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October 22, 2006
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October 22, 2006




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Home > 2006 Issues > October 22, 2006

Not enough you believe you're fair, your viewers should share that perception
By Umesh Upadhyay

I still feel outraged and seethe with anger whenever I see those paintings of M.F. Husain. How could one be so insensitive to create such paintings? Could a sane person do it? Is it deliberate? I am not too sure. But what about the media? Is it insensitive or has it almost become immune to the feelings of the majority community?

There is nothing wrong in being a little cautious about minority feelings but should it be done at the expense of the feelings of the vast majority? Why does a large section of Hindus tend to believe that secularism in media means not caring for their concerns?

Did the media not go overboard with the story? Each day the selective leaks by the police were carried in the visual and the print media, as if the Kanchi Peeth was the den of murderers and criminals. One could argue that since such an important person was involved, so obviously media has to carry it. The TV people will say that if you are a celebrity then you cannot escape such a media scrutiny.

I would like to start the discussion with an example. About six months ago I was preparing for my evening show ?Khabar Per Nazar? at Janmat Channel and the topic of discussion was controversy surrounding M.F. Husain. Simply browsing through the Goggle, I came across some of the most bizarre and shocking paintings along with equally horrendous titles. This site was an Indiatimes blog site. Though the readers may feel hurt but I would like to mention some of the paintings as appeared in the website presumably titled by Husain himself.

1. Hanuman opposite Sita sitting on the thigh of Ravana.

2. A women copulating with a horse.

3. Bull copulating with Parvati and Shankar watching on Shivaratri.

4. Hanuman showing his genitals to a woman.

5. Durga in sexual union with Tiger.

6. Stark naked Lakshmi on the head of Ganesha. Husain has not apologised for all those paintings.

The issue that I am discussing is not what Husain did or did not do, or how lunatic, denigrating, awful, insulting (one could add any number of adjectives) the entire thing is. What I am talking is how the mainline media covered it. Let us compare the media outrage of the Danish cartoon controversy at the same time. While each one of us (I am including myself as well) went overboard criticising the artist that created those cartoons. What did we do about these paintings and the person who sketched them? The controversy was seen mostly as a creation of hard-line Hindu elements like the VHP the and the Shiv Sena etc. Some of the media paid a lip service and that was it. I am still unable to get an answer as to why there was no significant protest by the intelligentsia and the media over this absolutely ludicrous depiction of our Gods and Goddesses?

I have downloaded the same. I still feel outraged and seethe with anger whenever I see those paintings. How could one be so insensitive to create such paintings? Could a sane person do it? Is it deliberate? I am not too sure. But what about the media? Is it insensitive or has it almost become immune to the feelings of the majority community?

Let us analyse the media behavior in both cases. The Danish cartoons hurt the feelings of Muslims. But this was a case where no Indian was even remotely involved. Still Indians cutting across religious lines felt outraged. The episode was in the News day in and day out in all TV channels, newspapers, radio, web portals, and magazines. Newspaper editors wrote editorials and articles, we in Television had special programmes and talk shows condemning the cartoons. And rightly so, as nobody has a business to hurt feelings of others. But what happened on the Husain Paintings? Apart from a few customary coverages there was no hue and cry in the media. Why? Do the mainline media approve this behavior? Does it think that it was a question of freedom of expression? Was Husain right in painting Gods like that? Was his apology sufficient? Did we discuss him in detail?

Let me take another example. The Shankar Raman murder case has been dealt in the media with details. We do not know who murdered him. The Tamil Nadu police under then Chief Minister Jaylalitha thought that he was murdered at the behest of His Holiness Shankaracharya Swami Jayendra Saraswati. That the Achrya and Kanchi Kamkoti Peetham were behind it. Let us not go into the politics of Jaylalithaa and her motives behind the pro-activeness of the state police in this particular case. But again, did the media not go overboard with the story? Each day the selective leaks by the police were carried in the visual and the print media, as if the Kanchi Peeth was the den of murderers and criminals. One could argue that since such an important person was involved, so obviously media has to carry it. The TV people will say that if you are a celebrity then you cannot escape such a media scrutiny.

But let me juxtapose this incident with another one. Recently there was an incident involving the Shahi Imam of the Delhi Jama Masjid. A Delhi police team led by the local station house officer had gone there to investigate a case. The police was not allowed to investigate and the police officer was beaten up. Even the media was not spared. A visual media team was manhandled. This incident was reported in some of the channels and newspapers. But it was very brief. A single column story in newspapers and a brief story in non-prime time slots in TV channels. While one cannot compare two situations and Shankaracharya and the Shahi Imam. This example is only to understand the media behavior while dealing with majority and minority. The coverage of both incidents indicates that while the minority is treated with kid?s gloves the mainline media is rather harsh when it deals with the issues of Hindus.

One could give a lot of examples like this. A lot of questions come to you when you analyse such situations. Is the media deliberately doing it? Or is it too obsessed being seen as fair and just to minorities? Has the media become too ?secular? to be sensitive towards the feelings of the majority community? It seems so otherwise it should have reacted sharply to mischievously lunatic creativity of Husain.

While one cannot generalise and say that the media is anti-Hindu. One could definitely say that a big chunk of the mainline media is actively pro-minority. Frankly speaking there is nothing wrong in being a little cautious about minority feelings but should it be done at the expense of the feelings of the vast majority? Why does a large section of Hindus tend to believe that secularism in media means not caring for their concerns, causes and feelings? Has the media not taken it for granted?

I believe it is not sufficient to believe that you are fair, just and balanced; it is equally important that your readers and viewers share your perception that you are even handed in your criticism and praise. There seems to be a deficit of trust on that count between the majority community and a large segment of media.

(The writer is a renowned media personality, political analyst and anchor in Janmat channel.)




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