Hafta 283: Thoothukudi custodial deaths, police brutality in India, Sopore photograph, and more


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In this week’s NL Hafta, the Newslaundry panel of Abhinandan Sekhri, Raman Kirpal, Mehraj D Lone, Manisha Pande and Anand Vardhan are joined by Sandhya Ravishankar, award-winning journalist and editor of the Lede. The conversation centres on police brutality in India, in the context of the custodial deaths of a father and son in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi.

Sandhya talks about how the vernacular media in Tamil Nadu covered the custodial deaths of Jayaraj and Bennix from the start. Manisha and Abhinandan point out how Delhi-based news channels offered greater coverage of George Floyd than the Thoothukudi case. Describing the past record of the policemen involved in the deaths, Sandhya says that police brutality in the southern states is “as bad, if not worse, than our north Indian counterparts”, in response to Abhinandan calling some northern states “especially notorious” when it comes to police brutality.

Anand says this incident is not an outlier, and that the human rights departments within some police forces are viewed as “punishment postings”. Mehraj discusses instances of brutality and corruption by the Jammu and Kashmir police, while Raman describes problems in police and constabulary recruitment and training.

The panel moves on to the crossfire between armed forces and militants in Sopore, and the death of a CRPF jawan and a civilian. They bring up the controversy around the BJP’s Sambit Patra’s tweet on the incident, and the journalistic ethics of publishing controversial photographs, especially of minors.

Anand lists instances of the regional press publishing very graphic images. He says the use of pictures to evoke horror only becomes controversial when political forces use them to score points. Abhinandan talks about magazines in the West that publish photographs of children dying in the Middle East. He wonders if they’d do the same thing if the photos were taken in the US.

In the context of Prime Minister Modi’s recent speech on extending the Garib Kalyan Yojana, Mehraj says the public distribution system is “robust”, despite its flaws. Abhinandan highlights the importance of transparency to ensure last-mile delivery of welfare schemes.

The panel also talks about Modi’s new look, life in Kashmir, and a lot more. Tune in!

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