Assam Floods, Indian National Media and its Triple Stand

Every year the North-eastern state of Assam and its various districts have been affected by the flood. This year also, the heavy rains continued to wreak havoc in the state. Heavy monsoon rains and the water from the two main rivers, Brahmaputra and Barak and their tributaries have caused havoc in 25 districts of the state. The death toll in the state mounted to 36 individuals and 14 lakhs people have been affected by the calamity. The Brahmaputra river swamps 2,168 villages and 51,752 hectares of crop land. 70 percent of Kaziranga National Park and its 95 camps are submerged in the water.”

But as usual, the North-eastern region doesn’t get much attention in the National media. One may wonder, quite innocuously, why is it that this region doesn’t get enough attention in comparison to other mainstream states? Is there something wrong in the manner in which the national media covers the news? Don’t they equally pay attention to every region of this country? Or, is there a bigger systematic fault which we are not yet aware of?

In order to understand the issue, perhaps we need to have a look at the national media’s attention towards the North-eastern region. In context of the presentation of the news in India, it is generally observed that most of the news is circulated, analysed and discussed within the sphere of mainland India. Apart from 2/3 states attention of the national media is primarily hovering around the activities and incidents of Hindi heartlands. Geographical remoteness of the north-eastern states of India and their distinguishing cultural elements from other parts of mainland India make it a major constraining factor towards the recognition of their problems as the problems of the greater India.

When an youth icon form the Northeast India, Mary Kom represents India in the forum of world boxing or Hima Das, an emerging sprinter emancipates the pride of India in the sphere of global sports, it appears that all the distinguishing markers of cultural and geographical differences get disappeared or the North-eastern states become assimilated to the greater identity of one India. It’s surprising to observe that geographical remoteness and cultural differences of this region is instrumentally used by the national media to portray a stereotypical image of it. Whenever a natural disaster or severe kinds of natural calamities occur in this region, the national media tries to overlook these incidents. So, it can be argued that the people of this region and their agonies are being eclipsed in the deliberately designed policy of cultural othering and regional disparity of the Delhi based national media.

Recently, the way national media covers the flash flood of Uttarakhand or Kerala, it must be praiseworthy. But even as the people of Assam struggle in the devastating flood, thei coverage of these incidents is far from satisfactory.

It can be argued that the national media plays a dual and hippocratic stand in terms of coverage of the news related to the north-eastern states. In contemporary times, the political economic angle of this discrimination merits separates analysis. It is wrong to assume that national media shows total reluctance towards the coverage of the news of Northeast India. In some incidents, they left no stone unturned to get a single coverage. For instance, in last few years we have seen how national media houses have given maximum coverage to some famous incidents like GS Road incident, Karbi-Anglong lynching, terrorist activities in Manipur, riots in north-eastern states etc. From all these, a general characteristic appears which signifies that national media houses are keen to depict a lynching prone, xenophobic barbaric image of the people of the North-eastern states. Their enthusiasm to cover those incidents are clearly visible in terms of their presentation and analysis of the news of these incidents. But it brings to light an important question of where these enthusiasms vanish when people of this region are struggle? to survive national calamities like floods, land slides or forceful displacements etc.

It compels us to feel that at one hand, the national media tries to build up a barbaric primitive kind of image of the people of this region by constantly focusing on the coverage of some barbaric incidents. But on the other hand, severe problems of these people are totally undermined or being presented as a general day to day activity. In one way, they try to categorise the people of this region as committers of heinous crime but on the contrary, they restricted themselves from publishing the news of some basic problems like flood, erosion or land slide of this region. If the national media considers lynching prone image of this North-eastern region as part and parcel of the everyday performance of these people, how can they be totally indifferent to publish the genuine problems of this region?

All these visualise a controversial “triple stand” of the national media towards the people of North-eastern region. They are:

1. When somebody from this region achieves flying colours in an international platform, then his/her identity gets assimilated to the larger identity of the Indian nation. National media readily accepts him/her as a national hero. We appreciate such positive and encouraging stands..

2. When two or three individuals or a small group of people commit a severe crime, national media tries to depict it as a crime committed by the people of this whole region. For any cruel acts or deviated behaviours, no matter whether these incidents are committed by an individual or a small group of people, the whole region is portrayed as the committers of that particular crime.

3. On the other hand, we get to see a complete opposite picture of the national media in terms of publishing genuine problems in the region. For instance, when lakhs of people in Assam have been displaced from the floodplains, in terms of coverage, the national media doesn’t provide much importance.

We can’t merely conclude our statement by criticising the role of national media. At any rate, we the people of this North-eastern region are the victims of these reluctances and stereotyping interests of the national media. At this present juncture, we must remind all the stakeholders of the national media that the problems of the people of this region are equally important as those of any other parts of the country. Therefore, they must think that the projection of a stereotypical image of this region might lead to a negative image of the country as a whole. On the other hand, the national media’s indifference towards the basic problems of this region would result in a total discrimination of the overall interest of the country.


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Pariz Pikul Gogoi (MA Student, Sociology) Priyanku Hazarika (PhD Research Scholar, Sociology) Tezpur University, Assam

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