Metro centric media response

IN Opinion | 23/12/2012
Letter to the Hoot: They did not comprehend the trauma of a rape victim until the Delhi incident.
Why did protesters not hit the streets when a teen was raped by around 15 lunatics, asks A K PUSHPA.

The gory crime of rape is indeed a shameful act and should be condemned severely.  I pray to God that the victim should get well soon.

The demonstration in Delhi and other metropolises punctuated by 24*7 news channels have made me think about the way in which other rape incidents were registered in the annals of media archives. This means that we have forgotten the rape victims in Harayana and Uttar Pradesh who were been given a passing reference in newspapers and broadcasting media.

Between September and October 2012 more than six girls were raped in Harayana. These back to back rape victims did not invoke the popular outrage among urban population since they did not belong to hi-fi cities.  

Now there is this talk of changing the rape laws and broadening the definition of rape. All of this inspires people to join to anti-rape rallies. Aggrieved demonstrators in Delhi are even demanding capital punishment for culprits. But the question is: Why did it take so long for the middle class to hit the street? Is the Delhi-case last straw that broke camel’s back?

The constant streaming of the rape case on TV channels, particularly English-channels, for past five days, interrupted by the Gujarat election, has confirmed that media can never be, proverbial, the Fourth Pillar. If they ever claim to be one  then they would be an urban-centric pillar which projects the pains and pangs of the metro people.

Everybody is jolted to their core whether a victim is a Dalit or a Brahmin; whether she is from rural or urban area. However, the portrayal of rape victims in media which is contingent upon their background--urban,rural, and caste etc.—has the tenor of discrimination by media.

When four Dalit girls were raped in Harayana in a month it was shrugged off as “another familiar” case. But when an urban girl was raped in the capital city the whole world seems to be taking notice of this incident. Media also forgot to give considerable coverage to the fact that in Meghalaya this month a teen was raped by more than 15 people. This was conveniently neglected or routinely covered by mainstream media.  

The media have spent lot of time belabouring laws and punishment, discussing increasing a jail term or castrating when my urban friends experience some privations which is a norm for rural population, or for a population which not so urbane.

The media claim to be the voice of the voiceless. This claim flies in the face of reality when the media have urban blinkers and can’t look beyond sky scrapers. What about the voice of the rural people?

What we see today is the manifestation of herd mentality. If one channel showcases one incident another is certain to follow the suit so that it should not feel being left out.

Another problem is that of urban grievance. They did not understand the trauma of a rape victim until the Delhi incident. Why did the urbane not hit the streets when a teen was raped by around 15 lunatics? Were they bracing themselves to face water-canons after a Dalit girl had been raped and whose father killed himself? Did they vehemently protest against the insensitive police which refused to register rape cases in Harayana? Did they really care that in rural areas girls are not allowed to venture out after 5 pm? All the rape incidents drew lukewarm response until metro populace sneezed, and the Indian and the western media caught cough; until metro people felt that they were sitting ducks.

My intention to write this letter is only to highlight that all the rape victims are equal; hence, no discrimination. English language channels and newspapers which shamefully target their middle class and upper middle class audience have to map the trauma of the rural and underprivileged populace on equal footing with that of urban population. My only plea to media honchos is that   “keep the pot boiling” until politicians realize that rape is a cardinal sin and culprits should be punished sooner rather than later. The boiling of the pot exercise should be performed without discrimination and with bona fide intent since they have the potential to change the mindset of people and policy-makers. 

 

AK Pushpa

Asian College of Journalism,  Chennai 

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