The biases and hypocrisy of the mainstream media have yet again come to the surface, even as the Northeast and Assam have witnessed massive protests ever since the CAB was passed by the Parliament. The mainstream media has suddenly focused all its energies on the issue of anti-CAB stir and protests that have rocked the region. Surprisingly, the mainstream media which is usually completely ignorant towards the Northeast has suddenly made a huge issue out of the anti-CAB stir.
The anti-CAB stir picked up ever since the historic legislation was tabled before the Lok Sabha. Rumours started flying thick and fast on social and regional media about how the CAB will be detrimental towards the indigenous culture of Assam and even Northeast at large. Bizarre analogies with Nazi Germany were drawn and all kind of myths were propagated within Assam and the Northeast.
It was being time and again argued that the CAB went against the spirit of the Constitution insofar special protection to the tribal areas is concerned. It was also being rumoured that once effective, the Amendment will destroy the basic fabric of Assam and Northeast as the region would be allegedly flooded with ‘outsiders’, and the protection afforded to the remote and tribal areas would become totally ineffective. What was not being told to the enraged people was the fact that the Citizenship Amendment law exempts from its purview the Schedule VI areas in the Northeast and even the Inner Line Permit (ILP) areas.
Even former Congress President and heir apparent, Rahul Gandhi posted a highly provocative tweet about the CAB and Northeast which shows the kind of narrative which is being pushed by certain vested interests. He tweeted, “The CAB is a attempt by Modi-Shah Govt to ethnically cleanse the North East. It is a criminal attack on the North East, their way of life and the idea of India. I stand in solidarity with the people of the North East and am at their service.”
The CAB is a attempt by Modi-Shah Govt to ethnically cleanse the North East. It is a criminal attack on the North East, their way of life and the idea of India.
I stand in solidarity with the people of the North East and am at their service.https://t.co/XLDNAOzRuZ
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) December 11, 2019
The immediate consequence of such rumouring on several sources of public information was to give rise to vehement passions in Assam and the entire Northeast, which ultimately resulted into the violent manifestation of the superficially created tensions. Such violent protests picked up especially after the CAB was passed by the Rajya Sabha. The violent protests immediately lead to imposition of curfew and mobile internet shutdown- measures clearly aimed at restoring law and order in the state.
However, videos and photos of the violent protests have been circulated by anti-social elements on the social media. Such elements have also circulated matter such as publication of material depicting burning effigies and have also tried to build an anti-establishment agenda blaming the Modi government for the entire issue. Not only social media, even the regional media has been covering details of the protests, including live footage of the protests. And this is where the mainstream media came into picture. On the face of it, the mainstream media might seem like innocuous reporting, but if we dig deeper there is clearly an ulterior agenda attached with the mainstream media coverage of the entire issue.
To start with, the mainstream media was never very vocal about issues concerning the Northeastern states of India. Traditionally, Northeast and Assam never made “breaking news” and headlines, unless there was a terror attack or a bomb blast. While an hour of rain and waterlogging in the “mainland” cities and states makes it to headlines and breaking news, even devastating floods do not grab mainstream media’s attention and focus, notwithstanding their catastrophic character. Despite the ferocious character of such floods that hit Northeast states, including Assam on almost an annual basis, the mainstream media rarely carries out ground zero coverage of such issues. Editorials and newspapers also seldom pay much attention to the hardships of the Northeast.
Ever since 2014, the mainstream media became more conscious about the Northeast. It cannot be a mere coincidence that the BJP made forays into Northeast politics at around the same time. With the ongoing protests this has taken the shape of 24×7 ground level reporting. Even before 2014, the media reportage about the Northeast was rather biased, and never really highlighted the massive infrastructure and development push that Modi government has given to the region. The mainstream media clearly understated the significance of construction of 12 airports and infrastructure projects like the 9.15 km long bridge that will connect Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Therefore, almost all mainstream media outlets, which were till now oblivious towards the Northeast are reporting the violent protests in an unprecedented manner. There were also several reports about the Bangladesh Foreign Minister cancelling his India visit.
It was also being speculated alongside that he cancelled his visit owing to the anti-CAB stir. It was at this juncture that Official Spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs, Raveesh Kumar, came out tweeting, “There have been unwarranted speculations on postponement of visit by Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. Abdul Momen to India. We have been informed by Bangladeshi side that change in programme was due to domestic issues related to commemoration of Bangladesh ‘Victory Day’ on Dec 16.”
There have been unwarranted speculations on postponement of visit by Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. Abdul Momen to India. We have been informed by Bangladeshi side that change in programme was due to domestic issues related to commemoration of Bangladesh ‘Victory Day’ on Dec 16.
— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) December 12, 2019
This exposes the kind of agenda that is being pushed on the pretext of ground level coverage about the Northeast. There is an attempt to make a big national issue out of Assam and this is why ground reports and prime time discussions are being centred around the anti-CAB stir. The attempts at raising the issue beyond India have also become clear even as Al Jazeera has also reported the anti-CAB stir in Assam.
It is not very difficult to guess who is being targeted with the sudden media empathy towards the Northeast and Assam. The idea is clearly to inflict damage upon, and somehow bring down the Modi-Shah duo. The CAB is an issue concerned with delivering justice to crores of victims of partition who are still devoid of Indian citizenship. This has somehow been spun into an issue of identity crisis in Assam and the Northeast, and now the mainstream media has picked it up with the clear agenda to inflict damage upon the image of Modi-Shah duo.