Towards Caste-free reporting

  • Khushwant Singh, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Nov 16, 2014 10:01 IST

Today’s column is not about politician bashing but is instead directed towards a very crucial issue which has been bothering me for a long time now. It is about the media going bananas over usage of caste and religious permutations and combinations while reporting, especially elections.

A serious thought needs to be given by the editors of their respective papers. They need to work towards creating a Casteless and secular system for reporting. The media by consistently using caste lines is unconsciously spreading the communal divide rather than wedging it and is instead creating the very malice it is meant to stop. An ironic situation indeed, and I’m surprised that why there has been no serious effort to achieve secular reporting. Perhaps this column can set the ball rolling for a debate. Since the media is supposed to report the ground reality which is communal and casteist there are arguments in favour of such reporting but padding up copies or running tickers using communal medleys at some level is retrograde. As retrograde as that illiterate villager who identifies his fellow villagers in terms of caste such as tarkhan, mazbhi etc.

The most recent example of coverage in this manner is that of the Haryana Elections. It reported the Haryana caste and religious equations in a manner as if its agenda was to ensure that voting happened in the manner of its reporting.But what happened? People rejected caste equations and tore apart the arithmetic the media had crunched. But then media is strong willed and it doesn’t give up easily. It went ahead with the headline about Haryana getting its first non Jat Chief Minister after 18 years. I think that is when I lost it that how come we are missing the point -of being harbingers of cohesiveness in society. If for a moment we were to analyse the headline, what does it really mean other than rub salt in the Chautala wound? Jokes apart, I’m still trying to understand what value did this headline add to the people , the newspaper or TV channels? It perhaps took away more from the mandate of the people who voted en bloc in favour of a political party. I understand that this column may be over simplifying the issue, but why complicate a thing as simple as this? I understand the history, the context and the blah, blah of it but bold initiatives are needed to take this idea further and work towards a media that does not encourage divisions in society. The press council has clear guidelines on covering riots (not to disclose the communities of the rioting people and also not to give out the names of victims) but no heed seems to be given. Forget the riots, we are even reporting brawls between two people on communal lines. Just like there are ISO standards for industry and proprietary why can’t media strive to achieve caste free reporting standards? In any case the best way to suffocate the devil is by cutting the oxygen supply i.e not reporting caste combinations.

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