April 24, 2005


In my last post about the border incident I questioned Indian media's jaundiced-eyed views about the incident. Here is a first- hand account of how Indian media portrays :

On a recent debate on NDTV looking at India's relations with Bangladesh there was predictably no talk of any of the larger questions concerning our relations with this neighbour, already so ignored by virtue of our obsession with the Western counterpart. TV shows invariably feature diplomats and ministers, and treat Bangladesh like an evil neighbour. Don't expect to find any of the larger issues raised, such as Bangladesh's apparent internal struggle with hardline elements...but on TV there's never enough time to get beyond pointing fingers. (Always at 'evil' Islamabad and Dhaka).

More and more graphical fabrications were drawn to depict how the BSF jawan was dragged and brutally killed. This has outraged many Indians.

Today I woke up reading the news that Indian copters have violated Bangladesh Airspace and two more civilians died in BSF fire along the zero line. And there are reports of more BSF intrusion. The Indian sources say that Bangladeshi copters violated Indian Airspace. I am not sure whom to trust anymore.

It seems media is playing a role here in escalating the tensions. If people try to reach a verdict on the situations based on any of the media (India or Bangladesh) they will end up with an outraged outburst provoking deterioration of the Indo-Bangla relations.

I have read many Indians' reactions and Dilip has wrote a truely mature piece. He says:

How do you react to this news? Well, for one thing, where's the news coming from? And then, are you Indian or Bangladeshi? How you react, it seems, must depend on your answers to those two questions.

How do you make sense of the utterly different accounts of the same incident?
So I know Indians, outraged by this incident, who are calling for a strong military response against Bangladesh. They rail against the pusillanimity of a country that would be pushed around by a minnow like Bangladesh. Even if there was provocation, they say, Bangladesh cannot do this to an Indian soldier. That country seems to think it is India's equal, and our response should be so overwhelming as to rid them of such grandiose pretensions.

I know Bangladeshis, every bit as outraged, who point to this incident as more evidence of Indian bullying. Over the last five years, they say, the BSF has killed almost 400 innocent Bangladeshis for no reason: one every five days. To go with that toll, there are reports of rapes and assorted other harrassment by the BSF. Indians pay no attention to all this, which annoys Bangladeshis even more.

And I'm left to wonder, why is it that the way we consider incidents like this must be coloured by our national loyalties? Why must we believe our own country's version of events, even if it has holes, over the other's? (Then again, the other country's version also has holes).

Whatever our patriotic impulses, the reality is that two families were shattered that day.

Uncontrollable Indian outburst against Bangladeshis and vice versa will only benefit those people who are playing this audacious game. And amidst all these this mayhem still is alive posing more threat to the Indo-Bangla relations.

Update: Dilip D'Souza's article "Patritic tragedy" in the Mid Day (Mumbai on the web).

Meanwhile BDR says that it has no helicopter in response to Indian media's claim that BDR copters intruded Indian airspace.


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