By Trevor Selvam
29 May, 2010
First, the Ms. Quasimodo of Bengal and Indian politics, Mamata Banerjee announces that it was a “bomb blast” with great bombast. Then, Bhupinder Singh, the Police IG and KPSGill-wannabee (who had earlier smeared and lied about Chatradhar Mahato’s insurance, property etc and never bothered to retract anything) says that two posters were found proving that the Maoist PCAPA had taken “responsibility ”for the train disaster. The two posters, it turned out, merely stated the intent of the local PCAPA the reasons for their on-going struggles. Ms. Bomberjee also claimed that a pilot vehicle had passed by just before. She did not state how “before” it was. One hour, two hours, five hours, one day? After the entire place is “infested” with Maoists. Is it not?
Now the tone is changing gradually. A foot and half of fish-plates were found removed. A BBC cameraman has displayed the gap in one of their broadcasts. No evidence of a blast any longer. No evidence of gelatine, dynamite, ammonium nitrate. The foreign press had already expressed some caution, in their statements and terminology. But not the Indian press. They are so free, unfettered and dynamic when it comes to spreading innuendo!
The Maoists have officially stated that they had nothing to do with the incident to BBC and other reporters. There are now reports that the government has toned down its mischievous rhetoric and has stated that “Maoist involvement cannot be ruled out.” After the damage has been done, and abuse is proliferating the email bandwidth, some sobriety is slowly emerging, but only in back-door doses. This was a prime opportunity to “false flag” the incident into a Maoist carnage scorecard or tally sheet, which as Indian we love to read over and over and get spasmodic about. After all, this is “Maoist-infested” area. The vermin had declared a 48 hour bandh just a few days ago, is it not? And in the weeks before they had blown up the bus with a roof-load of uniformed Police Officers (a fact that until now was suppressed, that all on the roof were policemen, and the news about the civilians inside the bus was emphasized repeatedly). The civilian bus incident has done some damage to the Naxalite-Maoist image no doubt, but the real truth about the incident took a while to emerge and it is now also appearing that some of the civilians were also locals who had applied for SPO positions and were still in civvies. What other opportunity than this rail incident to nail the Maoists down?
Let’s cut to the chase with some questions:-
1) Does the state really think that the Maoists are intellectually so handicapped that they would blow up a train and kill civilians to further their revolutionary cause, especially after the extraordinary media savvy-ness they have displayed lately? Because if that is their estimation of the Maoists’ intelligence, the cause of the Indian state is already doomed.
2) Does the media and the government really believe that the Maoist squads will engage in terrorism against innocent civilians to get public support? Is it not true that self-appointed Indian experts of counter-insurgency strategy have repeatedly declared that the Maoists are no longer a rag-tag band of roving rebels, but a highly disciplined and technically somewhat advanced formation?
3) Does the media question why the train was travelling at break neck speed at night, whereas instructions have been repeatedly issued to go slow through “insurgent” territory, especially right after a Bandh?
4) Does the media understand that the PCAPA operates openly and with down to earth simplicity (please read their last two letters to the APDR—they read like a hundred year old passage from the time of the Santhal revolts), with published addresses and telephone numbers (even though they are understandably “underground” since their last President was assassinated in front of his family and the matter is practically forgotten by Mr. Perfidy himself –PCC)? Why would they carry out such an attack, since their only demands are stemming strictly from a tribal sense of justice? Has everyone forgotten their original demand that the Police hold their ears and apologize in Lalgarh for what they did—that was all that they wanted?
5) Does the media understand that fishplates have been removed before during a rail-roko and openly so, and announced to the media to ensure that a bandh is maintained? That after such a bandh, the rail authorities must recheck the lines as is always and routinely done in all countries of the world?
6) Does the media ever ask the question, that in a typical Indian rural (or even semi –urban setting) there are hordes of fringe elements, looters, free-lancers, half politicized riff-raff who indulge in lumpenism that borders on luddite outrage?
7) Why don’t the media ask the Maoist leaders (with whom they are having constant conversations) why they are unable to control ALL the people in their “territories”” of control? That would be a test of their mass organizational skills, would n’t that?
8) Does the media ever ask, whether there could actually be a foreign hand? I mean, like there was a foreign hand in blowing up the Air India Kashmir Princess during the days of the Bandung Conference in 1955? Do the swashbuckling Indian journalist starlets know that a Kuomintang deployed engineering technician team serviced the plane in Hong Kong and when this team was tracked down, the CIA flew them over to Formosa and they disappeared forever from the scene? Intrigue can be pretty sophisticated in India these days.
What is it that makes Indian journalists/reporters rush to judgement, arrive at hasty conclusions and choose terminology that is already prejudiced about the outcome? The answer is simple–because laziness, irresponsibility and tabloidism is encouraged in Indian media.
Why do newscasters emphasize words like “massacre, terror, murder, barbarity, gruesome attack, sabotage, carnage, death cult, inhuman terror, ” in describing suspected Maoist attacks, whereas massive evidence of police attacks, rampage through village communities, “encounter” killings, acts of mass rape, forced displacement by Selwa Judum and SPOs, burning of peasant and tribal huts and homes of minorities, cutting of breasts of 80 year old women and fingers of two year old children not reported as genocidal, maniacal, psychotic? Why is it not reported that already since Operation Green Hunt over 200 civilians have been killed by government forces and promptly declared as Maoists? Why do reporters not follow the nearly clichéd approach of innocent until proven guilty? Why do Indian journalists not display an iota of investigative acumen when they start blabbing about an incident? Why don’t they take some time out and go back to educating themselves on the basic principles of reporting the facts and not hearsay, repeating police officer and IAS chatter instead of what aloof bystanders have to say? Why do they parrot those who talk the most, and are ready with press conferences as soon as an incident is reported, instead of talking to those who shy away from the camera and avoid the public gaze?
The answer is very simple. Indian journalism has so far resided in a nebulous comfort zone of non-democracy and pre-capitalist formation, despite all the hardware and verbiage that they have mastered so well. Whereas litigiousness is a product of advanced capitalism, where the sue-r wants to make sure that the sue-d has the bank balance that can be extracted, in a pre-capitalist society there is no such concern; irresponsibility, chicanery, grandstanding, stagecraft and sensation- mongering passes off as “journalism.” Collating data from others and rushing out reportage to make the editor’s need to make it to the wire before others is a prime consideration. News syndicates are constantly dishing out hearsay as news.
Indian journalism is not an upholder of genuine democracy in the thought processes. Because the democratic process, itself, is not understood. Root cause analysis of incidents is not initiated. In fact the removed fish plate is not the end of the investigation. How was it removed? Who in the village has the wrenches and spanners to remove the parts? Were any loose parts found nearby? Do the railways have special tools to unbolt and re-bolt the fishplates? Has a search been conducted of the missing fish plates? Meanwhile, one hundred civilians have perished and manipulative propaganda is being carried out for political reasons?
As we write this article, word is coming out that the “convincing” evidence of North Korea torpedoing the South Korean Naval vessel, in which over 40 sailors died, is not that convincing anymore. Reports have appeared in Japan, in China, in Australia that the explosive traces found on the sunken vessel indicate evidence of very advanced magnet-guided rising-type submerged mining technology. That a team of US divers were exercising with the same type of mines in the same area in joint exercises with the South Korean Navy, some weeks before. That this particular relatively secluded seaway has never seen North Korean incursions. That the North Koreans do not possess such weaponry. That North Koreans, despite their frequent hot and cold and belligerent behaviour, could not have carried out the attack.
The question that one must ask is who would benefit the most, at this time from such a rail accident? Which party, which government, which organization? Who has already demonstrated the ability in India to stage false flag incidents to blame “foreign” and minority communities? The Naxalites, by the way, own up to what they do.
Meanwhile, two persons have repeatedly shown abject inability to conduct their portfolios with a minimum degree of finesse. Mamata Banerjee and PC Chidambaram. Why is the media not asking for their resignation? In any other democratic country, these two would have been history, by now.