Ranjona Banerji: Blame the media, why don't you?

Jun 28, 2017, 06:09 IST | Ranjona Banerji

Why discuss murder? Let's cancel all laws that make murder illegal and embrace the new government policy of turning a blind eye

Muslims wore black bands on their arms in protest against Junaid Khan’s lynching on a train, before offering Eid prayers in Faridabad on Monday. Pic/PTI
Muslims wore black bands on their arms in protest against Junaid Khan's lynching on a train, before offering Eid prayers in Faridabad on Monday. Pic/PTI 

The Union Home Secretary, Rajiv Mehrishi, has kindly informed the nation that honour killings and lynchings have always taken place in India. It's just that now they are being "over-reported" by the media. This is the best way out of any situation for those who want to duck responsibility - blame someone else, preferably the messenger.

Let's apply Aristotle's reduction ad absurdum principle here. Why report on war, since war is not new in human history? There have been so many wars before. The war on ISIS? Would you agree that it's over-reported? The Second World War? I'd say grossly over-reported since we're still talking about it. The battles of Panipat? Unfairly over-reported and now results about to be over-turned, if the political party in charge of home secretaryji has its way.

What about murder, not connected to war? This clichéd subject of no consequence is discussed repeatedly by a sensationalist media all the while for no good reason. There is enough archaeological and anthropological evidence of humans murdering other humans from thousands of years ago. Why bother to discuss it? Instead, just cancel all laws that make murder illegal and embrace the new government policy of turning a blind eye.

There is a very good reason for the home secretary's attempt to cover up the series of lynchings which have taken place in India recently. The two that we have had to grapple with last week are bone-chilling in their bloodthirsty cruelty.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Mohammad Ayoub Pandith (57) was stripped, beaten and his body almost ripped apart by a mob outside a Srinagar mosque last Thursday. He was shooting a video of pro-Pakistan, pro-Al-Qaeda sloganeering when he was set upon by the mob. He was helpless and alone with no other police colleagues to come to his aid. His body was recovered the next morning.

The same day, two young brothers, Junaid and Shaqir Khan, were beaten and stabbed by an angry crowd on a train from Delhi to Mathura. Junaid (16) was killed in the attack. The one man arrested says he was drunk and egged on by the crowd because the boys were "beef-eaters". The mob started with attacking the boys for being Muslim - there is no way to sugarcoat this - and was shrewd enough to tamper with the CCTV at Ballabhgarh station - where the boys lived and where Junaid died.

Interestingly, no one on the platform saw or heard anything.

I would assume - and this is going by the current climate in the country - that the media is absolutely correct in reporting episode one, because a Muslim police officer was killed by a Muslim and an 'anti-national' crowd. The second episode should not have been reported because we have had how many lynchings by angry mobs in the name of 'cow protection' recently? Too many. So talking about one more - and one more Muslim dead in this case, along with Dalits in others - is perhaps just needless repetition in government-speak.

I don't know what sort of a country we are becoming where mob violence is seen as an acceptable norm, where the respect for law and order is dismal, and the rule of law is so easily flouted. Why was Pandith alone outside a mosque where the pro-separatist Mirwaiz was preaching, especially in a Kashmir that is on the boil again?
And what allows these cow protection mobs to be so emboldened that they are scared of nothing, let alone the consequences of their actions? There is an answer on the platform of Ballabhgarh, where no eyewitnesses saw anything.

One can imagine the fear in the people who live with these murderous mobs, because they know where their power flows from.

There is also an answer in the number of ruling party ministers and party office-bearers at the Centre who have issued stern public warnings to these murderers for killing people in the name of the cow: None. Compare that with the number of people angry with the horrific death of DSP Pandith.

In which light, the Union home secretary said what he did to save himself and cover up the paralysis of his government's systems. What are the consequences when the media does not report on mob violence and where no one sees or hears anything? That has also happened before in human history. It did not end well.

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on Twitter @ranjona Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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