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‘Media should introspect treatment of communalism’

Special Correspondent
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Civil society should engage with the media to counter right-wing propaganda, says Teesta Setalvad.—Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
Civil society should engage with the media to counter right-wing propaganda, says Teesta Setalvad.—Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

The Hindu right-wing’s well-oiled propaganda machinery, which “engages daily with the media” and often informs its political stance, must be countered with a “robust response” from civil society, activist and Secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace, Teesta Setalvad has said.

Calling for introspection within the media on their treatment of issues and stories related to communalism, she said that it was time that civil society “reclaimed a secular space” in the national media.

“The media should be constantly interacted with. We need to figure out ways to reflect a diversity of voices in the media,” Ms. Setalvad said at an event organised by Coalition for One Nation on Saturday.

Communal violence often “escapes the media eye and public discourse,” Ms. Setalvad said adding that “divisive forces are at work 24/7 with great commitment” and armed with “multiple strategies” to further their cause.

Journalism often appeared to be “compliant” or at least unwilling to “genuinely probe”, she said, referring to the controversial interview of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to Reuters on Friday. Ms. Setalvad, however, declined to comment on the now-infamous “puppy” analogy he made in this interview.

“It is important that we begin to talk about politics of equality and non-discrimination and question divisive politics,” she said and called also for “an interrogation” of the socio-cultural teaching of history.

Social scientists must involve themselves in making sure that text books are accurately representative of gender, caste and religion. “Entire sections of Indian Muslims were bitterly opposed to Partition. But we never hear about them.”

Subtext

The subtext, on the contrary, portrayed an entire community as divisive, she said, adding that on the other hand, there was little attempt to deconstruct the Hindu right-wing, beginning with the role of the Hindu Mahasabha.

Underlining the importance of the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill 2011, she said that it could, when made law, deter outbreaks of violence by 30 to 40 percent.

Targeted violence

“We have repeatedly seen instances of targeted violence by the police and administration who take sides with majoritarianism… whether they were during the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, the communal riots in Mumbai of 1993, Gujarat massacres of 2002 or Kandhamal violence of 2008.”

Ms. Setalwad, participating in another seminar organised by Karnataka Komu Sauhada Vedike, spoke about the “myths” about Gujarat model of development. She said that Gujarat was not a success story either on the count of attracting foreign direct investment or on social development indicators.

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