EDITORIAL: We Don’t Need No 24/7 Channels

We have seen it and heard it and we have also experienced it when we first crossed the chicken neck and set foot on what is generally known as mainland India. It is therefore not surprising that while the rest of the country is generally understood as mainland India, the North Eastern States, barring Assam to a certain extent, have always been viewed and understood as fringe States, not only by the hoi-polloi but also by the political elites, sitting in the comfort of their air conditioned room or moving around in their tastefully done, AC and chauffeured car!

This is a trend and since our birth, meaning those born after 1949, we have become used to it, so much so that there is nothing to expect from the Centre and other private agencies, which cannot look beyond the chicken neck. In a way this betrays not only their lack of foresight and sensitivity, but also reflects the arrogance of the kurta, topi clad political class, sitting and lobbying at Delhi. This is the reality, however hard it is to acknowledge and it has never surprised us to see the 24/7 news channels, based either in Delhi or Mumbai, giving a miss to matters of extreme importance and instead focusing on the Fashion Shows or which Bollywood actor has hooked up with who and all the wild side story of glamour and glitz, which should otherwise be confined within the covers of fashion magazines or tabloid papers, as it has a reputation of its own.

People may say the same thing about how reporters and cameramen thronged the five star venues for the Wills Fashion Show, while there were just a handful of news hounds to cover the series of farmers’ suicides in Andhra Pradesh some years back. This fact was widely reported, with many questioning the ethics of the media persons and it did kick up some sort of an internal storm within the media community. This was what happened when the media did not dispense its duties faithfully or in the spirit of journalism, but come to think about it, how many sensitive cases in the North East have been completely ignored by the media based in mainland India?

It was against this backdrop that we observed the stark differences in the response of the Government as well as the citizens of the land in the fasts launched by Anna Hazare and Irom Chanu Sharmila. Both the issues should be dear to the hearts of a people living in the largest democracy in the world. While Hazare launched his fast to demand more teeth to the Lop Pal Bill to fight corruption as well as to nominate members from the civil society organizations to the drafting committee, Irom Chanu Sharmila has been on a fast since November 4, 2000, demanding the revocation of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act, after ten civilians were gunned down in indiscriminate firing by the Assam Rifles at Malom on November 2 of the same year.

Not surprisingly voices of discontent and how Delhi adopts different yardsticks with issues pertaining to the North East and the rest of the country, only helped in further alienating the common people here. Hazare’s fast lasted four days (a very symbolic measure by any stretch of the imagination) and the media all over India, climbed over each others’ shoulders to get an exclusive byte while political leaders of all hues and colors bent backwards to see what can be done and address the points raised by Hazare. On the other hand, Sharmila has been on a fast since the last ten years and not surprisingly there was no interest of substance, shown by the media from mainland India, even when she took her fast to Jantar Mantar, Delhi.

This being the case, it is a little surprising why the people should feel so miffed about the latest development. We do not need the mainstream media to highlight our cause-thank you. Today after more than a decade of fasting, Sharmila’s name has spread not only within the country but also abroad as well and the credit for this should go to what is generally known as the local papers, the young and enterprising Manipuri people settled in different parts of the world and of course, the most important of all, the resoluteness in the stand of Sharmila.

Anyway, we are of the opinion that with the world becoming a global village and since any information can be had from the net, the distinction between local papers of National papers is passé’. Moreover no newspaper in India can be said to have a National character, for all the sister publications of a single firm, say The Times of India, The Indian Express, The Hindu, etc, are focused on the issues which directly impact on the lives of the local people and not what is happening in faraway Delhi or what Sushma Swaraj or Madam Sonia Gandhi have to say.

The media in Manipur still has a long way to go, not only in terms of the technology used, but also in the professionalism of those engaged in this profession. However this cannot trivialize the important role that the media here has been playing for the last many years. So why kick up unnecessary dust over a situation, which we have been facing for decades after decades. Can anyone recall the time, when the Editor-in-Chief of CNN-IBN, Rajdeep Sardesai, personally occupied centre stage and admitted its failure to give equal footage to the havoc and losses created by floods at Assam years back, while the focus was on Bihar, Bihar and Bihar.

Mind you, Sardesai’s explanation did not come from the blue or more importantly from the tugging at his inner conscience, but it took a man from Assam to point this out and pose the question to the CNN-IBN, which otherwise prides itself as a news channel with a pan-India outlook, and influence, if we may add. The thrust of our argument is, by bemoaning the prominent differences seen in the two fasts, we do nothing positive but reinforces the stereotypical thought processes of the people across the chicken neck, that we are not upto it to do the needful. To this we have only one answer, we can look after ourselves and all mainland based media houses can go fly a kite!

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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