Two recent incidents of crime seem to have reignited the debate on whether indeed Bihar has plunged into utter lawlessness earning itself the reputation of ‘Maha Jungle Raj’ in the state.
The murder of a teenager by a ruling MLC’s son in Gaya followed by equally gruesome killing of journalist, Rajdeo Ranjan, must be condemned and the Nitish Kumar government can’t simply turn a blind eye to the deteriorating law and order situation in the state.
The media coverage, particularly, on TV channels have become increasingly controversial with some even casting doubts on the coverage describing it as a touch orchestrated.
As expected, the BJP leaders have been nimble-footed in declaring jungle raj (lawlessness) or even maha jungle-raj (utter lawlessness). The BJP crying hoarse over any crime related incident mustn’t come as a surprise as they had built their campaign in the last year’s assembly elections around the fear that voting Nitish and Lalu Yadav will result in the return of jungle raj.
Incidents of Gaya and Siwan seem to vindicate their stand.
But, the real thorny issue has been the questionable role of some in the media, which has wasted no time in providing platforms to the political opponents of Nitish and Lalu to launch tirade in defaming the image of Bihar under the coalition government of JDU-RJD-Congress.
Let’s find out if the criticism by political parties and a section of media chimes with the reality.
What National Crime Records Bureau says
In August data released by National Crime Records Bureau informed us that Madhya Pradesh had witnessed the most number of rapes in India in 2014.
Interestingly, this was the third year in a row that Madhya Pradesh had achieved this dubious distinction.
The data made available (see below) by the NCRB said that more than 15 women were raped every day in the state ruled by BJP’s Shivraj Singh Chauhan.
While the number of reported incidents of rape was 5076 in MP, another BJP ruled state Rajasthan came second with 3759.
Uttar Pradesh, ruled by Samajwadi Party had the third highest number of reported rapes (3467) while Maharashtra with 3438 was placed on fourth position.
With 15170, Madhya Pradesh was also the top in terms of recording the most number of sexual offences committed under the IPC, while Maharashtra was close behind with 15029.
Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan came third and fourth respectively.
Bihar, which is facing the criticism from media over the recent death of a journalist and a murder of a teenager in a road rage incident, was among those states, where the sex-related crimes against women were relatively less.
The NCRB data for 2016, when it’s released, may tell us later how Bihar or other states have fared in checking crimes. But, in the meantime, let’s take a look at some of the recent crime-related headlines reported in the media. This will sufficiently enlighten us on whether the incessant coverage to the recent incidents in Bihar is both misplaced and disproportionate.
Time for introspection
In the absence of tangible data, we may glance through the headlines on crime related news particularly in BJP-ruled states and compare the media coverage devoted to those incidents.
You can go through the crimes having taken place in last 7-10 days in states like Rajasthan, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh and chances are that this is the first time you would be reading about them.
These were no petty crimes and entailed one or more people losing their lives. But, they were never flashed as BREAKING NEWS on TV channels and zealous TV journalists never took it upon themselves to provide justice to the victims and their family members in these cases.
Girl found murdered in park near Huda City Centre metro station (11 May)
CRPF officer in training commits suicide (11 May)
Jewellery store owner arrested in Chandigarh for faking Rs 14 crore robbery (10 May)
Spurned lover attacks woman with a sword, critically injures her (06 May)
Five members of a family murdered inside their house in Bhind (14 May)
Missing Delhi woman found dead in forest area of Hoshangabad
Class 12 student found guilty for killing his pregnant girlfriend (05 May)
Suspecting adultery, MP man shoves burning stick into wife’s private parts (29 April)
Two detained in connection with murder of Bihar student in Kota (14 May)
Denied leave, jawan shoots dead BSF inspector (13 May)
13-year-old boy abducted last week, killed ( 13 May)
Bank employee stabbed to death at his residence (05 May)
Man shoots son-in-law dead near Lalgarh railway station (05 May)
Sub-inspector, deployed for CM’s security, allegedly shoots his wife (04 May)
As journalists, we are dutifully bound to highlight the shortcomings of the politicians including those belonging to ruling class, and force them to act when the voiceless are struggling to get justice in the face of utter desperation.
So, my qualms are not about the ‘blow-by-blow’ coverage being provided to Rajdeo’s murder. I am pained that in our allegedly motivated coverage on the death of a journalist in Bihar, we have forgotten that, just 24 hours before Rajdeo was murdered, a journalist in Jharkhand-a BJP ruled state- had also come to meet an unpleasant and untimely end.
I bet, many of you wouldn’t even know his name, let alone having seen his photo in newspapers or on TV channels. His name was Akhilesh Pratap Singh and he worked as a TV reporter.
Unlike www.jantakareporter.com, friends in bigger organisations and channels can’t even use ‘lack of resources’ as an excuse to justify their inconsistency while covering crimes in states across the country.
But despite our handicaps, we were the first to cover the murder of Rajdeo.
Politicians’ criticism aside, we as journalists must look inwards and ask if our decision to cherry-pick crimes to build a particular narrative is ethical. Also, if this is the kind of journalism we would like our future generation to emulate!
There’s no denying the truth that India desperately needs a political revolution to rid the country of all sorts of malaise. But, political system can never be cleansed until we in media have cleaned the existing rot plaguing our own fraternity.
It’s fine for political parties to indulge in verbal fisticuffs, without which their identities may be at risk. But, as journalists, whipping up a political narrative, often bereft of objectivity and consistency, to suit the agenda of a particular ideology is undesirable and hugely counterproductive.