Social scientists may be able to answer this — what is the trigger point for a peaceful but angry procession to turn violent? The police, because of their experience in handling processions that are peaceful but turn ugly later, may actually be in a better position to figure out when pent up fury bursts open.
If they knew that for sure, they would probably be able to turn things around. And the proof that there is no clear cut answer lies in the recent violence in some parts of the state.
The violence in the wake of protest marches in Hassan and Shimoga, following publication of an article in a newspaper, was eminently avoidable. There have been cases from the past of processions against publications going completely haywire.
It does not take more than a couple of stone-throwing incidents and burning of tyres to create a sense of fear in areas with a mixed population. Surely, in this particular case, different communities were also itching to let off steam going by the few stabbing incidents that followed later.
Many see in such instances a periodic ventilation of pent-up frustration or anger by groups of people or communities. That still does not explain why some petty shops and establishments in Hassan or Shimoga, which had very little to do with the publication of an article in a newspaper, had to be torched by protestors. It can’t even be called collateral damage because they were as far as they could be from the newspaper.
Many now believe that it is the lack of sensitivity on the part of the media that is causing tensions to remain high, even if the initial burst of anger and pent up feelings may have passed.
The case of swami Nithyananda is quite illustrative. He was a self-proclaimed godman. So the rules of a religious order may not have applied to him. Yet, you do not wish to see a saffron clad swami’s romp in a bed room just as one does not wish to see an ageing governor of a state, ND Tiwari, in a similar situation.
Even if the conduct of these two men was not unlawful, the fact that it lowered the dignity of the position they held in the eyes of the public may be a sufficient cause to expose them. But to bombard us with lurid images continuously is an affront to our sensibilities.
That is what you may think but television channels know that there is a huge audience for such stuff that is sure to bring in better TRP ratings. Sensitivity, therefore, can go out of the window as long as they can claim that they are serving public interest. Pubic interest, however, is least served when the media disregards the consequences of either publishing or broadcasting images that can be provocative.
As a rule, Indian media shies away from criticising each other unlike in the West. In fact, when violence broke out in Hassan and Shimoga last week after a Kannada newspaper published an article, most papers did not identify the paper in their news reports the next day.
The reason, obviously, was that by identifying the paper, one would be exposing those who worked for that particular paper to violence. Quite a good reason to be careful. Erring on the right side is not a bad thing actually. Why then, one may wonder, did the newspaper — Kannada Prabha — ignore such sensitivity knowing fully well that anything that seemingly criticised practices in a particular religion would touch raw nerves?
The experience of another paper in Bangalore a few years ago in a similar situation should have cautioned it. The first casualty in the race for eye balls is restraint and a complete disregard for the larger good. The most horrible thought is that during the November 2008 Mumbai terror attack, the media unwittingly helped the handlers of the Pakistani terrorists guide them by watching what channels in India were beaming.
For quite some time now, there has been a persistent effort to get the media to follow a code of conduct. Media leaders have resisted that, because it is somehow seen as antithetical to the spirit of freedom. That is true, but when self-restraint fails, laying down a code may be in order.
After all, most citizens are law-abiding, yet we have punitive laws that come into play only when laws are broken. A code of conduct, even if it is self-imposed, could serve as the Lakshmana
15 CASES FILED BY NITHY'S CULT TO HARASS THE WHISTLE BLOWER DHARMA (LENIN)
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3 cases filed in the US against Accused 1 Nithyananda (Mr. Rajasekar), Nithyananda Foundation,