Media and the anti-CNT Act Movement in Jharkhand

April 2, 2012

by Gladson Dungdung

The Media is known as the fourth estate of democracy though it has not been mentioned in the Constitutional or legal document. Since the Media plays a role of watchdog (free, fair and fearless), therefore, it has this legitimacy. However, in the era of globalization, the media is in the hands of few vested interest groups. Today, the Jharkhandi media is one of the crucial examples of how it is being used to protect vested interest in the state. It is obvious that since the creation of the state, Jharkhandi Media has been batting hard to protect corporate interests. After the order of the Jharkhand High Court to enforce the CNT Act in the state, there has been upheaval. The pro- and anti-CNT Act movement started in the state and the Jharkhandi Media also became a party to the anti-CNT Act Movement.

There are three kinds of people in Jharkhand – Adivasis (Indigenous People), Moolvasis (Local Settler non-Adivasis) and Pravasis (Outsiders). According to the section 46(A) of the Chhota Nagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act 1908, one Adivasi can transfer their land only to another Adivasi resident of the same police station, with the permission of the Deputy Commissioner (DC). Similarly, Section 46(B) of the CNT Act states that the SCs and OBCs can also transfer their land to members of their community within the area of a district with the permission of the DC. After the Court’s order, the land transferred of Adivasis, Dalits and OBCs was stopped in the state, which hit the real estate business, illegal land grab by the corporate houses, and illegal land transfer to the outsiders. Since the Media has a direct interest in the real estate business, industrialization and land transfers to outsiders, it became a party to the anti-CNT Act movement.

How is the media party to the anti-CNT Act movement?

There are some cases where media persons argued with the leaders of pro-CNT Act movement after press conferences and protests. Some TV news channels had live coverage of protests organized by the anti-CNT Act group “Jharkhand Bachao Sangharsh Morch” led by Uday Shankar Ojhar, Niraj Kumar and Bacha Singh. But the same TV News channels did not give much space to the pro-CNT Act protest organized by “Jharkhand Janadhikar Manch” led by Bandhu Tirkey, “Adivasi Chatra Sangh” led by Chamra Linda and “Jharkhand Bachao Andolan’ led by Salkhan Murmu. The newspapers also played a dubious role by giving prominent space to the anti-CNT Act protests, but the same newspapers neglected the pro-CNT Act protests. One leading newspaper, having engaged special correspondents to find cases of violation of CNT Act by Adivasis and Moolvasis officers, Bureaucrats and Politicians, but at the same time, didn’t publish any story or list of outsiders who have grabbed the Adivasis or Moolvasis’ land illegally.

There are some obvious reasons for media involvement in the anti-CNT Act movement. Firstly, the “developers” who are engaged in the real estate business in Jharkhand also run TV News Channels in the state. For example, Bihar-origin Sanjay Chaudhary runs a real estate company known as the “Kashish Developers”. This company has been developing a ‘SAIL CITY’ at Pundag near Ranchi and owns the TV News Channel “Kashish News”. Interestingly, the green land of Adivasis and OBCs was acquired in the name of “SAIL Cooperative Society” because the Builder cannot buy land under the CNT Act. The Builders also use the local police and middle men in acquiring land for SAIL CITY. Other Builders, who don’t own TV News Channels or newspapers, invest huge amount of money in the media as advertisements. Therefore, the Builders engage in all kinds of power politics to make sure that their business does not get hampered. They use the media to manipulate public opinion in their favour.

It is obvious that without support of the Builders, many local news channels will be shut down and media has been batting hard for the real estate business in the name of development because closing down the real estate business would have a direct impact in revenue loss of their media houses.

Secondly, the media has a clear economic interest in the so-called development of Jharkhand. For instance, a Jharkhand-based wire rope manufacturing company named “Usha Martine Limited” runs mining projects in Saranda Forest and elsewhere; it is also the owner of a leading Hindi newspaper of Jharkhand named “Prabhat Khabar”. “Prabhat Khabar” is one of the leading media campaigners for industrialization in Jharkhand and has been conducting a campaign against the CNT Act, with the intention of serving the interests of the outsiders. “Prabhat Khabar” has published a series of stories regarding the violation of the CNT Act by Adivasis and Moolvasis. The papers also published a series of lists of some Adivasi/Moolvasi Govt. Officers, Bureaucrats and Politicians, who have purchased land by violating the CNT Act, but the same newspaper didn’t publish any such list of the Pravasis (outsiders) who have grabbed the land of Adivasis and Moolvasis illegally. Why ? Can any media house be biased like this ? Similarly, “Dainik Bhashkar” runs many mining projects in Chhatisgarh and elsewhere and launched its Jharkhand edition a year ago, eying the minerals of Jharkhand; it has also been advocating for the corporate model of development, which is against of Jharkhandi culture.

Thirdly, the composition of the Jharkhandi media speaks volumes. Nearly 90 percent of all journalists come from non-Jharkhand origin upper castes. The Hindi dailies and Hindi News Channels are completely dominated either by the Bihar or UP origin upper caste Journalists and the English dailies are under the clutch of either West Bengal or South-Indian origin upper castes. Similarly, most of the Builders, Industrialists and individual land grabbers are also outsiders, who have direct or indirect association with the Media. Hence, media persons bat hard to protect the interest of outsiders. Jharkhand is known as an Adivasi state, but hardly any Adivasi is found in the media. There are a few Adivasi and Moolvasi Journalists at the bottom rung of the Media, who have also been struggling for their survival; they are not able to influence the media to protect the interest of the state.

Fourthly, though Jharkhand is a separate state on the political map of India, the media treat the state as part of Bihar. There is a tradition of joint TV News channels “Jharkhand-Bihar” in the state. The major regional news channels like Sahara Samay, ETV, Kashis News, News11, Maurya TV, etc., run joint News Channels for “Bihar-Jharkhand”. The print media even goes further. Every newspaper carries a special “Bihar” page in its all editions. Hence, the people of Bihari-origin get new of the both states for the same price and the Jharkhandi people also have to pay the price for them and are forced to read the news from Bihar. The most stunning thing is the same Newspapers do not publish a special “Jharkhand” page in their Bihar editions, though numbers of Jharkhandi people live in Bihar for the jobs.

Why ? Is it not true that the Jharkhandi Media serve the special interest of Bihar in Jharkhand ? Should media do anything like this merely to serve its business interest ? Is media selling a product in the market or playing a role of a watchdog in the society ?

Fifthly, most of the Media’s consumers are the Pravasis (outsiders) and therefore media protects the interest of its consumers rather than Jharkhand and its people. The conclusion of the media campaigns is that the CNT Act should be either repealed or amended so that the outsiders can buy the land of the Adivasis and Moolvasis in Jharkhand. The media has been attempting to humiliate the Adivasis with the intention of alienating them from their land. Also, the media advocates legalising the illegal encroachments by outsiders in HEC (Ranchi), BSL (Bokaro) and Dhanbad, etc., and also legalising the illegally grabbed land by the outsiders under the CNT Act.

Where have media ethics gone in Jharkhand ? Why are Jharkhandi media biased instead of being free, fair and fearless ? And are the media houses becoming merely sellers of a commodity whose only intention is to earn profit at any cost ? Since the inception of the state, the Jharkhandi Media has been carrying on anti-Jharkhand campaigns to serve corporate interests and the special interest of the Pravasis (outsiders), and the Media’s anti-CNT campaign is merely an addition to such anti-Jharkhandi campaigns. Today, the Jharkhandi media needs to rethink about its role for the sake of the Democracy. The present role of Jharkhandi media is not only against of Jharkhandi people but it is against media ethics, their credibility and democracy as a whole.

Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist and General Secretary of ‘Jharkhand Human Rights Movement’.