Broken peace… fact-finding and the media


Supreme Court lawyer and human rights campaigner Nandita Haksar’s (et
al) just-released report ‘Broken Peace: Fact finding report on the
first communal violence in Goa’ is now available online, for those
interested:

PDF version (with annexures):
http://mum1ww1-a.sancharnet.in:83/vgad/brpeace.pdf

Plain-text version (without annexures)
http://mum1ww1-a.sancharnet.in:83/vgad/brokenpeacerep

Incidentally, the report makes some references to the media. It seems
to have however overlooked the role of a section of the media in
fuelling rumours that could have aggravated the violence.

Some of its references:

Page 2 of the Introduction: Thanks Preetu Nair for introducing the
team to people who proved valuable in its investigations. Thanks Sujay
Gupta of the Gomantak Times for inviting Nandita Haksar to participate
in the discussion on communal violence.

Page 3: Subhash Velingker … has a regular column in the only Konkani
daily, Sonarprant (sic). Unfortunately, the editor of Sonaprant claims
he is both secular and leftist. But many Goans, including Ramesh G
Naik and Dr Pratap Naik SJ have expressed their concern about the
growing communalization of their society because of the language issue
(and) have expressed their anger at the Editor for publishing the
vicious anti-Catholic and anti-Muslim articles by Subhash Verlingker.
Father Pratap Naik, a linguist and in-charge of the Thomas Stephens
Konknni Kendr wrote to Ms Sonia Gandhi informing her that the
Sonaprant which is owned by Dattaraj Salgaoncar, mine owner and
staunch Congress supporter, was sowing seeds of communalism and linked
it to the violence in Sanvordem-Curchorem….

Page 20: The next day the newspapers reported that an illegal mosque
had been demolished by some miscreants. Niraj Naik’s SMS-based news
service reported on March 2, 2006 at 10.29.07 IST: “Miscreants
demolish disputed masjid at Goddemol, Sanvordem last night. Five
arrested. The masjid was declared illegal. But court had stayed its
demolition.”

The language of this short cryptic message needs to be analyzed. The
word “disputed” seems to suggest that it was a dispute between Hindus
and Muslims which there is none. No one has disputed that the
structure belonged to the Muslim community. Everyone agrees that the
land on which it was built was government land. And that the structure
had been there for more than three decades. It is true that the
structure was illegal in so far as the land still belonged to the
government on record. However, in addition to the mosque which was
demolished there are on the same land a temple, hotel, a house
constructed by the Sarpanch Baptist Fernandes within 150 metres of the
madarsa-mosque that was demolished….

Page 48: The arrest of the Kashmiri “terrorist”: When we asked how
come the police told the media within minutes of arresting a man that
he was a “terrorist” and subjected him to a trial by media, the SP
(South) said that the media “happened to be present at the railway
station” when the arrest took place.

The man arrested was not given an opportunity to call a lawyer and the
media presumed him guilty even without any evidence. The media
reporting and the attitude of the police had the direct result of
putting fear into the Hindu minds in Curchorem. They became victims of
politics of fear. The Hindu professional who had initiated this peace
initiative told us he lost five friends who called him pro-Muslim and
have stopped talking to him.

The challenge before the Goan civil society is to first acknowledge
the ugly reality that the Sangh Parivar along with the Congress party
are using the war against terror for their own electoral politics and
communalizing the society and state machinery. This has resulted in
the large part of the media to become party to this insidious
politics, leaving very little democratic space for open discussions
and debate. The only way to save Goa is to fight the politics of fear
and speak out against all those who are responsible for trying to turn
Goa into another Gujarat….

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