ratified by securing an executive amending order by the government in 2000. All this discrimination is at the root of agitation for a separate state. 

When a state is divided distribution of employees is a natural consequence. The meet being the program of Telengana Non-Gazetted Officers (TNGOs), there was detailed discussion on transfer of employees, leaves, salary and related issues of employees during the strike period, vacancies and promotions. 

Though the speech was half-an-hour long and was aired live, the electronic media clipped out one sentence "Andhra employees should go to Andhra to be part of Andhra Pradesh Government" leading to many interpretations like: KCR threatened Andhras to leave Hyderabad, employees belonging to Seemandhra are unsafe here… etc.  He spoke in Telugu. Telugu channels do not translate. It is difficult to bring true sense in another language. What they do is they simply take out a clip and show it repeatedly. English newspapers translate, but there is less scope for twisting. Telugu sentences are twisted by Telugu channels. 

The selective reporting of KCR's statements immediately caught attention of the people striking in Seemandhra, who are opposing the split of Andhra Pradesh since July 31, 2013. Hundreds of effigies of KCR were burnt, people performed KCR's last rites with his photograph and people even hurled unparliamentary expressions at KCR which were aired on small screen. The anti-Telangana media immediatly organised debates in their studios where the leaders of the Telugu Desam Party and the Congress, belonging to coastal Andhra, used harsh language accusing KCR of provoking attacks against Andhra residents in Hyderabad. 

In fact, KCR said that as long as they build the capital, they will be our guests, kadupulo pettukuni aadaristam (We protect by embracing them). This statement was left out of all the media coverage. No TV channel carried this clip which could have been construed as reassuring people. 

In Narsipatnam police station of Vishakha, after yesterday's speech a criminal case registered was against KCR under sections 107,109,153,153A, 153B, 383, 505, 506, dealing with abetment, threats, provocation of breach of peace, provoking hatred between castes and communities etc. 

The employees at the Secretariat were divided long ago into AP NGO's Association and Telangana NGO's Association. On August 3, the clashes between these two groups were reported in Hyderabad over the remarks of KCR. The TDP leader Somireddy Chandramohan Reddy said "true colors of KCR are out". INC minister Sailajanath commented that KCR's remarks were unconstitutional. 

After all the coverage of KCR's statement's when the TRS explained the context and the exact sentences said by him, the media again took it the wrong way and reported that the TRS became defensive after serious opposition to KCR remarks. The TV channels repeatedly reported the statements and the counter statements on these remarks that "even green grass gets ignited if placed between AP NGOs and TNGOs because of KCR" (Pacchha gaddi vesthe bhaggumantundi). 

Even before his remarks were misinterpreted, KCR had said, "I am a victim of media's misreporting several times… you do not know how much I suffered because of irresponsible twisting of my statements by Seemandhra media". 

The media should have noticed that entire agitation since last nine years was peaceful without a single incident of attack on non-Telangana persons. It was unfair for the politicians to use the out of context remarks to provoke people. While KCR should have avoided the remarks when the situation was turbulant, it was highly inappropriate of the media to use his statements to add fuel to the agitation in Seemandhra.

Madabhushi Sridhar, Professor & Coordinator, Center for Media Law & Public Policy, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad
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