The marginal coverage of Dalits rape and murder in Kherlanji village of Maharashtra, has set off the bloggers. The Indian blogsphere is raising unsettling questions against the media, which has for years gone about doing its job without being questioned
THE BLOGSPHERE IS outraged — over the Indian media’s scant coverage or near blackout of an horrendous incident that happened 780 km from Mumbai
in Kherlanji village of Bhandara district in which four members of a Dalit Buddhist family were brutally murdered and their bodies dumped in a canal after being paraded naked through the village and the mother and her 17-year-old daughter being raped by angry landlords.
Media, which normally do most of the questioning and largely go unquestioned, have been put into the frame by the blogging community for sideswiping the incident that throws light on how badly India
still remains socially stuck in its hinterland. The bloggers’ vociferous outrage over the news underplay, underlines a new reality of the media being brought to scrutiny by the inquisitive sections of the blogging community.
Sample this that appears in the Pickled Politics blog: “As coverage of India in the mainstream media has moved on from snake-charmers to Bollywood and now to its economic strengths; it’s own politicians and foreign journalists gloss over the fact that deep in the heartlands there remain serious social problems.”
Interestingly, the bloggers are not only unsparing in their comments against the media over the coverage of the Kherlanji incident, but also other fellow bloggers. A blogger, Shivam, who had half-naked photograph of the raped woman, uploaded it on his blog after newspapers he approached turned down the request to carry it in their editions. The photograph kicked off a row and this is what a blog by the name of Gauravsabin commented on the uploaded photograph of the brutalized Dalit. “Time after time, I have been appalled by how insensitive the Indian media is towards the dignity and rights of the dead or the injured. In an attempt to sensationalize news and grab attention and viewership, they show the most grotesque visuals. Aaj Tak pioneered this, and the image I am still unable to shake off is of Phoolan Devi’s shattered head, which an Aaj Tak reporter stuck into the morgue to film and broadcast. Whenever there is a terror attack or riots, the Indian media shows scant respect towards the victims.”
Gauravsabins goes on to say: “The Indian blogosphere has usually been very critical of these cheap tactics of the media. The dead and the mourning deserve respect and privacy. It is possible to tell news about them without encroaching on this privacy. So it is unfortunate to see that one blogger, Shivam Vij, who could not have fallen from my estimation further than he actually has, has followed the same Aajtakian mindset. Under the garb of reporting the suffering of Dalits and proving his “enlightened credentials”, he has plastered pictures of naked and half-naked blood-splattered dead-bodies on his blog. I wonder if he considers this Faustian decision of his to rob the dead of their last shred of destiny, a price worth paying for increased attention.”
Another Blogger Greatbong sees hope in people now having the newer means to express on things that matter to them, but is beset by “uncomfortable realizations” that preferential media treatment is given to crimes committed against high-profile citizens as against the ordinary. He writes in his blog, calling himself Greatbong: It’s an “uncomfortable realization — the realization that whether in life or in death, we are not treated equal. Sad though it may be, the press coverage that led to justice in the Mattoo case and a re-opening of Jessica Lal case is because of the profile of the victim and the accused — beautiful, educated, women butchered by the villainous son of police/politician. The media frenzy was as much about justice as it was about drama and good copy. Sadly so.”
The bloggers are bringing forward ignored truths and news — which has been the exclusive preserve of the money-propelled media — is clearly getting usurped here — in this case at least — by the online community. What the mainline journalists shunned was picked up by committed observers in the rapidly growing blogging zone and presented with a pique against the media that fancies itself to be the eyes and ears of the people. What they did not tell, the bloggers are telling — and telling it with greater effectiveness. For, they can be embarrassingly frank, caustic and colloquial in their expressions and not blinkered by the limiting and formal parameters of news reporting.
Hidden in the blogging over the Kherlanji incident is a message for the media that the online technology
is set to overturn their long monopoly by getting just anybody in the arena with a wish to share thoughts. It represents the leveling trend in the media that would satisfy the critics who saw the need to make them accountable, primarily because they have become both power and profit centers.