As the battle for Gujarat heats up the war of words is plumbing new depths. The animosity is not limited to words with reports of arson by suspected Congress, BJP rebels at a public meeting in Surat attended by Chief Minister Narendra Modi. While Mr. Modi made news for walking out on an interview with Karan Thapar a raging debate ensued on this blog and others on the biased role of the media with even a demand for right wing TV in India along the lines of Fox News in the USA.
To highlight how the media has been particularly biased in Gujarat, Offstumped has dug out an interesting story that made headlines late December 2005, early 2006. The media reportage on this story highlights the motivated agenda of the left of center media.
First the chronology of events concerning this story.
27th Dec 2005 Â TOI reports “Post Godhra Mass Grave unearthed”
29th Dec 2005Â The Hindu reports “Mass Grave: NHRC seeks report from Gujarat and CBI”
29th Dec 2005 The Telegraph reports “Gujarat HC asks CBI to intervene in grave probe”
Now the CBI in early 2006 actually exhumes the bodies and collects DNA samples.
So what happens next in this morbid saga ?
Before we get to that, note how the media framed this “discovery” with the usage of the phrase “mass grave” so as to draw parallels with “pogrom” and “holocaust”. Now the phrase “Mass Grave” typically is used to imply disposal of a very large number ofÂ Â unknown human remains usually in a single site toÂ coverup state sponsored mass killing. To put the “mass” in “mass grave” into perspective consider the “mass graves” in Iraq with thousands of corpses, the hundreds in Chechenya, more than 8000 in the killing fields of Cambodia.
In this case even before the CBI exhumed bodies and established identity the media characterised the find as a mass grave related to the 2002 riots.
To appreciate how much the media hyped up the discovery consider this. The Yogendra Yadav lead NCERT text book re-writing agenda ensured that this story of the “mass grave”Â not just was included in the NCERT Political Science Text Book but Page 108, Chapter 6 actually prominently displayed the phrase “Mass Grave” to ensure generations of NCERT students have it seared in their psyche.
So having successfuly called the site a “mass grave” even before a count of the bodies took place, and having ensured that NCERT textbooks recorded it for posterity, what exactly did they do about it ?
On Jan 12th 2006 the HC orders CBI to send the remains toÂ Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD) saying thatÂ that once the tests were conducted copies of the results should be given to it and also the state government.
On April 18th 2006 a local court in Lunavada issued non-bailable warrants against six persons, including social activist Rais Khan, on charges of tampering with evidence by digging up a mass grave of post-Godhra riot victims in Panchmahal district in December 2005. The administration maintained that all the bodies had been identified and buried in accordance with legal procedures to be followed for unclaimed bodies. On April 20th Teesta Setalvaad waters down her accusations of the GovernmentÂ to merely complaining that the Government buried unclaimed bodies in a wasteland.
8 months later the DNA report comes in with only 6 matches. The storyÂ kind of ends there with theÂ High Court not acting on any allegations of wrong doing but then the Supreme Court in Sept 2007 adds its twist by issuing a notice to Gujarat on a petition filed by Teesta Setalvad.
By the time we get to this petition the emphasis is no longer on a “mass grave” nor “burial in a wasteland” as alleged earlier but it is on “callously dumping” in a “300 acre graveyard belonging to different Muslim sects” while not performing “mandatory autopsy”.
By framing the reportage on Lunawada with the use of the phrase “mass grave” an impression was created by the media of state sponsored mass killing and a subsequent coverup. This wasÂ later onÂ watered down to “improper disposal of unclaimed bodies” by the Administration without following due procedure.Â
But the damage was already done.
This episode is instructive of how the media agenda creates bias and manufactures myths. This bias and these myths are then perpetuated to eternity by media spin meisters masquerading as social scientists who are employed by the Government at the tax payer’s expense. With NCERT Text Books that carry a one sided narrative of the events in Gujarat, young minds have already been biasedÂ even before the courts and history have sat in judgement of the Modi Administration.
ByÂ snubbing Karan Thapar, Mr. ModiÂ may not have been very savvy in his handling of the media but then heading an administration that has been at the receiving end of an organized media campaign one can hardly blame him…..