Manipur: violent, yet out of mind

BY sevanti ninan| IN Media Practice | 06/10/2009
Mainstream Amnesia Part III. An emergency, be it one of law and order or of governance, is not recognised as one if the media abdicates. Though Manipur saw a steady flow of violence, most of it went unnoticed in the surveyed mainstream dailies.

Which conflicts are the most visible in the multi-edition English dailies which circulate in metropolitan India?  Is it a skewed visibility? Which ones are invisible?  What are the policy implications of such invisibility?  What are the implications for the country  when insurgencies on borders are far removed from national consciousness?  How culpable are the country's leading dailies in perpetuating this amnesia?

A two-month period of monitoring commencing right after the national elections sought to compare the conflict news reported within three statesâ€"Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and Manipur, with news reported on these states in five English dailies.  To study primarily the degree of  visibility of conflicts  in the national public sphere, and the manner of reporting on them.

Researchers

Ahanthem Chitra (Imphal),  Rinku Dutta (Calcutta), Sumegha Gulati (Delhi),  Naseer Ganai (Srinagar), Aditi Ravi (Mumbai), Furquan Siddiqui (Delhi).

 

Visibility analysis for Manipur: Sevanti Ninan

 

An emergency, be it one of  law and order or of governance, is not recognised as one if the media abdicates. The Naxal insurgency is now top of mind, because nobody can ignore the headlines.  Manipur is getting more media attention now than before but the chronic state of emergency that prevailed there earlier this year was sorely neglected by the press.     

The two month period from May 15 to July 15 in Manipur was normal, by the standards of the state. Which means that it saw a steady flow of violence, most of which went unnoticed in the surveyed mainstream dailies.

 

                    Conflict profile of Manipur, May 15-July 15

Encounters

Militants killed

Civilians killed  

Troopers killed

Bomb related incidents

Protests, strikes, blockades

  37

69

72

3

14

 73

 

 

The  troops involved in the 37 encounters which occurred over this period were largely the   Assam rifles, but also the Imphal West Police, the Thoubal District Police,  the Imphal East Commandoes,  the Assam Light Infantry, the Maratha Light Infantry, and in one case,  the Indian army.    These  encounters do not take their toll on the troops involved. They are remarkable for their one-sided casualties. In addition to the figures in the table above, there are also three abductions during this period.

But though violence normally makes news, it does not when it occurs in a state off the media radar. As the table below shows, the newspapers under review found very little space for the state.

 

Stories on Manipur during May 15-July 15

Times of India

  2 (Delhi dateline)

The Hindu

  11

The Indian Express

   9

DNA

 none

Telegraph

  3    

 

What was the level of violence in Kashmir over the same period? Civilians killed 18, including the rape and murder victims in Shopian, militants killed 7, troopers, 4. And what was the media response? It shows in the table below.

 

Stories on Kashmir during May 15-July 15

Times of India

  48

The Hindu

  60

The Indian Express

  64

DNA

  25

Telegraph

  11    

 

In the Hindu the Manipur stories appear consistently on the 'From the States' pages. The state never made page one during this period, not did the paper feel any edit page or oped page comment warranted. The Telegraph, the paper which has a Northeast edition coming out of Guwahati, found space in its Kolkata edition for six stories. Of the four on Manipur, three related to the killing of four Bengali migrants, the fourth from New Delhi was about a Manipuri actress nabbed with a militant.

The Indian Express which paid better attention to Assam where it has a bureau,  only does spot reporting from Manipur. And the Hindu which has again, more than one person to cover Assam, simply does routine news stories. No effort is made to focus on the declining state of governance here, or to hold the Congress  chief minister who presides over some much violence, to account.  As for the Times of India, both its Manipur stories have New Delhi datelines.

With such remarkably lean pickings from the five newspapers, you are left with no coverage to analyse.

Relevant links:

Mainstream Amnesia, Part I

http://www.thehoot.org/web/home/searchdetail.php?sid=4096&bg=1

Mainstream Amnesia, Part II

http://www.thehoot.org/web/home/searchdetail.php?sid=4118&bg=1

Murder in Manipur

 http://www.thehoot.org/web/home/searchdetail.php?sid=4023&bg=1

 

 

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