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The Malda riots and a defence of the 'sickular' media

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
January 12, 2016 11:30 IST
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Vehicles set on fire after clashes between two groups at Kaliachak police station in Malda. Photograph: PTI

IMAGE: Vehicles set on fire after clashes between two groups at the Kaliachak police station in Malda. Photograph: PTI

The Malda riots occurred on January 3, a day after the Pathankot terror attack. Common sense must dictate that an attack on the nation deserves more coverage than a local riot, says Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

When one of my Modi bhakt friends told me how the media was ignoring the Kaliachak riots in Malda, West Bengal, I ignored him.

It was, I felt, his daily rant against the 'sickular media', as the bhakt brigade deems my profession. Surprisingly, another friend last week told me the media was ignoring the Kaliachak riots because the perpetrators were Muslim.

For those not in the know, the Kaliachak riots broke out on January 3 after a Muslim mob protested against Kamlesh Tiwari, a Hindu Mahasabha leader who three weeks earlier made derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammed.

Many people were injured and vehicles were burned in the violence that followed.

In my friend's opinion, Muslims destroyed police chowkies and attacked Hindus, but the media was ignoring the incident.

The media, he added, had hyped up the Dadri killing of Mohammed Akhlaq where the mob was Hindu but it kept mum about Malda where the mob was Muslim.

He then showed me a Whatsapp message which had columnist Suhel Seth's tweet: 'Hello Media Honchos! Is Malda not a part of India? Or is silence the new strategy?'

The media, this friend claimed, was only interested in defaming the Modi government when the victim is a Muslim, but no one wanted to point fingers at West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who, he alleged, supported Muslim communalists openly and did not take action against them.

I felt I needed to defend the 'sickular media.'

I told him there were reports in almost every newspaper on the Malda riots.

I also saw Rajdeep Sardesai conduct a discussion on the Malda riots on India Today TV. (By the way, Rajdeep is a favourite target of the bhakts.)

My friend then said the riots were not covered in detail and mentioned just in passing.

I asked him: Do you know when V P Singh died?

He said he had no idea.

I told him V P Singh died on November 27, 2008, but there was no coverage befitting a former prime minister in the media. At best, there were brief reports about his death.

The reason, I told him, was that V P Singh died at a time when Mumbai was under attack by Pakistani terrorists. The whole nation wanted to know what was going on in Mumbai, and this drowned out news about V P Singh's death.

I mention this because there is a similarity between the Malda riots and the Pathankot terrorist attack.

On January 2, a group of men from the Pakistani terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed attacked the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot.

It shocked the nation because just a week earlier, on December 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had paid a surprise visit to Lahore and met with his counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

Everyone wanted to know who these terrorists were. Were our air assets safe? Were the families living in the Pathankot airbase safe? Had the terrorists been neutralised? Had the base been secured?

All this, it seemed, was of little concern to the bhakts who were more bothered about why the 'sickular' media was ignoring the Malda riots.

The Malda riots occurred on January 3, when the terrorists in Pathankot still had to be neutralised. Common sense dictated that an attack on the nation deserved more coverage than the Malda riots.

It is a completely wrong perceptio to say that the media ignored the Malda riots. It did cover the riots just like they did the Purnea riots (for the same reason as Malda) in Bihar last week.

On November 18, 2015, some 10 days after the Bihar assembly election results, I got a message from a Modi bhakt and I quote, 'In the last ten days, not ONE award has been returned. NO controversy over a religious comment, NO talks about beef/meat anymore. Just sit back and think how the media and politicians manipulated 1 billion people during elections. Good to see that the country has once again magically become tolerant and secular! It is a miracle.'

I replied, stating, 'Just like the Dadri lynching kind of incidents have stopped. Beef is no issue now. Riots across India are not taking place because elections are not taking place.'

There was complete silence from his side.

And for those who don't know, elections in West Bengal and Assam are likely to be held in May.

The Assam governor made a statement in the last week of November, 'Hindustan for Hindus.'

And now, two months later in January, we are witnessing the Malda riots. What does it all suggest?

Elections are round the corner, India!

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Syed Firdaus Ashraf / Rediff.com
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