July 10, 2007

Of labels

On June 17, a teenager in Goregaon murdered a young boy from next door. In panic, he stuffed the body in his cupboard. Two days later, his father smelled the stench and opened the cupboard. Then he reported his son to the police, who took him into custody.

A terrible tragedy. Various papers reported it (Indian Express, DNA). Nearly all reports I saw mention that the teenager was an adopted son. (In fact, as you can see the Express report says that a police officer mentioned this while speaking to the press).


A few days ago, a man raped a woman on the rocks beyond Priyadarshini Park on Nepean Sea Road. She was a vendor of the lime and chilli charms people believe drive away evil spirits.

Another terrible tragedy. The Hindustan Times reported it on their front page today (July 10). The report tells us "the woman belongs to the Pardhi community".


What makes these little nuggets worth mentioning in news reports? After all, you're unlikely to read of some other rape that the woman was a Bania, or a Thevar, or a Sunni. You're even more unlikely to read of some other murderer that he was a biological son. So why is it acceptable in these cases?


amitscorpio said...

this is how the journalists try to sensitize the news. and next thing you would know is people and various news channels are asking the question if adopted children are treated equally and if that community's women are raped more than others.
Very unethical on part of editors to approve this kind of story!!

Boskoe said...

Hi Dilip,

Dont know about the second case, but regarding the first case: I think the kid came to know that he was adopted a short while (days / weeks - not sure) ago before the crime, and apparently had been "disturbed" from then on (again - quoting this from the newspaper). So, I think - the point was mentioned there - as to ascribe a possible reason for his violent turn.

Regarding the 2nd point, you are right - there does not seem to be any reason for mentioning her community

- Biju

Vinod Khare said...

Yes, about the first case. What if the fact that he was an adopted son did have something to do with the murder or that his own father reported him?

Why this assumption that all labels are necessarily closed minded thinking?

Unknown said...

As a journalist i have faced similar doubts, often when one covers a story ,many unrelated 'facts' are often abound at the location.

personally i feel details like these should not be included in the final copy, until and unless mentioned by the investigative authority/complainaint side or for that matter by the victims side.

i feel it matters when fact becomes more then just trivia and actually become a 'fact of the case'.

in the two instances you mention here dileep, i think in the first one the fact that he was an adopted child should be in the copy if the police or the victim is suggesting something onthose lines.n the second story i don't see any reason why it should be there.

but things get even more complicated in cases like communal violence and terrorism. should one mention the religion of the killer or the victim. often i have found myself doing a quick search for confirming the names(and in turn faith ) of the killers/victims before reading a terror or riot story. i am not sure when exactly i developed this habit but the first memories of this style of reading i remember go back to the post-babri demolition riot reports.

that time i was too young to understand too much. i simply used to count the names of dead agains the killers and maintain a mental balance sheet!

Kavi said...

Fantastic..yes..good question. WHY ?