The Norway Child Case

A Tale of Two Countries

After launching a virtual diplomatic war against Norway over the last few months, the Indian government has landed with egg all over its face. It turns out that Norway’s actions were not necessarily dictated by racism or cultural misunderstanding but because of existing issues within the Bhattacharya family. Not bothering to ascertain even minimum facts, the Indian government has repeatedly issued demarches and official statements and was threatening to march a senior official to Norway before better sense dawned. Now the government is belatedly realizing that it should not interfere in a family affair.

Unfortunately, Norway is hardly an isolated case. Whether it is violence against Indian students in Australia or isolated incidents against Indians in UK, the government—egged on by a loud and jingoistic media—is ready to go to war or declare an entire country racist.  There is no consideration for that country’s legal process; punishment must be meted out immediately, preferably before the prime time news cycle. Nor is any consideration given to that country’s strategic importance to India or history of good diplomatic relations. One wishes that the Indian government acted with similar alacrity when incidents happen right under its nose in the national capital.

Now everyone will blame the media including—funnily enough—the media it self. Of course, no one will acknowledge the culpability of their own publication or TV channel. Nor will anyone remember the lessons of the Norway fiasco, and when the next such unfortunate incident happens, the media will behave exactly in the same manner. The outrage machinery will immediately spring into action and a relatively trivial incident will dominate the headline for days.

But let’s leave aside Norway and think about another country with which India has had historically poor relations: Pakistan. The laundry list of crimes the Pakistani state has committed against India and her people need not be recounted here. Suffice to say that there is incontrovertible evidence that the Pakistani state has long waged war against India from horrific incidents like the Mumbai attack of 2008 to fostering terrorism in J & K and Punjab. And yet, why does the same media find it so difficult to summon outrage against Pakistan? Sure, there is a anger for a few days but soon op-ed columnists and ‘serious’ journalists  start emphasizing how the Indian government has no option but to pursue peaceful relationship with Pakistan despite constant provocations. In fact,the truly ‘independent’ voices even seek moral equivalency between India and Pakistan. Each and every meeting of the Indian and Pakistani leaders is cheered wildly and the candles of hope are lit anew. Till the next attack happens.

What happens to the media outrage machinery when it comes to Pakistan? Indeed, the media would happily label anyone who is not sold on the idea of India-Pakistan bhaichara as jingoistic and a RSS plant!  It would appear that for the Indian state and its media, placing a child temporarily in foster care is a bigger crime than letting mass murderers walk free. Or perhaps beating little Norway is simply easier than tackling the military-jihadi complex.

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