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I was just reading a post on http://wp.me/2GiOO    about Newspaper Mythmaking (dated 14 November 2012) and how the Truth is the victim in the whole circus of media-fed frenzy about non-stories. It reminded me of something that had occurred 9 – 10 years back. An event that shattered my naivete about the credentials of the electronic media.

In North India, any public sector job is highly coveted, the Indian Railways being the largest employer in this sector. Since the recruitment is done separately for various zones, some candidates sit for as many zonal exams that they can so as to increase their chances of success.

During such a round of exams, the candidates from Bihar in the North had gone to Mumbai in the West and Guwahati in the North East to try their luck in the railways exams. The locals beat and chased them away as they felt they were unfairly taking advantage of the zonal exam system.

Subsequently there were brutal retaliatory attacks in Bihar but these were only against the North East Indians. Maybe it was because of the mongoloid features that most of the inhabitants of the North East have, which is at once their identity and their curse.

Foreigners in our own land

During this time, my Naga friend had come to visit me in Mumbai. When she arrived, the story she told me of what transpired on her train journey made me shudder to the core. Their train had been stopped just a kilometer from a station in Bihar. The looters went through the coaches as if shopping at the mall. There was no state machinery to protect them for hours.

My friend had been traveling in the air conditioned coach. She was protected by 2 old North Indian ladies (God bless their souls) who covered her with blankets and started loudly chanting whenever the looters used to board their compartment.

Once the train started, some Nagas from the sleeper coaches came looking for a Naga woman and found her. They requested her to accompany them to the sleeper coach where 2 Naga girls were injured, one of them was bleeding profusely and was in shock.

It seems the savages (calling them animals would be an insult to animals) had tried to drag the 2 girls out of the train and somehow the passengers could only get 1 of the girls back in. The other girl had her insides torn by broken sticks as they laughed at her screams, violating her again and again and again… I can’t even begin to think about what the poor child must have gone through…

Her travails didn’t end there.  When the train started entering Mumbai, the electronic media was there, circling like vultures looking for a tasty soundbite. My friend gave interviews about what had happened, not letting them prey on the poor girl. But when we put on the TV that day we were stunned that there was not even one channel running the news about what had happened. It reminded me about what another North Eastern friend had told me once – We are invisible till we bite.

And that’s what happened…

Within days, some poor innocent Bihari workers got killed in Guwahati. The media could not report the attack on the workers in isolation. They were forced to report the cause – the attacks on North Easterners on trains going through Bihar, one of which happened on the train in which my friend was traveling.

The sense of alienation that my North East friends had been talking about over the years finally made sense. Not any less for the fact that many people in the media themselves were from Bihar.

Whatever happened to reporting the Truth at all costs?

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