Sunday, August 21, 2005
An empowering media
There is some self-congratulation here, but nevertheless, there is also an interesting point. Shekhar Gupta writes in the Indian Express:
In February 1983, then as this newspaper’s correspondent in the North-East, I broke the story of the massacre of 3,500 people in the village of Nellie in Assam. On a visit to Delhi subsequently, I was taken by my editors then to meet Ramnathji. "You young fellow, you are doing a good job," said the old man, always parsimonious with praise. And then he added, "I liked that language in of your story...taking a walk across is an act of courage. Must have been tough looking at so many dead and injured?"Well, yes, the media may well have kept issues like Gujarat alive. But the guilty have still not been punished. What will it take for that to change?
Looking back 22 years, yes, it was an act of courage. As it was to drive to Guwahati airport, in a blood-stained white shirt, to hand over the roll of film from my Minolta to a Delhi-bound Indian Airlines pilot and then finding a telex machine in a strike-hit telegraph office to file the story at a time when STD was a luxury and fax not yet invented.
But even today, nobody has been called to account. That massacre, entirely of poor Muslims, has gone un-investigated. Nobody remembers it, nobody complains that everybody got away. Today, if such a thing were to happen again, God Forbid, there is sufficient institutional and political awakening in India to ensure there will not be such an easy forget, if not forgive as this paper’s coverage of the 2002 Gujarat killings (for which it got the International Press Institute award) has shown.
The difference between 1983 and 2005 is, that then information like a Nellie massacre merely shocked you. Today, it empowers you to demand redressal, better governance, better quality of life.