No time for Soni Sori & tribals under attack: Has our media lost its backbone?

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In India, we have a media which is known for its patriotic zeal but strangely, this perenially over-excited group has remained mostly quiet on the attack on Adivasi rights activist and Aam Aadmi Party leader Soni Sori in Chhattisgarh on February 20.

Tribal activist Soni Sori faced a gruesome attack; yet hardly there was any coverage on her pain 

Sori was attacked with an acid-like substance which left her injured. Her motorcycle-borne assailants are yet to be traced. It is believed that the attack was part of a bigger campaign in Bastar district of the mineral-rich central Indian state to drive out those who dare to ask uncomfortable questions to the government.


Yet, the media, which has felt so much disturbed by a group of students' slogans in a university campus, has largely chosen to ignore it. If the students who were expressing dissent over the functioning of the State are "anti-nationals", wasn't the attack on an Indian who fights for the rights of her compatriots anti-national, too?

Anybody questioning the authorities are being targeted 

Besides activists, journalists, scholars and lawyers are being hounded out of the state where the nexus between the State and mining corporates has left free speech crippled. The police also ordered Sori to leave Bastar but the iron-hearted avtivist refused to do so and continued her fight for the Adivasis who have fallen victims to the State versus Left extremism battle in these parts.

Sori reportedly faced atrocity in the police custody in late 2011 but despite the odds, she has been leading a movement which has taken on the State over killing of Adivasis in fake encounters, arbitrary arrests, torture and sexual assault of their women by the police and security forces. She planned to undertake a 200-km march from Bijapur, which was set to end in Jagdalpur on March 8, the International Women's Day, but was attacked before it materialised.

Soni is recovering and refuses to lose, which is a great news 

But Sori's assailants and those who masterminded the attack would be disheartened to know that she is recovering and has promised to return to Bastar. Sori's struggle inspires everyone of us but the media of this country, which has shamelessly joined hands with elements who have taken refuge under the Tricolour to criminalise dissent and control free speech.

The attack on Sori is a similar effort to criminalise and silence dissent, which is an indispensible part of a democracy but the media chooses to look away and ignores its basic duty of raising awareness about the reality in parts of the country that are far too remote from the middle-class's drawing rooms.

Why media doesn't find interest in Soni Soris?

The mass media deliberatly ignores the plight of Soni Soris for a number of reasons.

Has corporate control left the media without a backbone? 

First, the corporates' control over the mass media ensures that issues that are not consistent with the business lobbies' interests do not get a space they deserve. Our prime time shows on news channels hardly take up the issue of land grabbing, be it in any state and that is not without a reason. They pick up whistle-blowing individuals at the most but never really focus on the deeper roots of the problems.

The news channels are so obsessed with party politics today that they forget their basic duty towards the society 

Second, the highly opinionated bosses of today's electronic media shamelessly serve the middle-class by constantly generating a negative wave directed at one particular party or another. This obsession with party politics turns them blind towards issues that concern human well-being and demand a social panacea. These journalists, if they are at all, know that their hollow business of raising the TRPs will only run as long as they bash a Modi or a Mamata or a Rahul Gandhi because their viewers hate politicians. But then, what about the basic duty that the media is supposed to do: Creating mass awareness?

Editorial heads are mediocre in identifying crucial issues and build on them; they are happy with a clerical way of functioning

Thirdly, the media today is in a state of decay and those who run it are mediocre in identifying issues and build up on them. The editors and their foot soldiers act more like intellectual clerks (though they are neither intellectuals nor clerks) who survive more on corporate or political affiliations and mostly do not have the guts to pursue the cases of Soni Soris and others who are regularly put to torture and deprived of their basic rights. They instead focus on bashing students, who they know are helpless to retaliate.

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