Democracy’s best

Posted in media, society by stories of an authentic self on October 18, 2009

One of the latest shots at disestablishing the Maoist ideology has been the media blitz, launched by the Home Ministry, declaring the naxals as terrorists. Newspapers will now run graphic  advertisements carrying pictures of civilians killed by naxals with the tag-line calling the naxals “cold blooded murderers” of  “innocent people”.

This to me has been India’s most blatant attempt at “manufacturing consent”.  Such consent is manufactured by governments which shut out sources of media that are at odds with the government’s stand on certain issues, thus leading to a depreciation in readership/viewership and failing sales of that source. To avert such isolation by the State, newspapers and news-channels often present news in ways agreeable to the State and by extension, agreeable to the interests of the dominant societal groups, by curtailing critical voices of minorities that might possibly hold adverse views. This inevitably leads to the imposition of a pool of “thinkable” thought on the people, founded and buttressed on State sponsored notions and ideologies.

The government’s anti-naxal advertisements take Chomsky’s pet theory to a whole new level, given that it is no secret that the Government’s sponsoring these ads. However, the anti-naxal news reporting has been emphasised on to such an extent that the State-sponsored targeting of civilians and gross human rights abuses by the Salwa Judum and the police receive little or no mention in the news at all. The media’s decidedly one-sided orientation in its reporting of the violence in the states of Chattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand etc. extends till date; consider the continued references to the Salwa Judum as “government-backed vigilante movement that arms ordinary people to counter naxalites” and suchlike. The State backed targeting of civilians finds no public outlet, as national and local media defer the “free media” ideal to corporate and State interests.

The cover-story of India Today, October 26th 2009 is on the naxal issue and the State’s new plan of action to counter the Maoist violence. It talks of how the Maoists claim to be fighting for the rights of the poor, but have been accused of extortion of money and attempts to control whole villages. While the tenor of the entire article is along these lines and decidedly pro-State, the article does at one make a tangential mention to police and other atrocities. It reads:

…Till now, counter-insurgency operations have been hampered by the collateral damage with police and paramilitary forces unable to tell civilians from militants and cases where Maoists have used villagers as human shields, leading to civil libertarians crying hoarse.

It would hardly be apt to refer to all the Salwa Judum’s activities, ranging from eviction of tribals to murder and rape of tribals as collateral damage that was incidental to counter-insurgency operations. Tribals that had fled to jungles were presumed to be naxals, and were brought within the sweep of the operations. Hardly collateral damage.

A couple of days ago, I remember pointng out to Nehaa the imbalanced, almost skewed opinion of the public on an issue so grave as the naxal violence.  The letters to the editor of The Hindu, dated 14th October had 11 entries from readers, only one of which had a remotely non-anti-naxal take on the issue. It’s surprising that such consensus can possibly be reached on an issue as contentious. Is this the extent to which the Indian democracy seeks to influence public mindset?

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  1. Kurtkoti said, on October 24, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    The use of ‘democracy’ in that last sentence is obviously ironic.
    There’s been a spate of recent instances in the news lately pointing at the decidedly undemocratic employment of manufacturing consent- from something like ‘Odisha’ (funnily enough, I had to read about this on Something about the law as opposed to an actual newspaper- only further proving their point) to the far more malicious campaign against the DHRM in Kerala. All dissent is somehow made sinister and the majority gladly buys into it.
    What’s also appalling is how little concern is elicited towards the numerous, historically marginalised peoples whose lives will no doubt either be lost or changed irrevocably from this very considerate move on the government’s part. As if it wasn’t bad enough that their habitats were already being signed away for our so-called economic gains.
    The dominant voice has for long had its claws sunken into our psyche and if this is how the government of a supposedly democratic state is going to behave, said claws are not just going to symbolically draw blood.

  2. Kurtkoti said, on October 24, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Um. I meant for above comment to be taken in context also with the planned armed operations against the Naxals in some tribal areas.

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