Talibanism in Guwahati – An Ode to Media

About 19 years ago at a famine affected area in Sudan, world famous photojournalist Kevin Carter had shot a photograph of a vulture approaching a withered baby. For the photograph, he waited for the vulture to enter into a frame with the baby, for which he was asked questions later on whether he was a Human first or a Photographer first. This photo won him the highest honour, – a Pulitzer but the incident led him to such depression that he committed suicide a year later.

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The Guwahati girl molestation incident was different than Kevin’s photo of vulture with a live baby only because Kevin did it for a cause,-to show the world the real picture of famine in Sudan; while much controversial NewsLive reporter Gaurav Jyoti Neog shooted with the intention of TRP, cheap entertainment and lack of thoughtfulness. No matter what Nitumoni Saikia, Executive Editor of NewsLive (who has always maintained a clean image and is known for his talk show with Dr. Homen Borgohain) claims now, it is very evident from the video footage and from the history of NewsLive that the shooting was not meant for identifying the culprits. Rather it was to show “A drunken girl in streets of Guwahati” as done numerous times in the past by the channel. Just a day earlier than the incident, the channel had showed video footages of Young women wearing shorts or skirts, focussing unethically on their bare legs and trying to be moral police! An online petition against unethical journalism of NewsLive which recently campaigned in Facebook highlighted this incident and questioned who gave the right to NewsLive to suggest what dresses a woman should wear, when even the Indian constitution does not say anything on dressing.

Protest against NewsLive

Protest against NewsLive

Assam is now up and against NewsLive, – Facebook pages and streets of Guwahati are up in roar to ban the channel NewsLive. But would it lead to anything meaningful is a question whose answer is negative. Such an eruption in Assam is not new. It happened about a year ago against NewsLive’s Editor in Chief Atanu Bhuyan’s alleged Facebook comment against an Assamese Ahom lady. The police then washed off hands by nabbing and blaming Times of Assam’s Chief Editor Dhruba Jyoti Deka as a scapegoat (who was actually picked by IB personnel suspecting him as ULFA Publicity Commander Arunodoy Dohotiya) but till now there is no proper charge or proof that anyone could gather to prove that Mr Deka was the culprit. None of those who called for Assam Bandhs then, now even bothers to know what happened with the case. The same would happen again in all likelihood now; the forgetful Assam would forget NewsLive and this incident and we would probably come to see protests for some other reason in future.

The best as well as worst part of the entire molestation row is the way it was picked by the National Media, who is always known to have ignored important news and reports of Assam and rest of North East. It was good that they brought such a sensation and highlighted the incident that it got the right attention of Government and people. But it now also allows us to question why this incident was picked up alone. The next day after this incident, there was another incident in Assam in Sivasagar district where a flood affected girl was picked by Army Jawan and was attempted for molestation. Some 200 locals had to block an Army vehicle protest at the Police station for justice. No National media highlighted it for even a minute. Was it not aired because of lack of spicy footage or because media thought a village women getting molested in some corner of a place is not important?

In 2004, there was long Assamese-Bihar clash which had sparked off because a disgusting incident of Assamese woman passenger getting raped by a mob in Bihar who also parading her naked while travelling in Assam bound Avadh Assam Express. The clashes broke out, Hindi speaking people were beaten off and thousands of them were sent off from Assam and militants started killing some Bihari labours in Assam. All that happened in Assam against the Hindi speaking made big headlines in National Media and Cabinet ministers of the Centre flew in from Delhi to meet the Bihari victims in Assam. But at the same time, attacks continued to Assamese and North-Eastern travellers in trains. Many women were molested and raped too. But this did not find footage in the media! None of the ministers too came to meet the victims from North East! Incidently, now Mr P A Sangma is now contesting as President using the sentiments of North East with the support of the same BJP who was in power those days and the same lot who never visited a single victim of North East.

In recent days, Assam has been devastated by floods, millions have lost their home, crops and Assam’s pride Majuli is on the verge of extinction. No National Media covered it to details (except for a few words on a day or two), no talk shows were organised, no call for relief, no experts opinion invited on Majuli. Issue of Mega Dams, Land transfer to Bangladesh etc never found any focus in National Media.

Less than a week ago, Assamese innovator Uddhab Bharali from North Lakhimpur town in Assam has been shortlisted by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for its prestigious NASA Technology Award. None of the National Media News Channels gave any importance. Same happened with Dr Bikul Das of Assam, who recently made a breakthrough discovery regarding Altruism, which could change Cancer therapies all over. The same day of the Guwahati molestation incident, most National News Channels were airing continuously news about Chinese Celebrities making a song for London Olympics. But none of them aired a word about the honour to Ranjit Gogoi and his Bihu troupe, who have been invited to perform during the Olympic Torch event. These are just very few of hundreds of other examples of the Media bias towards Assam and North East. In recent times, thanks to Arnab Goswami, news channel Times Now has changed the scene to a small extent but even his opinions are accused of being biased.

On the other hand back in Guwahati, the Administration’s methodology to control such menace in future is the most disgusting. There would be now no live or DJ music in Bars and Pubs of Guwahati post evening, closures have been re-defined to earlier hours and most shamefully, women have been advised to refrain from Pubs as far as possible! The festive and party spirit of Assam, which even the fear of militancy and bomb-blasts could not tame, is in the risk of getting a bad image, thanks to the lack of foresightedness of our Government who has always knelt down in front of every small evil that threatens to destroy our society and harmony.

Closing down pubs at early hours and advising women not to visit them is Talibanism. It would not do any good for Guwahati, being one of the fasted growing city, upcoming trade and tourism hot spot of South Asia and for a progressive blend of people of the region. It is not a crime to have pubs and discotheques that runs at night unless a specific one indulges in unlawful activity. It is not immoral for women to wear what they find comfortable and for them to have a few drinks at a pub. The only issue is safety and acceptance in some section of the society. Safety can be improved through better regulations:

Why not make a rule that every customer to a pub show a valid photo id proof of age and address to get an entry and record the details (A matter of a minute per customer entry)?

Why not regulate bars and pubs to have better security arrangements such as bouncers and guards who accompanies the woman customers to their vehicles when they leave?

Why can’t we have women security guards at night unlike other cities of India such Mumbai or Pune?

Why can’t we have specific women helpline numbers at Guwahati that works 24×7?

Why can’t bars and pubs have customer service executives that gives a courtesy call 30 minutes after women customers leave their premises, to confirm their safety (It would increase Customer Satisfaction levels and hence sales too)?

It is time to change the way we think. We can’t stop driving because of fear of accident. Similarly, we can’t ask women not to have a good time because of fear; we need to change the outlook, attitude and existing systems. The acceptance in society cannot be forced; it will come through the eyes of the next generation and through proper role of the media. Unfortunately, the media thinks differently, – a woman wearing shorts in the streets or found drunk in front of a pub becomes Prime Time Breaking news. What a shame!

About Priyankan Goswami

Priyankan Goswami Priyankan Goswami is the Editor of Times of Assam's Political Analysis section. He is also founder member and member of the Executive board of Times of Assam. By Academic Priyankan Goswami is MBA & Mechanical Engineer.

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Disclaimer: Views and statement made in the article are Author’s personal. TIMES OF ASSAM disclaim any legal or other liability for the above.

11 Responses to "Talibanism in Guwahati – An Ode to Media"

  1. BIkram M. Baruah  July 17, 2012 at 06:52 AM

    A very well written article. Excellent job. This article needs wide publicity.

    Reply
  2. Prodip Kumar Sahoo  July 17, 2012 at 09:49 AM

    Good news is our expectation more and more so that we as well as our young generation is being inspired to do far far better and represent the best in this universe.

    Prodip Kumar Sahoo
    Wildlife Biologist, Musician & Poet.

    Reply
  3. Nalinakshya Kalita  July 17, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    I support….

    Reply
  4. Neha  July 17, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    Very rightly said !!
    This is the real picture of Assam and its people.

    Reply
  5. Bishwajeet Sinha  July 17, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    North-east will face negligence by and large by national media until or unless some scoop with spicy read content it has !
    So,
    the attention by media created Guwahati molestation case and now behind the scene activities is nothing new sort of thing !

    Reply
  6. Ashim Dutta  July 17, 2012 at 01:33 PM

    We, Society for Srimanta Sankaradeva(SSS) organized an International Conference on Majuli on 8th July. Electronic media in Assam showed us cold feet.

    Reply
  7. Durlov  July 17, 2012 at 05:37 PM

    Very well written. Its us (or some of us) who have to get news outside Assam. These days it is easier. Its a long shot to expect national media to come and cover (should have been ideal) Northeast and Assam. Let us all contribute.

    Reply
  8. Saptarshi  July 18, 2012 at 04:00 PM

    Very well written Article..
    Its the measures provided to curb antisocial activities that I liked the most.

    Reply
  9. B K Handique  July 18, 2012 at 06:52 PM

    It is really unfortunate to see the curse of hitech media while highlighting the real issues of our concern. Even more frustrating to see how the so called national media want to portray us. It is only us who have given the golden chance. What is the point in blaming others, while a News Channel claiming to the be Assam’s most patriotic channel enjoys showing a nacked Assamese girl to the whole world.. Its really disgusting!!

    Reply
  10. Arindam Chanda  July 19, 2012 at 08:27 AM

    A well written article that I couldn’t agree more. I came to know about the NASA recognition for Uddhab Bharali but didnt know the saga around the breakthrough in Altruism by an Assamese and the Bihu troupe for the Olympics. Thanks for bringing these facts before readers. This was enlightening.

    This latest molestation incident that is hogging the limelight overwhelming all other more important news only reflects how shallow and cheap our news media has fallen. Such incidents will happen in any society if there is lawlessness.Men all over the world are by and large the same with some variations. When there is no law enforcement and no protection of human rights, such elements will continue to run amok and hav a jolly good ride. And state governments in India have a bizarre track record when it comes to law enforements.Wonder if they even enforce anything at all. Here in the US, guys or men will stare/ogle at scantily dressed women but that is the limit they can drive to. Beyond that it can be only their imaginations that can have a free ride. Unfortunately the fear of the law is missing in India to a large extent and you can grease the palms to bail yourself out. If the government lets Pubs/Discos to come up they should also know that policing these spots will be a necessity. Unfortunately in India things are not looked at holistically. Open a pub, sell liquor and raise revenues for the government..the story ends there. Who visits, who leaves, what is consumed etc. is shrouded. And I hav seen some FB posts from Dibrugarians trying to score brownie points over Guwahatians alleging the former has higher moral values than the latter :-) I laugh at such comparative narratives. This will happen anywhere where the law of the land is weak. Hope this incident though unfortunate will have lessons for the concerned to learn from and law enforcement receives its due attention. Moral values are taught at home but that will yield no value if you let the mind wander into dangerous territories. It is the government that must do the needful to prevent insanity from taking wings in our societies.

    Reply
  11. Sandeep Baruah  July 19, 2012 at 01:42 PM

    The self-styled ‘Moral Polices’ with their ‘Journalistic Vests’ should realize that by capturing the acts of a few hoodlums through their lenses and airing it to the public was not any act of journalistic bravado; neither was it a reflection of their so-called ‘sense of social responsibility’. The video footage itself was a clear evidence that the journalist/s and the guy holding the video camera were a party to the entire molestation incidence; the ‘cameraman’ and the ‘reporter’ holding his mobile phone were clearly found to be within the molesters and they took the shots from within close proximity of the incidence of molestation. The fact that the main accused was looking at the camera with a sense of pride [smiling to the camera repeatedly while molesting the little girl] was a clear indication that he was in fact not threatened; rather he was provoked by the TV reporters to go ahead with his own way of ‘moral policing’ or full-filling his pleasure -what ever it might be. As per other media sources, the leader of the molesters is a friend of the ‘News Live’ reporter. This must be the reason that he was feeling very safe and this must be the reason that the ‘Moral Polices’ with their ‘Journalistic Vests’ are still at large roaming scot-free showing their dirty faces…

    Reply

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