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The only answer
By Rizwan Ullah

An answer to what? An answer to a host of unanswered questions, to a multitude of hotly debated issues, to a plethora of hurdles and hindrances, to deprivations of all sorts, to branding and stigmatization and to the neglect, side-tracking, even black-out by the media. Whom does this plausible postulation refer to? Obviously, who else could it be referred to save a section of the sons of the soil, low citizens of a proclaimed and assiduously working democracy, that is, India. Yes, it refers to the second largest majority of the country who claim to be Muslims, and second largest concentration of their sorts in the world, who claim to be second to none in the struggle for independence in the war against invasions and intrusions and in the fight against the forces of darkness and regression but still continue to remain under the pall of suspicion and distrust espoused and propagated by the ingratitudous, selfish and self-serving sections and groups of the same citizenry whose malicious campaign of hatred causes cleavages and schisms in Indian society.

Many events, cultural and otherwise, go unreported and neglected by the media resulting in the deprivation of the society of its due. Media is certainly accountable for the wilful dereliction of its duty to work for the cohesion of the society.

Let the depth of the malady be fathomed through a few instances. Octogenarian Hakeem Abdul Hameed, an illustrious genius of Delhi passed away last year. He was a humanist par excellence who transformed Hamdard, an establishment dealing in indigenous medicines, into a full-fledged Majeedia Hospital and medical college. He was the chancellor of the Hamdard University, yet another institution founded by his imaginative genius. He was an untiring healer whose healing touch was open to all till his last days. His demise was a great national loss, but its coverage in the national press was minimal, much less than that of a road accident or a neighbourhood robbery. A couple of months later a two-day seminar on the life and works of Hakeem Abdul Hameed could not find any coverage in the national media.

A two-day All-India Urdu Editors Conference was held in Delhi in the concluding days of July last. The conference was inaugurated by President KR Narayanan. Participating editors were invited for lunch or tea by national leaders including the Prime Minister and the Congress President, but the ‘national’ press could not get a hint of it, so it was not reported through the coverage. A few years ago Dr Jameelur Rahman led a medical relief team to the plague- hit Surat. On his return home he was shunned by his neighbours in the capital’s Sarita Vihar colony like a pariah; even water and power connections of his flat were snapped in order to force his eviction from the colony. What a great reward for a meritorious deed! 

These are only a few examples of the treatment meted out to a section of Indians by the ‘national’ media and by sections of the populace. But who is the loser? Obviously, the whole society is the loser as it is deprived of its right to be informed. Let us see this state of affairs in a wider perspective.

The media bias against a section the people has two aspects - omission and commission. The foregoing examples are those of omissions. The instances of commissions also abound, sometimes glaring and at times subtle. It is needless to multiply examples. The basic question is: who is going to suffer from the biased behaviour? Even before raising this question, it may be asked if such a behaviour by as vast and multifarious media as we have is morally justified in a society where we have a multitude of cultures, traditions, practices, languages and faiths? Does such an attitude fall within the parameters of professional ethics? Let us leave it to the conscience of the players of this reprehensive game executed with complete understanding and striking cohesion. Let us come to the question: who is going to suffer from the biased approach of the media? Are the victims of this behaviour the sole sufferers? If so, are they not a segment of the whole Indian society? Are they not the readers of the print media and clients of the electronic media which includes customers, advertisers, listeners, opinion makers and so on and so forth? If a section of the society is shown in a bad light, through omission or misrepresentation, will that not reflect upon the whole society? On the other hand, the society has a rightful claim to get the facts by all available means. If the facts are withheld or not truthfully presented, will that not amount to playing fraud upon the society? Is that not a social crime? Does it not enjoin upon the society to protest?

But how can the aggrieved section of the society protest against an injustice unless it is aware of the malaise? Now, if one is coming forward to point out the shortcomings of the media or its unethical biases or its betrayal of the trust society has put into it, is it not the responsibility of the people affected most adversely to bring the facts to light? Is it not in the interest of the most aggrieved to do whatever they can in order to keep the society informed about the facts that are obfuscated? All these questions, and many other related issues, cry for an answer, a workable answer.

A workable answer is possible. It requires a little extra effort. But before that there should be the realisation of what is at stake. The honour, the self-respect, the trust and dependability, in short, an honourable and respectable place in society is at stake. Those who are losing it most and speediliy should come out of their shells soonest and with surest means of attacking the malaise.

Media is the surest weapon as the old adage goes, iron cuts iron. Media is a big word and one may feel overawed. How to engineer or invent such a weapon and how to sharpen it to make it most effective?

The suggestion that media is the weapon of weapons these days is hard to digest for the people who have shown disregard for it and believe it to be the means of imparting frivolous news reports only. The very victims of the media have overlooked it under the disbelief that oratory in literary seminars and religious gatherings are enough to meet all the needs of the present day society. Media has been treated with too much superficiality. The time has come to not only realise its significance but to harness it to achieve our objective, that is, an honourable place in the Indian society as a whole.
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