I was never one for the news. News makes me bored. It is not interesting, entertaining – not that it is supposed to be, it’s based on facts. Facts need not be interesting or entertaining. But knowing that never sparked any interest in me. In fact, I hardly read the newspapers or watch the news channel. Star World is my hero, not CNN. But that does not mean I’m completely ignorant. Because some things, you can never ignore. Like the protestors in Delhi protesting against the rape of a 23-year old Delhi girl, Nirbhaya (symbolically named by the Times of India). When all you hear, all you read wherever you go, is about it, you tend to have some knowledge. For the past seven days, my TV has alternated from NDTV to Times Now to any-other-news-channel with repeated reports on the rape case and the protests. Media has been known to make things sensational and magnified. Not wrong. Not negative too. People everywhere deserve to know th e intensity of the events happening in their country. We all sit glued to the TV, waiting for hourly reports from the reporter on the scene. We give our comments, debate our opinions with family members, friends, on social networking sites even. That’s a time you feel proud of your country citizens. United we stand. Democracy.

But here’s a catch.

Watch me a week after this. And you’ll see the old me again, the ignorant me. And it’s not just me. It’s the whole nation. The media, too. Because, after a few days, the story will have lost its steam. More interesting news crops up. Some famous actress spews bad words in public. Some politician does something charitable. Something like that. And the old news just dies a natural, often undeserved, death.

There is an opinion that the media magnifies these incidents. That it makes a big circus out of everything. I say, maybe. What is wrong in that? Such matters need to be magnified. Only then, will it get the attention of respective answering parties. Had the media not made its sole duty 24/7 to report all the events of the Delhi gang-rape case, the situation would not even have heightened to the peak it did and we would have just forgotten this as another rape case. Or had the media not made it a point to emphasize on careless comments made by our politicians, we would not have had any knowledge of the extremely narrow-minded thinking of our so-called leaders.

The people may be capricious-minded, but the media has the capacity to capture their attention span towards the current issues. My point: The media is the driving force for the rare random outbursts of awakening that makes us people demand answers to questions. The media, thus, has a lot of power. 

However, is this power being used everywhere needed? While the case of the Delhi gang-rape was given paramount importance, the Patiala rape case, where a minor was raped and driven to suicide, and which incriminated certain police officials, made it to the news only for a day. The next day it was forgotten, despite the fact that there were lapses by the investigating police. Is it because, the Delhi gang-rape accused are not the ‘important’ position holders that the latter is? A rapist is a rapist, no matter whom he rapes, who he is (an average man or an authoritarian) or how much he rapes (I bring this point forward to express the absurdity of the phrase, rarest of the rare rape).

The sad thing is, even when one of the massive and strongest protests was underway in the nation, such crimes continued to happen. Why? This is because the rapists are confident that this turmoil will last only for a few days. They have little fear in them. This lack of fear is brought about by their confidence in the failure of the judicial system in enforcing stringent laws. The Government lets the public down so very often, that we are used to it. It keeps quiet, by giving non-committal assurances (which have little chances of being fulfilled) and waits for the next big news to take over. Unfortunately, that does happen. Every single time.

And what do we do? Curse them, shout out suggestions at the TV screen and debate on what should be done. Take, for instance, again, the rape cases piling everywhere. Most of them are not even registered as cases, so we are unaware of half the crimes that have been committed. I hear that the rape victims usually do not complain to the police, for fear of being ostracized by the society. They are forced to compromise and move on, if they want a live a normal life, not ridden with never-ending court trips and public humiliation and torment of retelling, thus reliving their nightmares. A normal life that does not have people pointing at them. How true. And while, now, most of us vehemently believe that the society should not condemn, aren’t we part of that society? It was the extent of brutality of the crime committed against Nirbhaya that generated the public ire and sympathetic grief; which induced the spirit ‘enough is enough now’. If not, it probably would have been a forgotten rape case among one of the dozens that seem to happen everywhere every day. Those dozens of cases are coming out in the open now in an unexpected twist of events.

What is the reason behind this hypocrisy, and this fickleness? I think it is because people can rarely connect emotionally to crime news. Quite natural. Because it is something happening somewhere, which we see on TV. We are all content to be wrapped inside our respective false senses of security. Now, if we were the residents of the city in question, then fear of such misdeeds happening again brings out the protestors in people. Of course, there are people all over the country who can empathize. I’m not telling they are heartless. But all that is short-lived. While most support the protestors, will they allow their loved ones, go out there and take part? Let alone take part; if something similar happens to someone they know, will they allow that person to come out and express outrage against the injustice done to him/her? Mostly, no. It is, apparently, the mature way to behave. Be hypocritical. If we do not bring the step forward, how will this country develop? If a rape happens, the mother is afraid of the daughter’s reputation, the daughter is afraid of the police, the police are afraid of raising the crime statistics (which is rather selfish) and the judiciary is afraid of radical outcries.

The problem here is also the laid-back attitude of the public. If someone does something worthwhile, let them do it. That is the reason there is no constancy reflecting in the mindsets. The moment any incident loses its steam on the TV, the matter is just dismissed. There is hardly any emotional connectivity.

And this is not just implied for rape cases. When Team Anna Hazare made the massive movement to fight against corruption in the nation, everyone was vocally supportive. And now? What’s happening? Does anyone know? No. Or the Jessica Lal murder case. Though the culprits are punished now, the trial exposed the Achilles’ heel of our justice system. There was, again, the public demand for a change in the system, the way cases are dealt. Do we see any improvement? No. It’s lost, like many of the fights for noble causes, either under the pressing weight of the Government, or basically, the gradual disinterest among the people and the media.

So the fault lies not only on the system, but partly on us, and the media too. The public is fickle. The minds of the public is fickle. And media is made of people too aren’t they? Some stories, of course, need not be dragged along. But do some, like the ones for the cries of justice, when brought up to such a high peak, deserve to be let fallen from grace so easily, merely because they ceased being fresh and interesting? I’m not telling flash them in the news every other day. I’m telling keep them alive in your mind. Some things, we need to remember. Some things, we need to care about. About the commitments made to us, about the services that we deserve, about the attention some elements or individuals deserve. Because tomorrow, we can be victims too. Of any sort of crime. And it won’t do us any good letting the unorthodox thinking evident in some sections of the society come in our way. We must remember that we can still fight. We need to remember t hat there exist people who stand up against forces and demand justice. And not give up till our demands and promises made by the Government are put in action. The system has made us cynics, and we need to wake up.

Praveena Rao