Book review: Indian Mass Media: Prejudice against Dalits & Muslims

By Mahtab Alam,

Name of the Book: Indian Mass Media: Prejudice against Dalits & Muslims

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Edited by Yoginder S Sikand & Avinash K Mishra

Publisher: Hope India Publication

Pages: 237

Price: Rs. 495/-

Ask, P. Sainath, Editor, Rural Affairs for The Hindu English daily, and often referred to as the bad boy of Indian journalism, about the characteristics of the media today. “It is exclusionist, corporate ridden, market driven and so on and so forth,” he will tell you, while listing its major characteristics. Explaining his claim he’ll say, “Today, media houses are essentially anti-poor, anti-labour, anti-dalit, anti-minority and so on.” And this, he will exclaim with utmost confidence, backed by facts and figures.

But he is not alone. There are others who believe this and they have their reasons for it. Yoginder S. Sikand and Avinash K Mishra echo Sainath’s claim in their edited book—Indian Mass Media: Prejudices against Dalits & Muslims. “The fact of the day is that the entire Indian broadcast media, even radio and most of the print media as well, are owned primarily by business houses or have direct ties to the biggest of the big businesses. Therefore, they can’t help but seriously bias and compromise news coverage,” writes Avinash in the introductory chapter of the book. “Moreover, the media empires are, first and foremost, profit-making corporations that conduct themselves like other corporations when it comes to corrupting Indian politics. As big winners in the corruption game, they have hardly shown any sign of interest in political reform. Like politicians (those who are corrupt), media persons want the same preferential treatment, and express the same desire to grow without bounds,” he adds. (page 17) The author further claims, “There are many examples from the recent past that expose the mainstream media’s obsession with spine-chilling excitement and blood thunder incitement—without the professional obligation to check out the facts.” (page. 18)

Elaborating the bias against the Muslim community he writes, “[M]edia has always misinterpreted the facts about the Muslim community. The way the Shah Bano case was presented in the mainstream media was equally disappointing. It gave an impression as if only Muslims mistreat their women and deny them their basic rights.” (page. 21)

Regarding Dalits, he writes, “Despite the fact that many atrocities and crimes against Dalits are not reported due to fear of reprisal by the dominance of caste structure in the villages, official statistics averaged over the past 5 years show that 13 Dalits are murdered every week, 5 Dalits’ homes or possessions are burnt every week, 6 Dalits kidnapped or abducted every week, 3 Dalit women are raped every day….However, the concern of the media has never been in this direction. The most recent example has been with what happened in Khairlanji village of Maharashtra”. (page. 30)

The book presents detailed studies of the cases of Media’s bias against Dalits & Muslims and tries to bring out the irresponsible role played by the media time and again. The chapters, Mass Media: Massive Prejudice by Anand Teltumbade, and Mass Media and Muslims by Avinash K Mishra are the most illustrative ones. While Anand Teltumade has dealt with the role of media in the Khairlanji massacre case, Avinash Mishra presents a detailed study on the role of media in the infamous Imrana case. Nonetheless, other chapters are also very illuminating and provide food to ask hard questions. The contributors include senior journalists, human rights activists, political commentators and researchers. Aspects covered in these chapters are: Revivalist agenda of the media, Contradiction about the Batla House ‘encounter’, Communal profiling, Work style of media and atrocities on Dalits and the media response. The book is a volume containing write-ups of thorough research work and is full of facts, figures and information on the subject. It is needs to be read from cover to cover.

(The writer is Ranchi-based human rights activist and freelance journalist)