The Opacity of the Indian Media: Police Abuses

One thing that became apparent to me while in India over the last couple of weeks is that I don't understand how the Indian media works. News seems to follow an order that doesn't quite make sense. What are editors thinking? Seemingly big stories covered by media outlets abroad relating to India are often skipped, whereas seemnigly obscure sensationalistic stories (current titles: "Sex, Skin & 9/11"; "Osama Likes Donkeys, Not Mobiles") get big play.

In the past week, there was a major expose of the Indian police's routine use of torture in the Washington Post. It appeared following the death of Rajeev Sharma, who was killed in police custody recently following an accusation of theft. The Post comes up with the amazing statistic that there were "1,307 reported deaths in police and judicial custody in India in 2002."

That's 1300 deaths. Abu Ghraib pales in comparison (even if one grants that some small percentage of that number may be death by natural causes). And if you add in all the people who were injured through torture, but who have never filed a complaint, the amount of violence inflicted by the police in the name of "justice" comes to boggle the mind.

Also, today in the BBC, I noticed an incident in Assam where a woman was taken from her house by police and then summarily shot.

References to police excesses just don't seem to show up in the Indian media very often. Say what you will about the western media's lopsided coverage of the Indian subcontinent, I have to say I found this one Washington Post article more substantive than 2 weeks of reading the Times of India while actually in India.


pennathur said...

A very valid question my friend. Indeed what is the Indian media doing? Unfortunately you happened to read the wrong paper. The ToI a long while ago decided to put Page 3 material on every page. Maybe you shd be asking why "The Hindu" every LL's delight did not write about this shameful practice. Or why does it not have someone like P. Sainath (the paper's rural correspondent) to write about human rights abuses.
Now did you know about this? Sometime in July a party worker was torched before his family and a terrorised public. If not for The Pioneer and S. Gurumurthy (that pesky wannabe swadeshi) in The New Indian Express we wouldn't have heard about the incident. I will not ascribe motives to anyone even after I have filled in the missing details on this shocking crime. The victim - Aadikanta Daliya - a Dalit worker of the BJP. The State - that Marxist paradise West Bengal. The perps - the dedicated workers of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Guru's wrote an Op-Ed on the incident in The Pioneer on July 12'04.

electrostani said...

Thanks for your comment. Jivha was very good on the smut-factor of TOI, which he called "Slimes of India."

I was unaware of the killing of Aadikanta Daliya. I've been searching for confirmation on the Pioneer's web page, but so far I haven't found it. It doesn't surprise me too much, however. No one in India has his hands completely clean.