Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Arundhati Roy: Media, Mobs And The Search For Spectacles

November 1, 2010

Arundhati Roy
A mob of about a hundred people arrived at my house at 11 this morning (Sunday October 31st 2010.) They broke through the gate and vandalized property. They shouted slogans against me for my views on Kashmir, and threatened to teach me a lesson.

The OB Vans of NDTV, Times Now and News 24 were already in place ostensibly to cover the event live. TV reports say that the mob consisted largely of members of the BJP’s Mahila Morcha (Women’s wing).

After they left, the police advised us to let them know if in future we saw any OB vans hanging around the neighborhood because they said that was an indication that a mob was on its way. In June this year, after a false report in the papers by Press Trust of India (PTI) two men on motorcycles tried to stone the windows of my home. They too were accompanied by TV cameramen.

What is the nature of the agreement between these sections of the media and mobs and criminals in search of spectacle? Does the media which positions itself at the ‘scene’ in advance have a guarantee that the attacks and demonstrations will be non-violent? What happens if there is criminal trespass (as there was today) or even something worse? Does the media then become accessory to the crime?

This question is important, given that some TV channels and newspapers are in the process of brazenly inciting mob anger against me.

In the race for sensationalism the line between reporting news and manufacturing news is becoming blurred. So what if a few people have to be sacrificed at the altar of TRP ratings?

The Government has indicated that it does not intend to go ahead with the charges of sedition against me and the other speakers at a recent seminar on Azadi for Kashmir. So the task of punishing me for my views seems to have been taken on by right wing storm troopers.

The Bajrang Dal and the RSS have openly announced that they are going to “fix” me with all the means at their disposal including filing cases against me all over the country. The whole country has seen what they are capable of doing, the extent to which they are capable of going.

So, while the Government is showing a degree of maturity, are sections of the media and the infrastructure of democracy being rented out to those who believe in mob justice?

I can understand that the BJP’s Mahila Morcha is using me to distract attention from the senior RSS activist Indresh Kumar who has recently been named in the CBI charge-sheet for the bomb blast in Ajmer Sharif in which several people were killed and many injured.

But why are sections of the mainstream media doing the same?

Is a writer with unpopular views more dangerous than a suspect in a bomb blast? Or is it a question of ideological alignment?

Comment: Democracy and freedom of speech Indian style?  You think?

Wonder if President Obama is going to even make mention of the Kashmir issue and Roy's situation when he travels to India?

Ummmm .... that would be no.


Article Credit
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desert demons said...

Your previous post alluded to the americanisation of the world (or at least south africa) and the adoption of american holidays and themes. For a long time, I've noticed the Indians following suit in their forced patriotism. Movies are filled with the theme of support for the troops fighting "the enemy" in kashmir. This is demanded and any person seen to have a different opinion is branded unpatriotic and an enemy of the state - much like in the USA.
It is perhaps a blessing in disguise that the reaction to Arundhati's views on kashmir has been so strong. She is a public figure, well respected and this helps to bring the issues to the fore.
Its terribly disappointing though, that a country that purports to be one of the oldest democracies in the world can be so undemocratic!

Ridwan said...

You are absolutely right desert demons.

The reaction to Roy does not surprise me though it is absolutely "disappointing" as you say.

Roy does not view India as truly democratic and I see merit in her critique.

Thanks for your comment.