By Monjib Mochahari |https://posttruthinfo.wordpress.com| 7 June 2016
The selective media silence needs to be seen in the light of the criminality of the incident, the communty they represent, influence of the accused on media professionals working and waves of anti-tribal sentiments in the area. One of the accused named in the FIR, lodged at Harisinga Police Station on 30 May 2016, is the leader of the district committee of a student body which claims to work for the dominant Caste. People in the town also alleged some of the accused have close proximity with local media persons, who are often engaged in an artificial construct called – #Oboros. On may rightly perceive this alleged nexus between the accused and the messengers ensured that the story doesn’t break the headlines. Absence of tribal journalists in the area has equally made it easy for not to highlight the gruesome attempt to murder.
A week after Sarbananda Sonowal took oath as Assam’s first BJP Chief Minister, a brutal mob attack on a 15-year old Bodo tribal boy took place in Harisinga daily market, a small town in Udalguri district. The victim is a Class IX student in Harisinga Higher Secondary School, a popular school in the town. On the early morning of 30 May 2016, around 4 am, the juvenile named Sansuma Ramchiary was tortured like a dreaded criminal on suspicion of theft at Harisinga daily market by some members of the dominant caste. At the time of euphoric celebrations of BJP’s spectacular electoral victory in Assam, the barbaric incident shocked the region. On the day of the incident, the victim was out on his routine morning walk. On normal days during summer, everything becomes clear by 4 am and people in rural villages start moving out for works. So there was hardly a reason to be suspicious about his presence. Since it rained, he took shelter stand on the veranda of a shop in the market, which is less than half a kilometre from his village. A little later, the watchman alerted about his suspicious presence. Immediately, he was surrounded by the members of the dominant caste and accused him of stealing from a grocery store and took him to the nearby field, where he was tied to a post, blindfolded and beaten until he became unconscious. As has been witnessed, there is a similarity of punishment meted out to him with that of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. His body was slashed him with blades and sharp razors. After that, the agitated mob slathered his body, including his eyes and ears with salt, lime and chilly power. They put lime, salt and chilly power in his eyes as a result of which he lost his eyesight. He was left to die, beaten that he will never be same again even if he regains his senses. The ordeal continued for about three hours before he was handed over to the police in a critical condition. People were not at all shocked about the cruelty meted out to this little boy. Such cases have occured time and again.
An Old Wound Resurfaces
One reason that drives this cruelty of the minor is the existence of enmity between the two communities does exist and is deeply rooted in political contentions and marginalisation and exploitation of the Bodos by the dominant caste. More so in the context of demand for a separate Bodo state, which Assamese community perceive as a potential threat to their existence and challenge to their ultra nationalistic aspirations. Such differences keep surfacing, and thus have widened the community relationship to an irreparable point. Even minor cases such as theft by either of the community members become an opportune moment to target their counterparts, which often turn out to be speculative assumptions. So, the punishment meted out to the victim is not about his alleged theft, but a result of hatred towards community. It is just a follow up of what has been happening for decades. One memory that keep flashing public imagitination is flashing out over sixty thousands Bodos in Sonitpur and Lakhimpur districts in 1989.
The images of cruelty of the victim have widely been shared in various social media including Facebook, Twitter and blogs, drawing severe condemnation and criticism due to failure of the police administration to arrest the next door culprits immediately, some of whom are still at large. While on the ground, a massive polarisation between the two communities was almost leading to violent confrontation. Normalcy is yet to be restored in the area. An indefinite economic blockade is imposed by general public and tribal organisations. On 3 June 2016, a massive dharna was stage in Harisinga. Three of the seven accused in the FIR lodged under 342/325/326 sections of the IPC and R/W 23 Juvenile Justice Act/2000, have been arrested, the rest are still at large.
What is rather surprising is none of the Guwahati based major dailies and 24/7 hours news channels reported this disturbing development although there are sizeable number of media persons working for different media in the area. The place of the incident is about three hours drive from Guwahati and about fifteen kilometres from Udalguri district headquarter. The tyranny of distance can hardly be a reason for it. Harisinga is well connected by rail and road network. Moreover, the place is politically significant as there are two important ceasefire camps of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) located in the area, an insurgent outfit currently in peace talk with the Union Government. In addition, most of the leaders and activities working for tribal and non-tribal leaders of students bodies live in Harisinga. For four days, the incident didn’t receive any mainstream media coverage. Surpriseingly, it failed to break the headlines. The story was first reported by this blog. Later, it was reported by Youth Ki Awaaz, The Telegraph, The Northeast Today and Eclectic. The regional media, which otherwise trivial events have completely remained silence on the issue. Had it occurred in some non-tribal dominated areas, or in the case of tribal being accused of, this news could have remained a breaking story for days. Or if the accused were from the Bodo community, the possible narratives could have been ‘Bodos attack Assamese Boy”. People are no stranger to such constructs where the intention is to paint a poor image of the community.
Why this Spectacular Silence?
The selective media silence needs to be seen in the light of the criminality of the incident, the community they represent and influence of the accused on media persons working in the area, people argued. One of the accused named in the FIR lodged at Harisinga Police Station on 30 May 2016, is the leader of the district committee of Asom Jatiyabadi Yuva Chhatra Parisha (AJYCP), a student body which claims to work for the Assamese community. The Telegraph has also carried this story. People in the town also alleged some of the accused have close proximity with local media persons, who are mostly from dominant community often engaged in an artificial construct called – #Oboros. On may rightly perceive this alleged nexus between the accused and the messengers ensure that the story doesn’t break the headlines. Absence of tribal journalists in the area has equally made it easy for not to highlight the gruesome attack. Moreover, all the accused are from the same community, and any portrayal of the incident was expected to paint a poor image about them. In this case, the priority of the media persons was to restrict the flow of the news as far as possible and protect the image of the accused and their community. But does it mean that media has no responsibility to highlight a disturbing news which could have led to violent confrontation between the two communities? It doesn’t seem to be.