There is a well-thought-out reason for naming the community, faith, or gender of a victim for certain stories in The Hindu . Some readers, especially students, have written to us asking why some headlines mention the words “Dalit”, “Muslim”, and “Dalit woman” in the case of violent acts, while others do not. For instance, Prashant Kumar from Patna took objection to the headline “15-year-old Dalit girl raped in moving car in Haryana” (August 1). He asked if the newspaper would have said, “General caste girl raped”, if the girl had happened to be from another caste. Kratin Shastri, a class 12 student from Indore, asked a similar question. On reports on the lynching of Muslims, another student, P.V. Ramana, from Visakhapatnam, invoked the national pledge “all Indians are my brothers and sisters”, and said that caste and religious identities in news reports should be avoided as they are fundamentally divisive in nature. There were e-mails from readers questioning another headline, “Temple purified in U.P. after visit by Dalit woman MLA” (August 1), on the basis that the story was essentially about gender discrimination rather than caste discrimination, and so mentioning the caste of the woman in the headline was inappropriate. In most of these letters, readers said that mentioning the identity of the victim undermined uniformity in the reports because newspaper reports generally refrain from pointing out the identity of victims if they are caste Hindus.
For a responsible journalist, any affront to human dignity is a story worth telling because the bedrock of journalism is the belief that it can reduce harm. In the cases of excesses — be it lynching or expulsion from a public space — the journalistic team, which comprises the reporter and the desk, gives due consideration to human dignity in reporting, editing and providing headlines. Identities of victims are mentioned only when the victim’s dignity is trampled upon because of her identity. The team makes a fundamental difference between a crime and a crime that is driven by hate and bigotry.