Last week, Mumbai witnessed a gang rape of a young photojournalist, who had ventured into the deserted Shakti Mill compound with a colleague, to take pictures of the dilapidated building, late in the evening. What happened to her inside the mill building has been adequately reported by all sections of the media, so I do not want to elaborate on it. The evening after this particular rape was reported, prime time debates on news channels, spent an hour or more ‘outraging’ over the unfortunate incident. A Times of India report, quoting the National Crime Records Bureau says that every 20 minutes, a woman is raped somewhere in India. If that figure is accurate, while our channel editors and ‘experts’ spent an hour trying to get to the bottom of the rape menace we face today, four women in India were raped from 9 pm to 10 pm.
The media had covered the Nirbhaya gang rape extensively and since then, this rape case has got comparable media coverage. If between Nirbhaya and the Mumbai gang rape, there have been a few hundred rapes in India (perhaps more), why do we find that this particular rape has found the media’s constant attention? The Jaslok Hospital held a press conference in which journalists asked all sorts of personal questions about the victim’s injuries and surgeries, which was covered live by many news channels. NDTV also conducted a ‘We The People’ discussion show at Bandra’s Taj Lands End on the issue, with Pooja Bhatt, Farhan Akthar and Priya Dutt among others.
Only ten days ago, a thirteen year old girl in Greater Noida, was gang raped by three men, according to a Firstpost.com report. Why did the same media not turn up the volume, make that case front page news? In the same Mumbai where the photojournalist was raped by five men, a woman was raped by a certain Dr Soonawala in his clinic. A few newspapers carried the story for a few days. Some even reported how the police aided the accused in escaping from police custody. The police was involved in helping the accused escape! Why was there no media uproar when this drama was playing out in Mumbai only a couple of months back?
The media is guilty of selectively playing up a rape case. Of course the plight of women in the country must be brought out and a campaign must be carried out, in which the media plays a constructive role. But what has the media done instead? It has picked up one incident of crime (from the many that may have happened this week itself!), and is serving as a pressure group to force the State to act against the perpetrators of this crime as soon as possible. What next? What about the next rape victim who goes through this ordeal? Or what about the one who underwent this torture before this photojournalist? Is the media doing justice to them?
What the media is doing to ensure justice for the photojournalist is commendable. But on a broader level, by selectively making a big deal out of some rape cases, it is not doing the cause any favour. In fact, I strongly believe that by such a selective uproar, the media is misusing the power it enjoys over the State today. The clout the media has must be used wisely and channel it in a way that treats every citizen equally. One rape victim cannot be treated as more important than the other. This is not to say that every time a heinous crime is committed, there should be a loud campaign, as then there would be no other reporting! When the consequence of an uproar is such that it makes one rape case the priority of the police force and State in general, it becomes a discrimination of sorts.The media is failing in its duty, which is to report incidents in an unbiased manner and serve as a tool of social change. Justice for one girl is not social change.