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OP-ED: An incomplete picture

  • Published at 06:44 pm November 9th, 2020
newspapers journalism
Photo: Bigstock

Bangladesh’s portrayal in Indian media leaves a lot to be desired

Often when it comes to perception of Bangladesh and its citizens, views on the Indian side of the border are generally eclipsed by media bias and WhatsApp rumours. Perception of Bangladesh is unfairly based upon the public perception of Bangladeshi immigrants who cross the border and enter India illegally. 

The problem with this narrative is that first, it does not give a holistic picture of the historical and cultural relations between the two countries, and second, it dents the existing and future prospects of interpersonal exchange and understanding.  

Moreover in media reporting in India, often it is shown that Bangladesh is a country that is dangerous for the Hindu minority living there. Whenever there is an attack on the Hindu community, our media only shows the attack but never the response from the Bangladesh government and its citizens. 

It is this incomplete picture that is created by our media that does not give an accurate picture about Bangladesh and its people. The end result is that we paint every Bangladeshi with the same brush, forming an opinion based on incomplete facts. 

I personally believe that New Delhi should take a more pragmatic approach in its relationship with Dhaka and keep the politics and maybe the media away from the matter. Many Indians are not aware of the cooperation that exists between India and Bangladesh and due to some preconceived notion in media and government circles, there isn’t much appreciation of Dhaka’s efforts towards countering terrorism in the region. 

The Bangladesh government banned extremist groups like JMB but there is no acknowledgement of the fact in the media coverage in India. It is true that there are concerns of terrorism, smuggling of drugs and contraband, and human trafficking with regards to the migrants who cross over illegally in India, but just as we have resolved the border disputes through the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA), we can resolve the issue of illegal immigration through dialogue and cooperation. 

Bangladesh is also important to India from a perspective of connectivity to the North-eastern part of India. Agreements such as the Chattogram and Mongla ports’ MOU and BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement not only lay the framework for the trade and development between the two countries but also for better connectivity to the North-eastern states of India via Bangladesh. Such stories of cooperation are of no use to TRP-hungry news channels. 

Few days ago, there was much uproar and vehement disapproval of the figures released by IMF on the per capita GDP of Bangladesh. There was a consternation and disparaging sense in wider sections of the Indian media over the fact that a country smaller in size, economy, and military capability may surpass us. 

But people often overlook the fact that a more prosperous Bangladesh will mean more opportunities for trade and economic progress in our relations and growth in the region. Bangladesh has often stood firmly with India on platforms such as the UN and SAARC on issues related to security and terrorism. But unfortunately, the stories of cooperation are overshadowed by prevailing jingoism in media outlets. 

I think perception of India’s SAARC neighbours should not be based upon the geographical size -- they should be duly considered as equal partners with shared democratic values. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former PM of India, once said: “You can change your friends but not neighbours.” I think the Indian media should take note of this advice from the late statesman and present a fair, complete, and unbiased picture in the reporting.

Siddharth Sehgal is a writer and editor at Indian Periodical, an online literary magazine.

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