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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 82

Western media bias shows….

By SF media critic - Syndicate Feature

If there is anything that makes both the liberal and the orthodox among the Hindus squirm equally it is the bane of the caste system that continues to divide the community on arbitrary grounds. A total eclipse of the caste system is be decades away. The government policies are not being bold enough to end it quickly. Yet, it will be unfair to suggest that nothing has changed for the Dalits.

Nonetheless, in the eyes of the Western media the caste system remains as rigid in today’s India as it was in the Vedic times, aeons ago. At any rate that is the impression one gets after reading a report on a London based global radio website about a ‘mass conversion rally’ held in Nagpur on September 14. One does not know how the event was covered by the BBC World (TV channel) as the ‘patriotic’ local cable operator had apparently decided long ago that BBC reports (along with Pakistan TV) were bad for Indian stomachs and stopped beaming signals from the two channels to the subscribers. The impression of biased reporting by that ‘premier’ world news dispenser was, however, strengthened after reading the account of the same rally in the Times of India. Judge for yourself.

The first thing that struck one as rather odd was that the BBC report failed to mention the fact that the ‘star’ of the Nagpur rally, Bahujan Samaj Party’s Mayawati, actually broke off after a brief presence to hold a ‘parallel rally’ (Times of India). Her rally drew a far bigger crowd of 40,000, ‘unprecedented in non-election season’ (ToI). Her show had obviously taken the wind out of the ‘original’ rally sails.

What was perhaps even more newsy and not reported by the BBC was her declaration at the ‘parallel’ rally that she was not planning to convert to Buddhism till she achieved the goal of becoming the prime minister of India, a wish expressed by her mentor Kanshi Ram, who had died only days ago. Her unequivocal stance on the subject of conversion has profound political implications. It should not have been missed in any fair reporting of the rally.

The report seemed to suggest that the ‘mass conversion rally’ was confined to Dalits about to embrace Buddhism when the fact was that a Christian organisation was also very much into the act, to convert the dalits into their fold. It quoted Joseph D’Souza, president of the Dalit Freedom Movement, and one of the organisers of the Nagpur rally, as having said that a (Christian) conversion was ‘a celebratory occasion’. Thousands were converted said the report which also quoted Udit Raj of the SC/ST confederation saying the number was 2500. However, the Times of India put the figure of converts’ at 600.

The Nagpur rally was organised by the All India Confederation of SC and ST Organisations and the All India Christian Council to mark the World Freedom of Religion Day. The additional information on the BBC site was that the event was organised to protest against the injustices of the caste system and the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Buddhism by the late Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the principal architect of the Indian constitution and one of the most prominent Dalit leaders.

While the fact that Ambdekar wrote anti-discrimination provisions and a quota system into the Constitution was duly noted in the radio report, it missed some how to note that these provisions are in operation though their pace and the manner of implementation may not be very satisfactory. It is not my case that this bit of information was deliberately omitted; even if it is inadvertent, it leaves the impression that old discriminatory practices against the dalits continue apace.

By way of a background, the BBC report on the Nagpur rally also talked about tough laws enacted in some Indian states that make conversion into Christianity more difficult. It failed to add that a lot of Indians as also the majority of Indian states are opposed to that law. As stated in the beginning, India is shamed by the inequities in the caste system. But a stark fact that is sometimes overlooked by the critics of the caste system in and out of India is that this pernicious practice is actually not confined to the Hindu society alone. There are many Christian and Muslim converts from the lower Hindu castes who feel that they continue to be viewed as outcastes in their new religion by the ‘upper castes’. If the debate is to be broadened one could also raise the question of propriety of converts to ‘egalitarian’ religions demanding the concessions given to Hindu Dalits.

- Syndicate Features -

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