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The message of Azad Maidan

Wednesday September 05, 2012 08:26:08 AM, Syed Zubair Ahmad

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What happened on 11th August at Azad Maidan in Mumbai must be condemned by all in the strongest words. Such incidents can’t be tolerated in any circumstances. The way Muslim youths vented their anger on media and police personnel can’t be justified at all. More than 45 police men were injured and most of the OB vans of TV channels present there were damaged or set on fire by angry youths. They were angry with the blackout of media coverage of the killings of Muslims in Myanmar and Assam.


The big question is what prompted them to take the law in their hands and they got violent in such a way that police had to open fire on them to control the situation and two Muslim youths lost their lives in the police firing. This unfortunate incident could be taken as an indication of what Muslims think about the partial, biased and sometimes communal attitude of police and media towards them. It may be a spontaneous outburst of the anger, Muslims have for a long time faced the negative attitude of media and police towards them.

Here I don't want to go at length about the biased attitude of police in dealing with Muslims. The images of indiscriminate police firing on Muslims during post-Babri Masjid demolition riots in Mumbai are available on net. The most secular face of Mumbai film industry, the famous Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan himself had to experience the communal comments and abuses by Mumbai police at Wankhede Stadium.

Every now and then Shiv Sena and the MNS followers take the law in their hands at their will and hold the whole city at ransom, but how many times the Mumbai police opened fire on them to maintain the law and order situation. Raj Thackeray openly challenges the unity and integrity of the country on permanent basis, but who dares to question him? The government, the Police or the media?

Looking at the attitude of national media about the non-coverage or negative coverage of Muslims and their ' issues' and exclusive coverage of their 'non-issues', I am not surprised at the remark of celebrated Dalit writer and thinker V.T. Rajshekar when he pronounces the national media as 'Brahminist media’ and national newspapers as 'toilet papers'.

On 8th August there was a protest meeting against Assam riots called Muslim organization Jamiat Ulema at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. I accompanied a journalist friend and reached there. There was a massive gathering of Muslims in that meeting despite of Ramadan. A whole lot of Muslim leaders from different Muslim organizations were present on the stage. But there was almost no presence of national media. No news channel camera, no print media reporters. Only a few reporters from Urdu newspapers were covering the meet.

At the same time on the adjoining street at stone’s throw there was a protest meeting also on Assam riots. The meeting was called by BJP. While there were hardly a couple of hundred people in that meeting, and on the stage some of the national leaders of the party, the whole national media was there. Almost all national news channel reporters were covering the meeting live through their OB vans. BJP leaders were thundering from the stage... ‘more than four lakh people had been rendered homeless' in such a way as if all ‘homeless’ are Hindus, and Bangladeshi intruders had made them run away from their homes. There were posters of homeless Hindus all over the walls. The impact of how a second largest political party of the nation is sowing the seeds of hatred and communalism could be imagined. While the fact is that out of four lakh displaced people, three lakhs are Muslims and most of those killed in the violence were Muslims.

There was no coverage of displaced people of Assam, on the other end our national media was showing the people from North East leaving Bangalore on 24x7 basis. When a few hundred Hindus come to India from Pakistan, it becomes a big news for national media for many days, but when over five thousand Rohingya Muslims cry for help under scorching sun in the month of May in New Delhi, it hardly becomes a news. When the people from north east were fleeing to their homes from Bangalore and Pune the whole electronic media was covering it on 24x7 basis, but the same media blacked out the news about 14 Muslims who were thrown out of train from Bangalore to Guwahati by Assamese near New Jalpaiguri on 18 August. Four Muslims who were going to celebrate Eid lost their lives in the incident.

Why electronic media was mum when it was reported that hate massages about North-Easterners were circulated by Hindutva brigade? Why the same media used to term those Bodos as terrorists when they were attacking Hindi speaking Marwaris in the past? Why the same Bodos are being sympathized when they are targeting Muslims? While the Bodos are still agitating for separate Bodoland, the Muslims of that area are being targeted for owing loyalty to India. Isn't it a compromise on national integrity?

Why the national media, particularly the electronic media very often ignore the feelings of Muslims and hurt their sentiments?

Whatever happened at Azad Maidan can’t be justified in any way but at the same time the unfortunate incident of Azad Maidan sends a message to the media and police to do a fair assessment of their attitude toward Muslim community. There is also a lesson for Muslim youths who resorted to violence. By doing such acts they will do more harm to the community and lose the sympathy of the masses for their cause. The incident of Azad Maidan is also a lesson for the Muslim leadership who first provoke Muslim youths and when an ugly incident happens they run away from the spot leaving their followers to face the problem on their own.


Syed Zubair Ahmad is a Writer & Journalist. He can be reached at





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