Is the media not disturbing communal harmony?
Varun Gandhi has made some really nasty comments against Muslims. He has been charged under section 153A of the Indian Penal Code for “spreading enmity between two communities”. I am reproducing section 153A of the IPC here below.
“Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.–(1) Whoever– (a) by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racials, language or regional groups or castes or communities, or (b) commits any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, and which disturbs or is likely to disturb the public tranquillity, 2*[or] 2*[(c) organizes any exercise, movement, drill or other similar activity intending that the participants in such activity shall use or be trained to use criminal force or violence or knowing it to be likely that the participants in such activity will use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, or participates in such activity intending to use or be trained to use criminal force or violence or knowing it to be likely that the participants in such activity will use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, against any religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community and such activity for any reason whatsoever causes or is likely to cause fear or alarm or a feeling of insecurity amongst members of such religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community,] shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both. (2) Offence committed in place of worship, etc.–Whoever commits an offence specified in sub-section (1) in any place of worship or in any assembly engaged in the performance of religious worship or religious ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine”
In the previous quote, I have highlighted some phrases in bold. Essentially, the point I am trying to highlight is that *irrespective* of the intention, if anyone commits any act that disturbs public tranquility or harmony between communities, then it is an offence under 153A IPC.
Now picture this: For the last 3 days, some of the mainstream media news channels have been telecasting the video of that speech by Varun Gandhi repeatedly. It must have been shown over a thousand times by now. The only parts that are edited in the video are specific words that he is supposed to have used. There is a beep during those words. People who see the video can, according to their imagination, place any word in that place. Apart from these two or three words, the entire video is shown repeatedly.
My question – is the repeated telecast of this video not likely to disturb the sentiments of Muslims? Is public, and repeated, telecast of such a sensitive video not likely to “disturb public tranquility“? Is the media not provoking the offended section of society? I would say that they are definitely doing so. In which case, these news channels also need to be booked under 153A of the IPC. After all, the law specifically says “Whoever” right at the beginning.
The media folks might say that they are only showing what Varun Gandhi spoke in order to provide information. But the news media is unlike the Internet, where the service provider does not have control beyond a point. Here, they have complete control over what to report. Would it be ok if a family movie channel said “We are going to broadcast porno movies. If you have a problem, go catch the film makers”.
In India, the media folks are in a league of their own – above and beyond the law. Just like their lawyer brothers.