Published On : Mon, May 11th, 2015

Media, your bias is showing. One rule for Arvind and another for Modi?

Rewind back to the gory incident of the first ‘live death’ on Indian TV of Gajendra Singh, farmer from Haryana whose death is still shrouded in mystery… had he climbed the tree just for a lark and then began play acting a ‘suicide scenario’ since it was attracting so much attention? Was he really depressed? Was the suicide note really in his handwriting?

We do not have answers to any of these points yet, and the way the issue has been politicized and polarized, I doubt we ever will.

But even this death scene was no match for the ‘massacre’ that happened on Indian television channels of various AAP spokespersons in the next two days…. the worst being on Times now at the hands of you-know-who, but other Hindi channels were not to be left far behind. They were hounded, castigated, heaped with scorn and almost called cold blooded murderers.

I can say with certainty that it was only the devastating earthquake that happened in Nepal soon after that diverted attention from this one…or it would have been milked further till audiences would groan…”ohh no! not again!”

So when Kejriwal says, media is anti AAP it is not without reason.

The electronic media specially, is definitely partial when it comes to focusing on AK’s (Arvind Kejriwal’s) short comings and ‘mistakes’. If any other leader is faced with a similar situation and reacts similarly, no one even notices it seems!

Just think of Prime Minister Modi’s maiden visit to Dantewada in Chattisgarh. On the day he was to speak, everyone was reporting that some villagers had been kidnapped by Naxalites to prevent them from going for his speech. Some said the number was 200, some 300. Then there was a report that 5 workers had actually been kidnapped and the others had gone to negotiate their release with the abductors.

Modi, nevertheless went ahead with all his scheduled functions. He even gave some doses of advise to the Maoists. The next day 4 villagers were returned alive, and one dead. He had been tried by a ‘kangaroo court’ for working on a government project, found guilty and executed in cold blood.

If press had the inclination, a case could have been made about whether, with the PM being in the area there was enough police force available to go in aid of the villagers or were most of them deployed to guard the security of the VVIP visitor from Delhi – the PM? Could the safety of such a large number of villagers not figured more than the holding of some routine programs? But no one commented on this, the programs went ahead and next day one tribal turned up dead.

If this is not convincingly similar to Kejriwal continuing his speech after Gajendra was brought down and taken to the hospital, almost dead, what about Modi’s meeting in Bihar earlier where a bomb blast killed 6?

To take you back to that day this is what happened –

On 27 October 2013, a series of bomb blasts rocked the Bihar capital Patna at a massive election rally for Modi, who was BJP prime ministerial candidate. Of the estimated 300,000 participants at the “Hunkar” rally, six people were killed and 85 others were injured in eight bomb blasts. The chronology of the bombings were –

The chronology of the bombings were:

  • 09:30 Sulabh Sauchalaya
  • 11:40 near Udyog Bhawan
  • 12:05 near eastern side of Regent Cinema
  • 12:10 near Mohandas Gandhi Statue at Gandhi Maidan
  • 12:15 near Twin Towers of Southern Periphery of Gandhi Maidan
  • 12:20 near State Bank of India (west Gandhi Maidan)
  • 12:25 near Children’s Park (North-western side)
  • 13:35 Modi started his speech.
  • 17:15 inside Gandhi Maidan

So the bombs kept going off, people kept getting injured and dying and the rally went on oblivious of this fact?

Why was this not equally reprehensible as what AK did in Delhi recently?

Forget politics… I recall a cricketing event that happened right here in Nagpur many years ago.

Nine people were killed and 50 injured when a wall collapsed at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground at Nagpur during a one-day international between India and New Zealand on November 26, 1995.

The disaster happened during the lunch interval when, spectators from the third tier of the East Stand were rushing down and those from the second tier were going up to try to get a better view. The staircase wall gave way under the pressure of people. Three youngsters were killed immediately when they plunged 15 metres to the ground. Six more died in hospital. Among the dead was a female engineering student. Some reports spoke of up to 12 dead and 70 injured but these figures were not confirmed.

These facts came out later. I was one of the cricket fans watching the match at home while my daughter was at the stadium with her friends. Suddenly I got a call from a panicky woman from Hyderabad, whose family concern were our business associates. “We have just received a call that our daughter has been seriously injured in some mishap at the stadium and is in hospital…can you send someone there to check?” The lady implored me. I sent an employee to Mayo hospital and what he reported was shocking. He told me the girl was dead, had died instantly when a chunk of the slab fell on her head, and many were injured.

Here at home, on TV, nothing of this was shown or even reported and the match went on to its logical end as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened! So that female engineering student who figures in the news above ? I had the sad task of telling her family about her demise. Why was the match not halted when fans were dying? There would have been a stampede, explained someone later…
So we come back to Kejriwal speaking after Gajendra’s fall from the tree – though he did mention he was going to wrap up his talk fast and go to the hospital ASAP, it was not a ‘valid excuse’. Why was it not considered that there could be a stampede if the meeting was suddenly called off and Kejriwal did not speak despite so many farmers being present just to hear him talk?

The media not taking it up this aspect then or now, does show bias. In fact as a keen observer and being from the media myself, I think this shows an underlying ‘defect line’ in the attitude of much of the TV channels towards fledgeling party AAP. Since Kejriwal, Sisodia, Kumar Vishwas, and even Yogendra Yadav then, were not “seasoned politicians” but literally ‘common people’ ( aam admi) they were dismissed off as riff raff, not to be taken seriously at all. Whether it was the general elections of 2014 or the Delhi Assembly polls in February 2015- and whether it was editorial content or advertising matter – below the belt pot shots were taken at the AAP convener and Delhi CM candidate. As one AAP member from Nagpur points out ” the poll predictions universally kept predicting a BJP win….even the exit polls did not reflect the actual results”.

Factually speaking, the print medium was also not far behind in being totally lined up against AK’s party. Some days after AAP victory in Delhi, I happened to come across the issue of a well respected national weekly magazine that is otherwise known for its fair stance. This weekly had come out with a special issue before the Delhi elections even happened, and the issue was called ” How BJP won Delhi!” This publication had not only declared Modi – Shah combine as winners, but were writing edits about it before the first vote was cast!

The day the results began trickling in and the massive AAP victory and the astounding BJP defeat unfolded was probably the only day that the media took AAP seriously and treated it with some respect.

This respect did not last for a week even. Because by then the channels had got the fodder of Yadav – Prashant Bhushan ‘defection’ from AAP and for a month till the ‘divorce’ happened we were subjected to new leaks, stings and infinite talk shows about how disgraceful all this was.

With this background, can one really find fault with Kejriwal and company feeling the heat and speaking out against it? If he has begun hitting out against this perceived injustice – when was the last time anyone published anything positive about AAP and the Delhi government, if ever? – can he really be called a Dictator wanting Emergency?

There are two sides to every coin – probably we need to flip the coin and look at the other side now!

Sunita Mudiliyar