Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mumabi is not just about Taj

After the 26-11 seize of Mumbai ended, the post mortem going into the conduct of the electronic media during the whole sixty hours of operation began to surface.

There are two thought process which have gained wind as we move more into analyzing the way media reported the whole incident. The first one says that the media did its duty in a commendable way and the second one which also has equal followers, says that they were inherently biased. And even in that time of ‘War on India’ as they described it, they were not able to move away from the magnetic force of TRPs.

The first notion is out there in the open for anyone to judge. We all were glued to the TV, we watched every second of the operation. And we can all make out what was happening.

The second one though needs to be elaborated. The terrorist before being surrounded in The Taj and Trident caused mayhem at the CST railway station. But none of the media personnel were present at the CST to bring out the details of those who died. Some people will attribute this to the great socio-economic difference that separates someone walking in the Taj and someone at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

The other reason which comes into mind is that perhaps at CST the action was already over, those who had to die, were dead. The marauders had moved to the Taj. And I can well imagine that an editor instructing his reporters, for obvious reasons, would have told his crew to focus on Taj where the action was still unfolding.

As we watched in disbelief, reporters and cameraperson waited for hours, ducked for cover whenever a blast occurred as they brought out the real picture to us. Even if nothing was happening, the news-anchor, would move to the reporter on-site and ask him to update on the current situation. While people were searching for their dead ones at the CST, the media continued its focus on Taj. According to those who were entrusted with the job of bringing out the news, Taj was a more visible face of Mumbai, known to the world, visited by the ‘elites’. Is not CST a part of Mumbai? I am sure that the ordinary Mumbaikars have spent more hours in and around CST then they have in Taj.

In the midst of all this, the idea of unbiased reporting was forgotten. And also lost was the sense of empathy and compassion. Perhaps overtaken by other materialistic consideration.

Questions about how long will the Taj be shut, who will renovate it, will MF Hussain’s painting don the walls again, will the guest be able to forget 26-11 once they enter Taj , every such questions were asked. But not even a question about who died in CST was ever heard.

The who’s and who’ of the electronic media, seasoned journalist, and veteran editors found themselves moving with the more vibrant side of the whole incident.

It was not an operation that got over in matter of minutes or a couple of hour, but as we all know, it lasted sixty hours. Taking every practical consideration, the networking with the authorities, the sound bytes, the updates, Sixty hours was more than enough for one to focus on CST and VT Hospital. Only if they wanted to.

In one of the articles that appeared in the Washington post after the Mumbai attacks, the writer has emphasized on this very disparity, which even in such testing times, failed to corrode. The article talks about the serial blast in the Mumbai trains that took place more than 2 years ago and says that since if affected the common people, the media sensitiveness was subdued. Even we as common citizens were subdued, no candle light protest, no ‘awaken India’.

Have we started perceiving things as perceived by the media? Does the media’s response decide our response?

Was 26-11 more deadly than 11-07 just because electronic media thought it that way?

India as we all know has more number of the poor and the voiceless. And it is always unfortunate that it is the rich and the vociferous, however less in number, get the attention. 26-11 was no different.

In an open letter to all those who are concerned, one of the journalist who has been on the line of fire, says that “Surely, India has bigger lessons to learn and larger points to mull over, than to expend energy over which television journalist tops the charts or falls to the bottom.”

I sincerely hope that the media too has learnt its part of the chapter and hopefully they will practice what they preach and see the bigger picture.

But then it has never been about the common Indian. Or is it?

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