Tuesday, May 15, 2007

vidarbha farm widows wants justice


PH. 2282447/457 MOBILE-9422108846.

REF: - vidarbha farm widows humiliation DATED-16th MAY 2007

NDTV continues to humiliate widows of Vidharbha farmers suicides

Channel covers up bogus story


For more than a month now, Vidharbha Jan Andolan Samiti has appealed to NDTV to retract from the fraudulent story it carried on "Witness" claiming that that the widows of those farmers committing suicide were becoming prostitutes and falling into the hands of "sex trafficking networks." In between, we even received calls from NDTV's Mumbai office which suggested they were looking into our complaint. We were told by their Western India Burau chief that he would be coming down to Nagpur to inquire into the matter. And we were happy as we felt our complaint was being taken seriously.

But finally, nothing happened, nobody came to meet us. Even if they are trying to evade or bury the issue, the problem has not gone away. In fact, the women were subjected to worse humiliation because NDTV story was used by Shiv Sena in their campaign in Nagpur rural Lok Sabha byelection.

Udhav Thackeray used a CD version of the story at a press conference in Nagpur with many journalists present. It is worth asking: who gave him the CD? He was very happy with it since the NDTV reporter had planted a sentence saying those approaching the prostitute were "Congress workers." People protested even at the press meet, but damage was done and once again the women were mercilessly identified in public. The story itself identifies them. In one case, it zooms in on the photograph of one of the dead husbands and shows his name and village "Vishwanathrao Mankar, Kharda Village," Amravati. Imagine her humiliation now. As for "Rekha" the first case study interviewed, she is neither farmer nor a widow but a professional sex worker in Amravati.

Since NDTV management remains silent, our activist are asking: is NDTV is also supporting such stories to increase its TRP. This is humiliating to us who know the dedication of Roy family in ethical values in journalism. We are also deeply disappointed, since VJAS has helped NDTV to do many of its stories fom Vidharbha, right from the first reported farm suicide of Ramdas Amberwar in 1998 when we escorted the then NDTV reporter to Amberwar's home. We do not regret that since the channel did number of good stories then and later. Therefore, we even cooperated with then any number of times later also.

We are protesting this one story which is by a reporter notorious wherever he has worked in the past. One who had to leave three earlier jobs in disgrace for very similar reasons to our protest. But this person is being protected. Is this because the channel wants to do more of these fake sensationalised stories for its TRP? Or because a few people are desperate to win awards by telling 'unique and exclusive' stories at the expense of poor widows and their reputations even if it causes them more misery and shame? We attach below a note on the 'Witness' episode. People may read it see the programme and judge for themselves.

Kishor Tiwari


"Rekha" the first "farmer's widow" shown in the story is neither a farmer nor a widow but a professional sex worker in Amravati. Even in the story, she does not say she is a farmer's widow. Only the reporter does. Her real identity is well known to people in Amravati. This is a central fraud of this story.

Ø Before the start of the 'story,' itself , several different pictures are shown of both grieving widows in Vidharbha and sex workers in Kamatipura. The two are unrelated, but a connection is made by showing the latter in Kamatipura while talking of "a new widow" everyday in Vidharbha and the "chilling reality" of the "daughters of suicide country." It is as if the women shown in Mumbai are from Vidharbha though they are not.

Ø Throughout the story, several women sex workers are saying they are from Satara, Latur, Solapur. None of these places is in Vidharbha. Most basic errors exist. Solapur is shown on the map as being in "Marathwada." It is not there. It is in Western Maharashtra.

Ø Right at the beginning, even as the "horrifying journey" is being announced and grieving women are shown - -- the photograph of a man who has committed suicide is shown, thereby identifying the family and the widow. At least one or two women in that shot are identified already (and these are pictures of Vidharbha farm widows).

Ø The story is not about poor women forced into sex work. It singles out the widows of farmers who have committed suicide becoming prostitutes. Some 5,000 women are vilified without any evidence. Even if one or two instances are there, (and in this story they are untrue) how can you generalise across this group? As it is, these are women in misery and pain. The story, also shown in Hindi, has made the pain double.

Ø The first interview is with "Rekha, a prostitute." Rekha does not anywhere say she is the widow of a farmer who has committed suicide. There is no quote from her on the subject. The reporter says it for her. In the car with the reporter is "Razia, an anti-trafficking activist." By saying this person is an 'expert' there is an attempt to give credibility to the report. But nowhere this 'expert' gives even a single quote on farmers' widows, though she is described as a 'local' activist" who must therefore have a better knowledge. The one comment on prostitution attributed to her comes from the reporter, not from her. It is in his voice. Same pattern is followed right through the show. The sensational comments are always from the reporter, not from the women he speaks to.

Ø Later, another woman is interviewed. Her face is shielded, so is the face of her husband's photograph. But then the camera zooms in on the name of the man and his village very clearly on the base of the photograph. With NDTV allowing the man's name "Vishwanathrao Mankar of Kharda village" to appear on screen, the woman's disguise is destroyed. What will her life be now in the village?

Ø Even worse, the two women named "Neerja" and Sulekha, do not say that they are doing sex work. The reporter says it for them. He commends one for her courage to which she says she has little choice. Then, the reporter says: "Neerja says she will sell her body so that her daughter and Sulekha's daughter never have to." Nowhere in the interview does Neerja say this. If she did, why not use her own words. Why should these words come from the mouth of the reporter? After all, the story quotes her on other things, why not this one?

Ø Three or four times, the words "forced to sell their bodies" for survival are used by the reporter and the anchor, never by the women. When "Reshma" is described - by the reporter – as "selling her body" condoms are flashed on the screen. Is this investigation or titillation?

Ø "Rekha" is shown negotiating with clients on the highway, while a hidden camera records this. The story declares the three men on the scooter to be "Congress workers" without evidence. It also shows one of the men trying to paw her. In NDTV's online version of story this becomes they "try to tear her clothes off." Actually, she is not even afraid of them and tackles them confidently The "tearing off" of her clothes is so fake. She does not even attempt to run from them but stands her ground.

Ø Rekha is a sex worker, not a farmer and is not a widow. Another woman interviewed says she has been in the trade for just one month. Women who are so new to the profession do not tell even their families what they are doing. But "Reshma" has no hesitation at all in confiding this to the reporter. The story implies Vidharbha is emerging a hub of the flesh trade in Maharashtra. There is no shred of evidence to make this claim.

Ø In Gujarat: Seema is the "daughter of a cotton farmer from Vidharbha." But she never says so on screen. Only that her father was a farmer. The Vidharbha link is claimed by the reporter.

Ø Then the reporter claims to have tracked down "Seema's pimp" Hamid bhai Mansoori and talks to him near the Mumbai airport with "a secret camera." The "pimp" immediately "tells us" that his agents pick up girls "especially from Vidharbha and send them to Mumbai and Vadodara. " But on screen you hear nothing of this.

Ø Nowhere this man says in the story that he is Seema's pimp or that he is a pimp at all. Only the reporter says it . Secondly, if he is really her pimp, then, thanks to NDTV, he knows how he has been traced. He will brutally thrash, if not kill Seema. Again, another girl "Sonia" is shown later on as working for Hamid bhai in a "seedy Chembur Hotel." The reporter seems to be posing as a client, which means the recording might have been a sting. Again, the girls are in serious danger if they really work for Hamid Mansoori. He will brutalise them for exposing him. How could this have been allowed? It places them in great danger. But again, the claims are those of the reporter. Neither Seema nor the other girls speak of Mansoori as their pimp, nor does the story actually show him saying he is one.

Ø 'Sonia' is claimed to have an agricultural background. Once again, she does not speak of such background. The reporter does. And what is this agricultural background of this woman from Satara in Western Maharashtra? Her father was "sacked from a pesticide company." She does not say it. The reporter does, to make a connection with "agrarian crisis." With other sex workers in the show, too, words are put into their mouths that they do not say.

Ø By the time the programme looks at Mumbai and Marathwada, it does not even pretend that the sex workers shown are "widows" of farmers who have committed suicide. Even the reporter makes no claim. The story is about flesh trade and titillation. "Chaya and Mangala" are introduced as daughters of bankrupt farmers. It is the reporter who says that not them.

Ø In the last part of the Marathwada story, a quote is falsely attributed to 'Shantibai, "the oldest prostitute in Latur" in Marathwada. The reporter says she is angry that because, young women are coming into her area and her own business is suffering. Firstly, what way is this connected with the agrarian crisis Is it not just a sex and titillation story?

Ø In fact what she does say in Marathi is that the father of these girls was in debt and these poor girls are paying the price for it. It is a sympathetic statement towards the girls. But the reporter falsifies it as an abuse from a jealous rival. Conveniently, rest of what she says is inaudible. This is also a pattern throughout this 'story.' Only some statements become inaudible.

All this is done in the name of 'agrarian crisis,' and causes nothing but damage to the real issues. The story just uses that for showing sex and titillation. Huge damage has been done to the real issues, especially to the poor farmers widows struggling so bravely for their families. Will NDTV do justice to the thousands of widows who have been maligned and humiliated this way?






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