India’s Northeast still remains trapped behind a veil of selective silence for the rest of the country and the outside world. The engagement of the mainstream Indian media with the Northeast remains marginal. The result of this disengagement is that voices from the Northeast find very little space in newspapers and even less air-time in privately owned television news channels that are printed or aired out of metropolitan centres such as New Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore, Chennai or Calcutta. And even if issues come up, they rarely evoke widespread anguish and emotion across the country. Even Union minister Kiren Rijiju accused the national media of being “biased” towards the Northeast in reporting the massive floods and ignoring the region. Taking to Twitter, Rijiju said unlike floods in Kashmir and Chennai, the national media is “ignoring” the Northeast and not giving due coverage to the deluge as the region “readily does not exist in the minds of mainland India”. In the book called “Manufacturing Consent” by Herman and Noam Chomsky, they have rightly described that “money and power are able to filter out the news fit to print’’. The NorthEast India is home to at least 220 ethnic communities which constitute a meager 3.76 percentage of the country’s total population and therefore they do not form a major audience for TRP ratings which is required for the media houses to sustain in the market.
Assam is reeling under a third wave of floods with more than 11 lakh people affected in 19 districts but still, it doesn’t grab the headlines of most of the mainstream Indian media. The first wave of floods that ended mid-July had killed more than 84 people, some due to landslides and electrocution in the flooded areas. According to the state’s disaster management authorities, five people have died in the deluge since Friday evening. Two of them died in Dhemaji district while Lakhimpur, Kokrajhar and Morigaon districts recorded one death each. The Brahmaputra and its tributaries Burhi Dihing, Subansiri, Dhansiri, Jia Bharali, Puthimari, Beki, Gaurang, and Sankosh were flowing above the danger marks at several places. Even Tripura is suffering from floods due to incessant rain which has left nearly 6,000 people marooned across Tripura, mostly in west Tripura district, on Friday.
Since every year Assam gets affected by floods, there has been a relentless demand by various organizations in Assam to declare floods and erosion as a national calamity but it has been turned down by the successive Central Governments.
It is the duty of the responsible and impartial media to keep the citizens informed of all the issues irrespective of the region. North East has always been portrayed negatively by the Indian media and they are still ignorant about most of the stifling issues of the region.
The tyranny of distance should not prevent regional and national media from actively taking up important issues. This can be alleviated by developing a mindset to rework on the apathy and cultural hegemony that characterizes the media.