Guwahati and our society

I started this blog almost 2 years back.

I have been inactive till now. The Guwahati incident actually roused to post something.

I’d like to analyze this against two angles:

– The absolutely atrocious behavior of our national press and the local Asom press.

– How this exposes our failings as a society

Local Press

The nature of the incident seems to have been nothing more than a bar-room brawl, to start with.  It has then grown into something of a public lynching of the victim, an under-age girl.

The reporters who filmed the incident should have first tried to stop what was happening and should have alerted the police. Their claims that they filmed the incident only when they failed to stop it ring hollow. There are unconfirmed reports that the reporter/photographer actually had a drink with the attackers.

Next, the national media just picked the incident up and made a cause celebre out of it. There was no analysis of the nuance and clear reportage.

As a sample, I present this DNA article:

Some examples of truly sloppy reporting in this article:

“The 17-year-old girl, who is pursuing studies in fashion designing in the national capital, was attacked when she was returning home after celebrating the birthday of her friend, a teenaged girl, at a bar. ”

May we know why a couple of underage children were served drinks at a bar?

“Three young persons had accompanied the two girls on that fateful night. ”

Who were these young men and what were their names?

“The birthday girl had lost her ATM card and couldn’t settle the bills. So, they were evicted by the bar employees. But soon, she picked up a quarrel with the young men who accompanied her and started beating them up. ”

Who picked up a quarrel? With whom? Who hit whom?

Without this information, the public cannot really understand who was at fault. How did a mob build up? Where did the other 9 assailants come from and why did they beat up the girl?

This looks more and more like a stage managed incident, especially considering how all national channels picked it up for outrage, as if on cue.

Our Society

A few inconvenient questions:

  • How were underage children served drinks at a bar?
  • When a brawl broke out outside the pub, where was the police?
  • Why did the reporters continue filming the incident?
  • How can TV channels just run these videos, without protecting the identity of the victim?
  • And finally, the CM of the state just gives instructions to police to ‘conduct raids as necessary’. How will this prevent such incidents in the future?

Have we setup the institutional safeguards against such occurences?

Have the police been trained in standard operating procedure, which is to:

  1. Regularly visit establishments where liquor is being served, without any fuss and without disturbing legitimate patrons.
  2. Identify anyone who looks underage
  3. Politely ask them for proof of age.
  4. If age is not satisfactorily proven, inform the parents/guardian of the underage drinker
  5. Wait until parent comes to pick up the individual or escort the person home.
  6. Notify authorities in child welfare of afore-said underage individual.
  7. Start proceedings to cancel the alcohol service license first and undertake legal action against the proprietor of the establishment.

In the event of a violent altercation breaking out, our duty as citizens would be to:

  1. Notify the police first.
  2. Try and prevent whoever is being violent.
The press would do well to protect the identity of the victim. Instead, the local Asomese news channel has repeatedly run unedited footage of the incident, without protecting the identity of the victim. The editor of the channel has actually supplied us with this nugget of wisdom on Twitter
He has also claimed this – “The girl who was molested in Ghy had lied that she was a teenager. She is in fact a married woman and even has a daughter a local tv claimed”
So what? How does that change anything?
I have seen any rational debate on understanding why such basic and simple procedures are ignored in our media, only shrill rhetoric.


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