Gujarat has been burning for last three days. This is the first time in 13 years that the state has experienced such a large-scale violence.
More than 100 buses have been set ablaze, around 1000 private vehicles burnt and more importantly nine people including one policeman have been killed. The death toll could be even higher given that obtaining information from here in the current circumstances has been an uphill task.
Let’s not forget what the state has been witnessing since the evening of 25 August, when the brief detention of the 21-year-old leader of Patel community, Hardik Patel, prompted people to go on a rampage across Gujarat. Within hours, it became impossible for the state government to control the growing incidents of arson and clashes between the protesters and police in cities like Ahmedabad, Surat, Mehsana and Rajkot.
A visibly frightened chief minister, Anandiben Patel took to TV channels urging people to maintain peace and ignore rumours. Soon, the internet services were also suspended and they have remained so until today.
A day later, Prime Minister Modi released a video message appealing to protesters to give up violence.
Schools and colleges have been shut for last two days and it’s highly unlikely they will open any time soon. Curfew has been imposed in these affected cities since 25 August. In Surat, however, the curfew was removed on Thursday afternoon.
Dozens of battalions of Indian army have been rushed to violence-torn areas, which bear the scenes of war zone right now. On Thursday afternoon, three more teams of Rapid Action Force and CRPF arrived as additional support to control the deteriorating law and order in Gujarat.
Does this give you a sense that it’s a non-story and quite regular goings on in any Indian state? If not, then are you getting the sense of the magnitude of the story through Indian news channels? Have there been primetime debates questioning the role of the police, who were seen venting their anger on public properties? Why has no one questioned this appalling behaviour of Gujarat police, whose job is to protect ordinary citizens and not inflict misery on them? Have they learn nothing from 2002?
This shameful behaviour of Gujarat police prompted many including yours truly to draw a parallel with the massacres of 2002, when their role had come under sharp scrutiny.
Only recently, our prime minister was seen urging people in Bihar to give his party BJP a chance to rule the state so that this ‘bimaru’ state too could soon become like Gujarat. Even he would find his comments quite ironical in light of the dramatic and unfortunate turn of events in Gujarat in the last few days.
My question today is to my own fraternity, which seems to have found a new obsession in the so-called murder mystery involving the wife of former Star India CEO, Peter Mukherjea. Does India care if Indrani Mukherjee killed her daughter, who was first reported to be her sister, more than what’s been affecting the lives of crores of people of Gujarat?
If Sheena Bora’s murder was so big that the combined might of Indian news channels need to respond to the story by giving blow-by-blow coverage, then can they explain why they couldn’t discover this murder even though it took place way back in 2012 and right under their nose in Mumbai?
Such flippancy towards the human tragedy just because providing coverage to Gujarat violence will mean portraying the ruling party in negative light is utterly unfortunate.
We at Jantakareporter.com realise the magnitude of the developments of Gujarat and, hopefully, our coverage of the last three days will corroborate my claim. Perhaps this explains why India need, not just one but many Jantakareporter-like platforms. Indian TV channels’ decision to not give adequate coverage to Gujarat violence is a shame and people from my fraternity need to do some soul-searching on whether they have got both their priority and ethics horribly wrong.
Rifat Jawaid is the Editor-inChief of Jantakareporter.com
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