We are shocked and horrified at the insensitive and biased report that was carried in today’s edition of The Hindu (04-08-16) titled ‘Bawariyas never spare young women‘ by Sweta Goswami. The report is an instance of criminalization of an entire community based on a case of violence. We strongly condemn the use of language in this report which evokes prejudice among readers and incites possible violence.
Although the accused is someone from the community, it gives the police or the newspaper no right to hold the entire community responsible for an individual act of crime. Sexual violence has been inflicted upon women for centuries by men of all communities; but here there is a an intentional attempt to reimpose the colonial narrative which has characterised the denotified tribes in the country.
To depend on a police officer’s words to brand the members of an accused’s community as “a population of criminals” or a tribe that considers “robbery, theft and dacoity (as) its traditional occupation”, “committing these crimes for centuries”, “have a record of not sparing young women” is a violation of the fundamentals of journalistic ethics and smacks of colonial mindset. Individual utterances of a police officer cannot be considered as a legitimate source for identifying the guilty. He has no constitutional authority to make this claim and no reputed newspaper would take a police officer’s word as final say. Portraying the entire Bawariya community in this light would incite violence and their targetting by people and the police.
The reporter goes on to quote a document which is more than two centuries old, the 1881 Census of India report to justify her claim that the Bawariya community is “addicted to crimes; thieving comes easily to them and their skill in tracking wild animals is notorious.” There is no understanding of the current situation they are in or the legal status they have while framing this story. Although the government of India has denotified the Criminal Tribal Act, 1871 in 1952, these tribes have been struggling for basic constitutional rights for more than sixty years. The reporter has not attempted to carry the perspective of the community and seems to have not even tried to contact anyone to get their side of the story.
It is unacceptable that The Hindu, which has more than 15 lakh readers in India, and is considered as the second largest circulated English daily (source: Adit Bureau Circulation, July- December 2015) has carried such an insensitive and prejudiced report.
We demand that The Hindu carry an unconditional apology clarifying that they made an ethical journalistic mistake in carrying this report. We demand that both the reporter and the Editor of the daily do so as soon as possible to avoid a witch hunt that the Bawariya community which The Hindu will have to answer for.
We also demand that The Hindu carries this rejoinder so as to be able to correct the prejudiced assumptions it might have developed in the readers.
Jaspal Singh Bawaria
(Jaspal is from Bawaria community, from punjab, Dakxin is from Chara community from Gujrat, Bharat is from Wadar community from Maharashtra. all three falls under DNT(Ex-criminal Tribe))
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