Friday, November 03, 2006

The news we don't read

So we have heard all about Jessica Lall and Priyadarshini Mattoo, and anything else that happens to the elite in Delhi and other big cities.

So why hadn't most of us heard of this, which happened over a month ago? A search on Google News for Surekha Bhotmange throws up only three news items (two in DNA in early-mid October, and one in the Times of India on October 29), and a google web search throws up about 82 hits, very few of which are on news sites.

As Dilip D'Souza says, see the pictures. Yes, they'll disturb and disgust you, but that's the point. That's the only way to bring home the horror. I never understood why the media censors "disturbing" images.

The good part is that the internet is serving as a medium to expose these stories (apparently the mainstream national media is belatedly waking up too -- NDTV has a story today). And, if justice is done (I know that's a huge if), hopefully it will increase awareness among Dalits elsewhere in India of their rights, and recognition among upper-caste thugs that they can't get away with it.

(On another note -- it's sad that several Dalit readers on that blog are arguing for doing the same to upper-caste Hindu women. It's true that the women in that village didn't stop this, but women in traditional Indian communities are hardly in a position of power. Why must the women always be the victims?)

Many people in our prudish country object to the pictures not because they are disturbing but because they show naked bodies. So let me point out a parallel from another prudish country (which I mentioned in a post on another site). Stories of US torture in Iraq had been appearing for months in the international media, but it took the Abu Ghraib photos of naked, humiliated prisoners to actually wake up the American public. (And even then, the response was basically to punish the perpetrators in those particular photos. Everything else is ignored. If the US media hadn't been so self-censoring in its visual imagery from Iraq, the war would have been over long ago.)

Now it turns out that one of the first US soldiers to die in Iraq (the third woman, in fact, back in 2003) committed suicide after objecting to the interrogation techniques she was forced to use. I am not sure what these techniques are -- they have nondescript names like "waterboarding" -- but I'm sure a picture, or even better, a video, would be very enlightening.

Just writing "the soldiers stripped prisoners naked and humilated them" or "the villagers stripped the family naked, raped and killed them" doesn't convey the same impact as seeing it.

We need more photos, of every atrocity that happens around the country. Reading the news is not the same as seeing it.

A photo, from another generation, of a naked girl running for her life. The photographer says "At first (his editors) didn't like the picture because the girl had no clothes." But they published it around the world, and the world wasn't the same.


Krithika Ramalingam said...

Do you know what intrigues me, why should the media leave out the name of castes in clashes. Name the OBC, let everyone know who we should beware

Tabula Rasa said...

there's the "preserving the dignity of the deceased" argument, which i'm not sure how to respond to. but i remember that hadn't applied in rajiv gandhi's case.

Anonymous said...

Ram Jethmalani- is undoubtedly a conniving, manipulative liar

Read this:

Rahul Siddharthan said...

i.t.s. - not sure one should beware of an OBC in general because of what their members did in one particular village, but maybe I misunderstood you.

sunita - thanks (a) for the irrelevant comment and (b) for illustrating my recent post on plagiarism with your own example, which you have pinched from here.

Anonymous said...

I first found this story on BBC. It is unbelievably sad and there is no real solution... the damage has been done, but I hope to God that the father will receive some kind of justice and be able to continue with life as best he can. I am glad that the new sources have reported on this important story and I am able to read it from the USA. Anyone who participated, watched, or could have stopped this atoricty should be jailed for many years. I hope the CIB will achieve this.

Dalit treatment in India is a SHAME!

Please post updates to this story.