Monday, September 8, 2008

The Media's Bogus Conversion Debate

With a Bogus "Conversions" Debate, the Fundamentalists Have Suppressed More Fundamental Questions Facing Them

An excellent analysis fundamental to understanding the sinister anti-Christian pogrom in Orissa and the media perspectives. An excerpt:
The question being pondered is if Christian missionaries have converted tribal and Dalit people of Orissa using coercion that has led to the tensions in Orissa. One wonders what would happen if the debate holds Christian missionaries guilty. Would that mean the members of the Christian community are rightly being burnt alive and their homes destroyed, forcing their families – some of them having small children or pregnant women or old people -- to take shelter in the jungles? Should the violence be condemned and controlled only if missionaries are found innocent? The debate can either lead more violence or an increase in the circulation and TRP rating of the media organisations.

It is common knowledge that although Orissa has a stringent anti-conversion law (the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act of 1967) that provides for punishment to those found indulging in unlawful conversions, not even a single Christian has been convicted of unlawful conversion by any court of law. This is true not only in Orissa, but also other states with similar legislation, such as Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Even so, why should the Hindu nationalists or the media probe anyone’s conversion, which is a personal matter and a basic human right? Such an exercise casts aspersions on those who have converted to Christianity.

The debate on conversions can also be taken to mean that it is common Hindus who are carrying out attacks on Christians to protest conversion attempts on them. This is precisely the lie that the Hindu nationalists want people to believe in.

One fails to understand how some media can have such a short memory. Most mainstream media commendably covered the infamous violence in the western state of Gujarat in 2002 (popularly known as post-Godhra ‘riots’), exposing a nexus between the BJP government and the VHP, and how they organised the killing of common Muslims under the pretext of avenging the deaths of Hindu passengers in the Sabarmati Express train fire near the Godhra railway station. But, six years later, the media seem to have prematurely ruled out the possibility of a similar nexus existing between the Orissa government, of which the BJP is a partner, and the VHP, and that of the violence being instigated by the Hindu nationalist group.

Is there a lack of other angles to the coverage of the Orissa violence? How about highlighting and investigating the fact that the tragic killing of Saraswati and his four disciples in an armed attack was prima facie carried out by Maoists? That Christian organisations and churches unequivocally condemned the attack on Saraswati and his disciples also remains under-covered. Nor have the numerous newspapers and news channels brought out the fact that retributive violence meted out on innocent people of a particular community is unjustifiable. There is also a need to bring out the politics behind violence in the name of religion. The coverage of the suffering of those who are being attacked is also lacking.

Does this not reflect a lack of concern on the part of the media? Aren’t the journalists supposed to show some empathy with the suffering and some sort of judgment against inhuman acts, be it the brutal attack on Saraswati or the more cruel violence that followed? If taking the side of human rights of a hapless community is dismissed as “activism”, a dirty word in the media, our country and its people will benefit more from an “activism oriented” media than ruthless “neutrality”.


Anonymous said...

Let me say that no one with a little bit of self respect for himself will convert to another religion for some food, money, shelter. Someone may if his survival is threatened like the VHP forcing reconversion to Hinduism. They should be booked first under the Religious Freedom Act.

If politicians of every shade have a right to convert from one party ideology to another by taking crores; why should not a man convert to another religion to save himself from the caste system?

Dear Mr.Patnaik if you cant stand for justice; remmeber Pilate who just washed his hands off.

Anonymous said...

What we are seeing here I believe is the ugly face of Hinduism! Hindus it seems have become so rich throughout the world that they think they are invincible. They have become arrogant and treat people whom they perceive to be weak with contempt. It seems that in India at least Christians are past their useby date. Perhaps we should stop watching Bollywood movies, or boo the Indian criket team the next time they come to Australia.