If Six Unarmed Protesters Are Killed, Does India Care?

I’ve worked on human rights in South Asia for a number of years and have been immersed in how the media operates, especially in India. It’s often the same story: an incident happens in Delhi and its suburbs or a couple of other “important” cities like Mumbai and Bangalore and the media covers it breathlessly on the many 24-hour news networks and newspapers.

The government is almost always to blame for this or that, calls for resignations are issued in a very serious tone. And, after a couple of days, all is forgotten.

If it’s a small town in rural Bihar where there is a human rights violation, you won’t hear much at all. If there is any coverage, it’s generated from the bottom-up and mostly stays out of the mainstream media outlets headquartered in Delhi or Mumbai.

For example, late on June 4 and early the next morning, a group of protesters in the Indian capital, New Delhi, were occupying the Ramila grounds demanding that the government end corruption. It’s an important issue that has human rights implications especially in terms of those seeking redress from an overwhelmed judiciary. The Delhi state government sent in the police to detain the leader of the protest, Baba Ramdev. The resulting police action was typical for the day-to-day excess of Indian police handling crowds—lots of brutality, including baton charges and tear gas.  Luckily no one was killed, but several people were seriously injured.

In the Delhi police brutality case, India’s boisterous media was all over the story, condemning the government and the police for what they did. There was blanket coverage. The central government was put on the defensive and questions yet again arose as to whether the coalition will last the full term before new elections.

Contrast this with what happened a couple of days earlier when a group of protesters in Forbesganj in Bihar took to the streets protesting an allegedly corrupt transfer of land for a factory owned by a politician in the ruling coalition in the state. The protests turned violent and police opened fire with live ammunition. This live ammunition resulted in the death of 6 protesters, including a pregnant woman and a 7 month child. The Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar has ordered a “judicial probe” but it remains to be seen if such a probe will lead to indictments of police involved in the shootings.

Unlike what happened in Delhi, very little was reported. Part of the problem is that Forbesganj, a town close to the Nepal border, is in India’s poorest state, Bihar and it’s hard to get to. It’s also in a state that has historically been viewed by the rest of India as “backward”. In fact, it was only after the release of a video posted by the online magazine TwoCircles.net that we see a glimpse of the full extent of the tragedy.

These incidents both highlight a troubling problem in India (and South Asia writ large)—police that are politicized or poorly trained to do what they are supposed to do—protect citizens and to facilitate exercise of constitutionally guaranteed rights.  There’s a story there for the media of India if they would only make the effort.

The Indian – American Muslim Council has posted an action on the Forbesganj case asking people to contact the Chief Minister of Bihar to take immediate steps to seek justice for the victims of the shootings.

I encourage readers to follow me on my twitter feed for more information about South Asia. http://www.twitter.com/acharya_dude

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20 thoughts on “If Six Unarmed Protesters Are Killed, Does India Care?

  1. Thanks Govind for the article. Unfortunately, Nitish Kumar is not caring for either human rights nor anyone from his government visited Forbesganj. In the name of Industrialization, hundreds of acres are given away for free and often it belongs to poor farmers and here in this case, they were only requesting for access roads to the outside world. Police as always can be bought by cash.

  2. Basically, Nitish is thumbing his Nose at the poor people of Bihar. These corrupt politicians just fool the common people for votes but work for the corrupt industrialists who bribe them. Corruption is very high in Bihar. The shameful thing is M.L.C himself firing alongwith the police.

  3. Taking away farm land from the poorest who have zero other options to sustain their lives (instead of helping them improve their lot) is an all too familiar story. Done in the name of industrialization, crop export and plain old "advancement." Infuriating!

  4. Thanks Govind for the article. Unfortunately, Nitish Kumar is not caring for either human rights nor anyone from his government visited Forbesganj. In the name of Industrialization, hundreds of acres are given away for free and often it belongs to poor farmers and here in this case, they were only requesting for access roads to the outside world. Police as always can be bought by cash.

  5. Basically, Nitish is thumbing his Nose at the poor people of Bihar. These corrupt politicians just fool the common people for votes but work for the corrupt industrialists who bribe them. Corruption is very high in Bihar. The shameful thing is M.L.C himself firing alongwith the police.

  6. Taking away farm land from the poorest who have zero other options to sustain their lives (instead of helping them improve their lot) is an all too familiar story. Done in the name of industrialization, crop export and plain old “advancement.” Infuriating!

  7. @”Rip Van Winkle” nice way to distract attention from the real issue!!LOL

  8. Abdunaser madani leader of PDP party Kerala is languishing in jail for seven months under BJP ruled Karnataka in india. He was earlier jailed for nine YEARS and let off by court as innocent. Amnesty has not said a word so far. If goverments oppress people under Terror rules they can do anything and Amnesty will remain silent. Madani was arrested by Karnataka goverment on grounds of false testimonies and forged evidences. Now Karnataka police are bringing new charges to prolong his detention. But Amnesty doesnt care. Does Acharya care?

  9. Abdunaser madani leader of PDP party Kerala is languishing in jail for seven months under BJP ruled Karnataka in india. He was earlier jailed for nine YEARS and let off by court as innocent. Amnesty has not said a word so far. If goverments oppress people under Terror rules they can do anything and Amnesty will remain silent. Madani was arrested by Karnataka goverment on grounds of false testimonies and forged evidences. Now Karnataka police are bringing new charges to prolong his detention. But Amnesty doesnt care. Does Acharya care?

  10. Yes: Previous years Media used to be tilted, but they present in such way, that you hear, see and accept it too. Are we that damp-fool. dilipcmandal@gmail.com plus some of my photos will give a clearer picture of the descrimiation. Now they say why it has taken that shape and people interfering. "Ham aah bhi kartey to ho jaten hai badnaam, woh qatal bhi karten hai to charcha nahin hota." This Internet business should be banned. Mera Bharat Mahan.
    faruqi – photojournalist – noida – 09810315813

  11. Yes: Previous years Media used to be tilted, but they present in such way, that you hear, see and accept it too. Are we that damp-fool. dilipcmandal@gmail.com plus some of my photos will give a clearer picture of the descrimiation. Now they say why it has taken that shape and people interfering. “Ham aah bhi kartey to ho jaten hai badnaam, woh qatal bhi karten hai to charcha nahin hota.” This Internet business should be banned. Mera Bharat Mahan.
    faruqi – photojournalist – noida – 09810315813

  12. Bihar is fastly becomes communal state like Gujrat v2.0.
    Bihar's Modi is very similar to Gujrat's Modi in process of communalization.
    This is going to beginning of end of RSS/BJP/Nitish's rule in Bihar.

    Main Tragic is that Fourth Estate is completely silent on issue.
    Only few real journalism like Tehelka did justice to incident after reporting in twocircles.
    All corporate newspaper is leaving civil society with unwanted / false news.

    We indians need good journalism like AlJazeera.

  13. @Govind Acharya

    Snubbing of real issues and real culprits in Indian mainstream media is happening for long time.

    For long time, Mainstream media is publishing and telecasting unwanted superficial issues which suited Big Fat Indian Middleclass and Corporate Czars.
    They is very percentage of news about 65 % of indians who live under poverty.

    Greatest snubbing news of mainstream media is "Hiding of biggest beneficiaries of Tata and Reliance in 2G Scam".

    We are missing real journalism in Indian Mainstream.But there is some hope in form of tehelka and twocircles.

  14. Bihar is fastly becomes communal state like Gujrat v2.0.
    Bihar’s Modi is very similar to Gujrat’s Modi in process of communalization.
    This is going to beginning of end of RSS/BJP/Nitish’s rule in Bihar.

    Main Tragic is that Fourth Estate is completely silent on issue.
    Only few real journalism like Tehelka did justice to incident after reporting in twocircles.
    All corporate newspaper is leaving civil society with unwanted / false news.

    We indians need good journalism like AlJazeera.

  15. @Govind Acharya

    Snubbing of real issues and real culprits in Indian mainstream media is happening for long time.

    For long time, Mainstream media is publishing and telecasting unwanted superficial issues which suited Big Fat Indian Middleclass and Corporate Czars.
    They is very percentage of news about 65 % of indians who live under poverty.

    Greatest snubbing news of mainstream media is “Hiding of biggest beneficiaries of Tata and Reliance in 2G Scam”.

    We are missing real journalism in Indian Mainstream.But there is some hope in form of tehelka and twocircles.