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Looking Through Crime: The Religious Context
Crime, Religion & Media Nexus
"Don't judge me by my Religion" that's essentially the broader context that I wish to set here.
Crime simply put is"an action or omission which constitutes an offence and is punishable by law" Well! To be honest, I don't recall last I heard that term applicable in true sense. In previous times and I am merely talking a decade, crime was still crime and the penance associated was more or less judged based on the severity of crime and the set of laws that prohibit and penalise for the same. The perception of people or society was also owing to the same set of rules. Though no doubt we have had examples where the accused had used their influence, money or might to abuse the loopholes in the judicial system and get away with the crime. Something that puts the very foundation of our justice system on the docks. The most recent ones involving the massive corruption cases of the previous ruling dispensation. However that's a seperate subject that I wish to discuss another time. Coming back to the perception bit in the present scenario...I am amazed how the very definition of crime has undergone a drastic change and so has the perception of the onlookers (public). Today its more like crime vis a vis religion of victim or the accused with complete disregards to nature of crime, its severity or its consequences. The blame is on the government and very rightly so for not being able to draw that line or restore faith in judiciary and the law & order. However before we actually pin this entirely to the government we also need to equally analyse the role of our media or what we call today as "Breaking News Media". Remember how post Godhra incident (2002) media played an active role in pitching the entire Hindu population against the Muslims and created unrest throughout the country. The concept of generalisation has spread like an epidemic ever since. Once a pillar of democracy, today the media is on the verge of loosing its credibility, just for making quick money or sky rocket those trps its all gone dirty with the media and they are ready to stoop to any levels to get their hands on a story, spice it up and serve it in Communal or Biased Flavours to the people via so called breaking news! Criminals, repeat offenders etc are increasingly finding this as a leeway not just to escape harsher criminal proceeding but also to draw mileage and create unrest for ulterior motives as commonly seen in case of politicians. This is certainly turning into a dangerous trend.
The Media Trials Trend ...
Last year 28th Sep 2015 a senior citizen in the village of Dadri (UP) was brutally beaten to death by a mob over rumours of butchering a cow and consuming its meat. Again one may not deny the sort of environment that was gradually building up after some beef restrictions began in Maharashtra. This instance was a serious law and order issue and vigilante, however in a state as communally sensitive as UP this wasn't the first of its kind. The state has had been in news for crime, mob violence and communal riots in the past too. Post this unfortunate incident the media took it on their shoulders to conduct trials and the entire print media, news channels and even social media was suddenly erupting with communal and cooked up stories. Prime time news in all reputed media houses ran stories and entire day coverage for weeks with headlines "Muslim man lynched by Hindu Mob", "Mob kills Muslim man over Beef" etc. Day in day out this was a hot topic and essentially what it did was disturb the harmony and create a divide in the society essentially between the majority and minority community. To add fuel to the fire and draw mileage - expecting to score in the poll-bound state of Bihar, the politicians jumped in and there were rallies of politicians from all around the country to meet the family of the deceased. I don't condemn it but why this rush all of a sudden and then those communal speeches to incite the public. Compensation and govt job were thrown as bait for the family. Intellectuals, historians etc were also not far behind and started a trend called "Award Waapsi" or returning their awards/felicitation. There was unrest and India was introduced to term called "Intolerance" which has remained a hot topic till date. Essentially this intolerance wasn't just aimed at polarising but also destabilising the government. Soon India was being shamed globally with likes of BBC, CNN, RT etc running the story globally. Meanwhile with all this hype and hoopla what was missed was Justice and prevention of crime. Trust me none of us bothered to look back either at the family or find out whether the perpetrators were severely punished. To everyone surprise, the lab that tested the meat samples recently revised their finding stating it was cow meat. Of course that cannot bring back the dead but again raises concern as cow slaughter is banned and punishable by law in the state.
Earlier this year in January 2016 a student in Hyderabad University committed suicide. Again this was not the first of its kind incident, there were nine previous cases but the Political class and media took it to the street and even stalled the parliament. Again they were at their best to create further unrest and divide in the society by highlighting the Caste of the student with headlines running as "Dalit student succumbs to pressure" etc. Students too ganged up and took this to streets and again country wide university campuses saw protests and strikes. Whose loss, well that's the big question?? While this case is still not closed I am pretty sure it will serve as a ramp to uplift several political careers and put govt in the back foot but by the end of it we will still be left with the same question ; was justice served and what next??
Few more headlines that we saw:
Muslim tenant asked to vacate in Mumbai due to her religion
Muslim techie killed in Bangaluru
Madarsa student brutally thrashed on Bharat Mata Ki Jai
Dalit Girl raped in broad daylight
See how these bold markers actually shift focus from the crime and are being deliberately handpicked to create ruckus. Again these are selectively picked crimes against the minority communities. While highlighting crime is certainly helpful in creating awareness in the society but such highlights are rather counter productive. These are not the only cases but reason I cited them was for them being most hyped in recent past. Now do we see a trend here? Of-course we do! News like this are fodder for politicians, anti social elements, some religious leader and preachers to unleash their dirty tricks department, create a communal divide and influence our minds to extent that we start hearing/visualising similar stories around us. As for media sensationalising such news and running such headers help them seek wider audience. Even people who know nothing of country affairs or are indifferent otherwise also suddenly get glued to such stories. Needless to mention the younger audience who are being severely influenced or rather brain-washed by it.
Question remains, before reaching conclusion basis such news, have we ever tried to read between the lines or even question ourselves as to..
Are these few cases the only atrocities that are happening around us?
Why do we never see news like Hindu men beaten to death or a Brahmin girl brutally raped?
Why did we mostly hear Mosques attacked or Churches vandalised during the run-up for election
Why media, politicians are focused on highlighting crime against minorities?
Why no corrective plan has been put in place till now if at all they are so concerned for our well being?
Why do we often tag people by their religion and not their character or credential?
There may be zillions of such 'Whys' which still have half baked answers or have never been properly acknowledged. End of day its for us to decide what we want to believe. But then its all the more essential that we use our rationale and not our prejudices or bias and simultaneously be aware of the facts while reaching a conclusion, because what may seem depressing to us may prove damaging for the society. 'Ignorance is bliss' and that's were sane mind takes over and ask questions rather than jumping to conclusions based on preconceived notions.
Lets do our part and try and build a healthy environment around us. Spread love and not hatred. Don't bring your religion before the nation and that should take care of a lot of misunderstandings and unnecessary propaganda.