GOVERNMENT ORGANISED CARNAGE [Sarkari Qatl-e-Aam]
ROLE OF THE MEDIA AND THE POLITICAL OPPOSITION PARTIES
On the day of assassination of Mrs. Gandhi, the Indian newspapers said that she had been shot by three Sikh security guards, one of whom was a cut Sikh.(this is a popular way of describing Sikhs who do not wear long hair or turban).
The newspapers did not say whether this information had been provided by official or unofficial sources. Nor was it clear how the reports surmised that even the cut Sikh was indeed a Sikh. The next day, however, he was not mentioned in the reports. The moot question here is, should the newspapers have identified the assassins by their religion? Had the killers been Hindus, would the media have used the same criterion, that is religion, to describe them? Whether deliberately or inadvertently (even inadvertent biases of this kind are not to be forgiven), the media played a role in generating hostility against the Sikhs as community. In doing so, the media violated the guidelines set by the Press Institute of India (PIA) 1970 report. The guidelines underline that in a situation with the potential of communal conflict, it is advisable to tread cautiously in news reporting.
Besides, Doordarshan’s repeated focus on the mobs crying for revenge in its film footage on the assassination definitely gave encouragement to the violence that followed. Some newspapers, instead of reporting the sincere efforts being made by some sensitive and concerned citizens against the violence through peace marches, were merely highlighting the names of the political leaders participating in these processions. For instance, a peace procession in which Janata Party leader Chandrashekhar participated was dubbed as his party’s demonstration with the result that a lot of eminent citizens, who were apolitical, felt offended at being aligned with a party rather than with the cause for which they were fighting . Such reports also deterred genuine sympathisers from participating in programmes aimed at restoring peace.
The role of the political Opposition also calls for a special mention. Although all the major political parties were getting reports about the large-scale and vicious killings, none of them could organise any mass protest against it, neither to prevent the violence nor to control it. This is the minimum basic that the cadre-based left parties and the BJP could have done. Their role however, was limited to making a joint appeal to the prime minister to restore peace.
On November 3, a group of eminent citizens requested that Mr. Chandrashekhar to accompany them to meet the prime minister but he refused to do so saying, it would be inappropriate and ill-timed.