Ranjona Banerji: Why blame the messenger… just because it named the RSS?

05 Aug,2016

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Outlook magazine has published a long investigative report on 31 young Tribal girls being taken from Assam to Gujarat and Punjab to be educated. The parents send their children off knowingly. But what they do not know is that they will not see their daughters again for years and when they return, they have forgotten their language, their culture and appear to be indoctrinated.

 

The Assam State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights filed a report on July 15 that girls were being “trafficked”. The protection of child rights got an extra fillip when the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that children from Assam and Manipur, under the age of12, were not to be sent to other states for education. This directive followed a probe that 76 children from these states had been “trafficked” mainly to schools in Tamil Nadu run by Christian missionaries.

 

The reaction to the Outlook story has been strong and angry; and not for reasons that you might imagine. The problem it appears is not that the girls were taken from their homes and not allowed to see their parents for years. The anger is because they were taken to RSS-run organisations and how dare anyone criticise the RSS. One cannot recall RSS supporters standing up for the rights of Christian missionaries in 2010, however. The other point of outrage is that Outlook has used the word “trafficking”.

 

Therefore the question of child rights, of parents either mislead or callous, of being taken away from your home and family, these are not issues which must move us. Our only concern is that the RSS has been mentioned in a bad light. However, if the story was about children being forcibly taken to madrasas, you can imagine how overjoyed the RSS and its supporters would be.

 

Outlook has an investigative report. It has interviewed the people concerned. It has spoken to the official agencies involved. It has listed the various laws that have been broken – and they have.

 

The RSS and its affiliates are within their rights to counter these by legal means. It can take on the government of Assam. It can sue the parents of the children. It can take issue with the Assam Commission for Protection of Child Rights. But it is pointless to attack the messenger. Outlook has told you what has happened. Attacking Outlook will neither solve the problem nor your reputation.

 

This is the chairperson of the Assam State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights on how she is being pressured to change her report:

http://thewire.in/55891/assam-child-rights-commission-chief-allegedly-pressurised-change-report-trafficked-minor-girls/

 

And this is the writer of the article, Neha Dixit, on allegations made against her and her work by the RSS and its organisations:

http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/operation-babylift-why-sangh-parivar-not-countering-facts-facts-asks-neha-dixit-47512

 

**

 

There has been much outrage on social media that the “mainstream media” has not made as much noise on Peepli Live director Mohammed Farooqui’s rape case as it did about similar allegations against Tarun Tejpal. The implication seems to be that Farooqui has friends in high places and this has helped him.

 

However, there are some differences in this case. For one, Farooqui, as far as I recall, has been convicted. I have read several newspaper articles about this which puts paid to the “mainstream media has ignored Farooqui” argument. Secondly, Tejpal’s case had special interest for the media since it was about sexual assault in the workplace by an editor. Tejpal himself added dramatic content to proceedings by a bombastic letter of apology. Had he not written that letter and had supporters of the woman he assaulted not made her case public, Tejpal would probably have got away with it. As it is, he is still out on bail. He has taken back his apology and his friends in high places have continued to defend him.

 

I would contend also that Tejpal was better known within and without the media than Farooqui, no matter how well known the latter was in Delhi. The real question for outragers should be perhaps: when will the Tejpal case see any justice?

 

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