The mainstream media never told you that over 200 doctors protest in favour of reservations at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences every day between 1 to 2 pm. visited AIIMS today, unfortunately after 2 pm. The pro-reservation doctors have organised themselves into group called “Medicos Forum for Equal Opportunity”. They are not on strike as they do not want to inconvenience patients. They have been distributing pamphlets and sending press releases.
I went to the tent where the anti-reservation campaign is situated – Ground Zero as it were. It will write longer reports and posts on this (I am going again tomorrow with some friends) but I want to urgently tell you about my interaction with journalists at Ground Zero. I asked them why they weren’t covering the pro-quota protests?
CNN-IBN’s camera person: “I don’t know of any pro-quota protests. Where are they?”
CNN-IBN correspondent Neha Seth: “I have covered them but it is up to our editors how much airtime they want to give them.”
Two photojournalists replied together: “I know about them but our bosses have said they want anti-quota pictures.” One was from the Press trust of India, the other from Sahara.
In short, if there’s a gag on the media, it’s for the pro-quota protesters. And it’s a self-imposed gag.
“Even by mistake they don’t turn their cameras this side,” said Dr Aroop Saraya, one of the leaders of the ‘Medicos for Equal Opportunities’. He is upper caste, by the way, and so is the campaign’s convener Dr Vikas Bajpai. Just in case anyone presumes this campaign is from SC/ST quota MBBS students – though some of them are a part of it too.
The English media had patted its back for its coverage of the VHP’s pogrom in Gujarat in 2002, and rightly so, it was indeed their hour of pride. But the biased reportage of “Mandal II”, as they are calling it, is their hour of shame.
Then a lady with two kids walked in. One was 2 years old and the other was three. The lady had in her had a fancy basket with flowers. The kids were taken to the dais and someone announced that two little kids had come to support the doctors on strike. The kids had a piece of paper stuck on their shirts; “Say No to Reservations,” it read. Then came a man on the dais and announced their names and ages. They were then given the microphone and asked to say, “Youth for Equality” (the name of the anti-reservations campaign, as anyone who’s been watching any of India’s dozens of news channels). The man on the dais announced, “Media waley saathi kripya dhyaan de (Our friends from the media please look here.)” I almost expected the toddlers to give a speech. The boy looked left and right and gave up the mike. The girl wasn’t interested either.
Then they went to another location where three cameras from different news channels focused on the kids as they were made to give the flowers to the doctors. They were then asked by the mother to say “Youth for Equality!” before the cameras. One cameraperson took the camera in both his palms and made it run left and right, following the kids’ tantrums. The movement of the camera in the hands was akin to a snakecharmer’s pipe. Just that in this case the subject was calling the shots. Literally.
“Loudly say ‘Youth for Equality’! Loudly! Loudly! Come on, Mamma will give you a Kit Kat!”
The kids were more fascinated by cameras than with the prospect of a chocolate. The two-year-old girl looked deep into the lens and laughed.