Kolkata press twists students' voices

IN Media Practice | 15/04/2013
Violence in Presidency University provoked the Times of India and The Telegraph to denigrate campus politics.
SOURAV ROY BARMAN found this was done by distorting students’ writeups.

 Apolitical unions the way forward’, declared the Times of India (ToI).  ‘Enough is Enough, thundered The Telegraph. In the immediate aftermath of the death of SFI activist Sudipto Gupta in police custody and the attack on Presidency University by Trinamool Congress students’ wing activists, student politics in Bengal has been put in the dock by a section of the Bengal media. In fact, they use every such opportunity to question the relevance of student politics.

A reporter from The Telegraph was allegedly calling up students looking for ‘apolitical’ people to write ‘anti-political’ articles without naming any political party or the perpetrator’s of violence in the recent cases. The paper came out with a report in its Sunday edition, with the banner headline in bold typeface, ‘Enough is Enough’. The accompanying sub-heading read ‘Students say no to party politics on campus’ and what followed was the ‘views’ of five students  of the leading colleges of Kolkata. But the Presidency students whose articles were published lashed out at The Telegraph for misrepresenting their views through the misleading headline and the subsequent heavily edited pieces.

According to Waled Aadnan, “The Telegraph, in order to suit its editorial position to oppose all forms of student politics, and a strange desire to not name and shame any political party, has morphed my piece to sound almost the same but mean a lot different.’ And he went on to put his original piece in the public domain. A quick reading of the two only strengthens his claim of it being heavily edited. For instance, his sentence ‘The key question this episode has raised is regarding the role that student fronts affiliated to mother parties play in our campuses’ morphs into ‘The key question this episode has raised is the role that students affiliated to parties play on our campuses.” in The Telegraph.

With surgical precision, words have been replaced, lines have been taken out of context. In the name of editing, the articles were heavily distorted which came out strongly in Sreya Mallika Dutta’s words who slammed The Telegraph, saying  “To those who've read my piece in today's Metro: my article was horribly edited and bore little semblance to what I had originally written. I did not expect The Telegraph to indulge in such practices.” Her original piece and the published piece is a study in contrast. The Telegraph completely omitted her point relating to police inaction: ‘with the police refusing to help, claiming that they did not have the “orders”’. Her question ‘how can hooligans unabashedly destroy the atmosphere of education and learning in one of the most premier institutions in the country and go scot-free?’ became ‘why is politics being used to destroy the atmosphere of education?’ post editing.

 The ABP group is also using its Bengali news channel, ABP Ananda, to push its agenda of depoliticised campuses. Talk shows and panel discussions are being held with panelists heavily biased towards the channels editorial line.

On the other hand ToI, in its report, claiming to have spoken ‘to a cross-section of students’, puts four voices speaking along its editorial line, completely drowning out the contrarian voices.

‘Apolitical’ is the buzzword in today’s young India. There is an overwhelming sense of apathy towards politics, and it’s clear the media is playing the role of the abettor. In a nutshell, ‘apolitics’ is increasingly being seen as a virtue and ‘politics’ a vice.

Media often accuses political parties of playing politics by trying to capitalise on the death of a supporter. But when a media house tries to push an agenda of its own using the same plank, it reeks of double standard. When opinions are manufactured and views are twisted to suit the interest of a media house, truth becomes the first casualty. In the name of ‘depoliticisation’ of education, those voices are being muffled who, in this day and age of ‘I hate politics’, are still trying to hold aloft the banner of politics. Who still look towards politics as an activity that can be used to serve desired and concrete change through its twin dynamics of conflict and cooperation.  Who thinks it is imperative to rectify this popular perception of politics, transcending its parochial and unsavoury reputation.

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