The same old indifference

From the time of immolation to the death announcement, there was enough time to collect and telecast the news nationally. But it found no space in the national media,
writes JAYANTA MADHAB TAMULY. PIX: News Time Assam

It was at 4.30 pm on February 24, 2014, when the Guwahati Medical college authority in Assam officially announced that Pranab Boro, one of the protesters of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, succumbed to his severe burn injuries in the hospital. PranabBoro, one of the active members of the organisation that has been demanding land patta (ownership right over land) over the years, set himself ablaze in front of the Assam Secretariat on February 24 morning, at about 9.30. Later on, he was admitted to the hospital where he died.

The immolation was covered by the local electronic media at length, along with talk shows and discussions on the issue. Even though their ways of covering the incident could be questioned, the better part was that the at least the state media took notice.

I searched most of the national channels, from the very “sophisticated” and “responsible” ones to the popular as well as the provocative ones; I could hardly find a single mention of the news. This issue has been of great significance, as 24th was the day when the Assam chief Minister organised another ceremony to grant legal pattas to another set of people. Instead of taking any step to meet the historical demands of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, which has been fighting for the right of ownership of land of the residents of the hills, wetlands and forest surrounding Guwahati, the Government issued pattas to a different section. Moreover, it was the day predating the much awaited visit of Rahul Gandhi as a part of the electoral campaign. After the success of Modi’s visit in the state, Rahul Gandhi’s visit gave rise to a lot of critical discussion.In such a situation, the self–immolation of a common man (a carpenter by profession), even led to a sort of political buzz.

Though Boro’s is not the first case of self-immolation from the northeast, it is the first case in Assam and the issue raises a lot of questions regarding the ways opted to protest, the adequacy of security measures during such potentially vulnerable protest activities, the instigation and aggressiveness factors, state of democratic rights and most importantly the crucial time of the incident–in this case the pre Lok Sabha election days.

From the time of immolation to the death announcement of the person, there was enough time—spanning almost eight hours--to collect and telecast the news. Does the national media consider the news to be so worthless even to be put on the scroll? While our media always cries for the rights and violations upon the common man, why do they not care for such incidents?

It leads to the same old doubt over the role of national media-- is it because it happened in the northeast? If so, again the same frustration haunts our minds- why the indifference? If the tag of National Media stands for all the twenty nine states in our country, why is the media only focused on the capital and its surrounding regions?

Do we have a different connotation of the term “national” in case of news and information? It hardly justifies its old pride of being the fourth pillar of our democracy. Lots of people of this region reside outside and they may not have the facility to enjoy the services of all the regional channels and newspapers. Only a small fraction of these people go for internet based news.

So, it is the duty of the national media to cover such incidents and let the people know, inform and react. Unfortunately, the national media remains completely silent on the issue which not only proves their indifference, but also their failure to play their role properly. Such indifferences can be viewed as their silent support to the violation of the Right to Information of the common people.

The irony doubles when the same media runs after Rahul Gandhi and his talks. How can the national media play such a shameful role, rejecting a sensitive issue occurred just one day before and running after the “Yuvraj” and his speeches? As lay people and socially responsible citizens, we believe that media should be informative and sensitive to the expectations of the common men. But, in spite of the constant criticism and demands, the so called national media of the largest democracy, behaves with the same old indifference towards this region.

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