This is about a news item – one that appeared in several newspapers including The Times of India a few days ago but was missing in The Hindu.
It was not about Hritik Roshan’s nickname, the size zero heroine, or the baby of Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan. It was something that was important enough to disrupt the proceedings of Indian Parliament for one full day.
Some of you would have guessed it correctly by now.
The news story that many newspapers carried with prominence on March 13, was about the content of a video documentary that was to be aired by British television “Channel 4” the next day. Mumbai and Delhi editions of The Times of India mentioned it on the front page panel with a photograph and carried the detailed news inside. However, their Chennai and Kochi editions gave it a miss. The Hindu chose to remain silent on this in all its editions.
The documentary, titled “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished”, apparently contained visual evidences of the cold-blooded murders carried out by the Sri Lankan Army in the “last war” of 2008-2009. It had images of dead and mutilated bodies, including those of women and children. LTTE chief Prabhakaran’s 12-year-old son Balachandran was among them, lying with five bullets in his chest, fired from a close range. This came only days ahead of the proposed vote on a crucial vote on a resolution, backed by countries including the USA and France (yes!) at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) against the alleged human rights violations in the last phase of the “war against terror” in Sri Lanka. These visuals did not really shock anyone, as Channel 4 had earlier aired some video footage of human rights violations in the Sri Lankan war. Apparently, most of those videos were shot by the Sri Lankan armymen as trophy videos.
Even as pressure mounts on India to take a position on the Sri Lanka issue in the international community, it wasn’t surprising that some Indian newspapers did not carry this news, and some others chose to carry it only in select editions. The Hindu readers would remember N.Ram reporting directly from Colombo claims from President Rajapakse such as “A military solution is for the terrorists, a political solution is for the people living in this country”. (We are firmly committed to a political solution: President Rajapaksa, front page, October 29, 2008. “I myself will take charge of the political process and see it through politically”, Opinion page, October 29, 2008. “I am committed to political solution and ending Tamil civilian hardships”, front page, October 17, 2008. When there was criticism about their stand as a mouthpiece of the Sri Lankan government, N.Ram defended it, explaining it as “the newspaper’s criticism of pro-LTTE and pro-Eelam chauvinism in the Tamil Nadu political arena”.)
There was news with a London dateline in the March 16 issue of The Hindu, titled “Shocking images from Channel 4 Sri Lanka film”. Not sure if it is triggered by response from their Tamil readers that this news was missing in The Hindu. For the record, news about an impending Sri Lankan cinematic reply to this documentary appeared in this newspaper on March 13 itself (“Sri Lankan Army to come up with its own film: The publicity for the sequel to the Channel 4 documentary, Killing Fields, has spurred the Sri Lankan Army to produce a film of its own..”) .
The Hindu carried one more item on the Sri Lankan reaction to the film: R. K. Radhakrishnan reporting from Colombo (Prabhakaran's son's killing: Sri Lanka denies knowledge). This could be seen in contrast to how others reported the story: The Times of India (quoting Independent): “Prabhakaran’s son was killed in cold blood by Lankan forces?” Indian Express (Chennai news):”Video shows boy shot 5 times in chest, says it’s Prabhakaran son.”
Even if a newspaper comes with pages one, two, four, five, six, and so on, there are people who decide if those pages should sleep or stay awake.