November 18, 2006

A flag over the dead

One trip I made, during an ongoing spate of travel, was a week ago to a village called Kherlanji, east of Nagpur in Maharashtra's Bhandara district. Four members of the Bhotmange family there were murdered on September 29.

My report on my trip is in the latest Tehelka, they called it A Flag Over the Dead.

Comments welcome.

12 comments:

rc said...

Good work.

Two minor comments.

I had to read a couple of times to wrap my head around your profuse use of names.

You left out some details such as the caste of the victims. This is a story about "caste politics" - so I think it is relevant.

Overall, one of the better pieces in the media.

It is extremely important for the media to calibrate its coverage of such inhuman incidents. It is a short distance from fighting for social justice to taking sides in a caste war.

Shivam said...

So very well written, the simplicity of your writing stands as a contrast to the hype the case got itself when the violence began

Shivam said...

here's your story in PDF: 1: http://www.tehelka.com/home/20061125/20061125.asp?filename=4.jpg

2: http://www.tehelka.com/home/20061125/20061125.asp?filename=5.jpg

Shivam said...

sorry, wrong links in previous comment:

http://www.tehelka.com/home/20061125/20061125.asp?filename=4.jpg

http://www.tehelka.com/home/20061125/20061125.asp?filename=5.jpg

Dilip D'Souza said...

Shivam, thanks. Yeah, you need no reminders of the crazy hoopla over irrelevant issues this tragedy took.

rc, the profuse use of names is part of the point.

Apart from that, I don't follow what "calibrate its coverage" means.

Anonymous said...

Good article Dilip,

1. but as rc pointed out earlier, somewhere in the middle it gets real dizzying with the names; at least this one sentence:

---> On September 29, Tulsiram Titirmare went to a bank for a crop loan where he met Rajan, who asked Ramprasad Khurpe to have tea with him. <---

seemed very disconnected, what had Tulsiram to do with it?

2. What is the sanghatan that they talk about, and what is it upto?

regards,
Jai

Dilip D'Souza said...

Jai,

Both your questions are answered in the essay itself, in this paragraph:

In the way of several such I've heard, this account is an incomprehensible mix of characters and events and extreme villainy met with polite entreaty, pass the pinches of salt won't you? And it's these villagers clustered around drinking tea who want me to believe that they are living in terror of the "sanghatan-waale", the Dalit activist groups who have been visiting Kherlanji to protest this killing of lower by upper caste.

One point of this story is the way they use names so freely, with no apparent connection. That's why I said "incomprehensible mix of characters and events..."

Neela said...

Dilip: I agree with Jai. I found this article a bit difficult and confusing to read and I didn't get a clear sense of what exactly you were trying to say. To be fair, I speed-read it.

And one thing struck me as slightly odd: that, upon criticizing the journos who were asking Bhotmange for his view, you did the same yourself. Of course you did it much more sensitively - not revealing what he said, no notes anything, just talking to him. But I don't know - isn't that pretty much the same thing? After all, he did know tha tyou were a journalist. You did go in a journalistic capacity. Why then did you decide to do this rather than quietly leave the scene?

n!

Dilip D'Souza said...

Neela, that is just the point. The article tried to capture the sense of a complex, intricate situation that has grown out of these murders. I don't fully understand the wheels within wheels that are operating there myself. I am barely able to follow these involved stories where the men telling it to me just rattle off names as if I am supposed to know them all. I tried to reproduce that as faithfully as I could to give you an idea as well of how dismayingly baffling it all is.

I was not trying to give you an account of the murders, or of the arrests. I was trying to capture the mood, the climate, in the area these days: the police presence, the resentment (on various counts), etc.

I didn't mean to be critical of the other journalists. I reported what they were doing, and I recognize that they have their constraints and must operate that way. Whether in this situation or in Orissa or elsewhere, I understand my role as a journalist and therefore an intrusive character no less so than those other journalists. After all, that I offer not to take notes doesn't make me a saint in comparison and I don't claim or feel so.

Yet I am also conscious of the need to try to take some of these stories out. I tell you about the things I do to try to get those stories, in this case in as gentle a way as possible. In my experience, there is also a sense in which people like Bhotmange want to talk, to unburden themselves of some of what they have been through. He (and that Orissa orphan couldn't do it in front of a camera with a mike in his face. He could do it a little more easily with me. That's all.

Neela said...

Thanks for the clarification Dilip. I think I can understand what you say re: drawing out the victims of tragedies.

Hmmm, on the article I hadn't quite thought of it that way. But why do you think there is so much confusion?

n!

Sujatha Gidla said...

I have to say, in all my obsessive googling on the Kherlanji incident, yours was unique.

All the sites, all the blogs, all the newspaper and magazines wrote about the Bhotmanges. Who they were, how came they fell into a situation they did. And I was beginning to think there is a conspiracy that none of them mentioned anything about the villagers.

You showed journalistically commendable and healthy interest in the story. (Pardon my laguage and style as I came into English much later in my life).

It was kind of ironic and funny. It made me think of "The Shortest with the Dissenters", but yet, your piece was not at all in the voice of the Kunbis.

From the human interest point of view it was extremely good, without trying to "understand" the bigots' minds.

I have read the other comments which I thought were not correct. The point of too-many-names is not only understood but was appropriate and useful. And of course, it is evident from your article that the whole thing was "caste politcs."

So what if you also asked Bhaiyyalal questions! How else does the world know what had happened if not for inquiry?

Your writing is youthful and passionate without being cloying. It is also notably devoid of puns and word antics that Outlook essays are rife with, that really get on my nerves.

Sujatha Gidla said...

About Neela's comment: "... upon criticizing the journos..."

Here is what I found: Apparently this guy Mungekar is not just a journalist. He is a government man. And his interest is (from the atricle below) preserving "the credibility of UPA government at the Centre and DF government in the state. "

http://www.blogger.com/publish-comment.do?blogID=8070362&postID=116386482159919663&r=ok

Hence it isn't pretty much the same thing.