Friday, February 20, 2015

Boat controversy – Media Mischief needs to end

The following article was written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference.

There was all around excitement in sections of the Indian media (some print and most English TV) yesterday, when Indian Express released one minute and 25 second video in which a Coast Guard DIG claims that on December 31 night he “told them to blow the boat off”. So the usual suspects were elated that the “controversy” surrounding the boat incident was back and they can now claim to have been indicated in “questioning” the Government.
Today’s The Hindu had three news items regarding this. These news items broadly cover the entire base of arguments that other “questioners” have been making, so for argument sakes, I am only considering these three articles to counter the points made by these folks.
This is the first page news item today.
Pakistan boat controversy - Media Mischief needs to end
Some key points from the article:
1. “The Centre faces troubling questions over the destruction of a boat …”
2. “But the statement of BK Loshali, Deputy Inspector-General, Coast Guard, that he had ordered the blowing up of the boat has sparked a storm for the Government.”
First, let’s take a look at the 1:25 minute video. The DIG never claimed that he “ordered”He merely says that “he told them” – this by no means implies that it was an “order” that 
meant to be followed. This is not mere word play – it is indeed a very important distinction to be made. Because I am sure there are many people who would have wanted to blow the boat off instead of “serving biryani” – that does not mean all of them are giving “orders”.
Now, let’s take a look at two reports in Page 10.
Pakistan boat controversy - Media Mischief needs to end
In the report titled, “India levelled baseless charges: Pakistan” – The Hindu reports the clarification by the DIG! I was simply appalled that this clarification found place in the inner pages under a headline not related to the clarification in the first place!
Why is this clarification important? One, because the subject of this entire controversy is the DIG himself. Therefore the readers/viewers need to know his side of the story. Two, because of the content of the clarification. Here’s what he said:
“I did not even handle the operation”
You see that – this important piece of information was hidden. The office in question clarifies that he did not even handle the operation, and this news is hidden inside?!  I am sure many people within the organisation would have felt like blowing up the boat – how does it amount to passing “orders”?
Next, let’s talk about the “troubling questions” the Centre is facing. Questions posed by Praveen Swami have been most efficiently countered here , so nothing further to add. Karan Thapar did a one-one interview, in which (as is his wont), he repeated questions that “many” people were asking. The summary of what he is asking is this:
1. Why didn’t the handlers of the boat blast the boat?
2. Why didn’t they commit suicide in one of the many possible options available?
3. Are your (India’s) intercepts true? How can you be sure that they were terrorists?
4. Other questions relate to “procedural issues” that newspaper claim they got from “sources”.
A boat is in Indian waters, doesn’t co-operate when intercepted for more than 14 hours, blows up itself, and our Government is supposed to sit and analyse why the poor souls committed suicide? The Indian Government is categorically stating that they didn’t hit the boat. Which departments spoke to each other, which ones didn’t become very relevant if the CG would have gone out in a hurry and hit the boat. In this case, CG intercepted for more than 14 hours, and the boat blew itself up!
Yet, people came up with random questions just so as to question the Government. And then run headlines like “Government in a spot”?The Consulting Editor who goes about hitting people on the streets, asks us if “asking tough questions” is wrong. He wouldn’t ofcourse understand the difference between a relevant question and an irrelevant one. This ilk assumes an inherent right to pose any random thought that comes to their mind, and further assumes that the powers that be waste time in answering them!
The other prominently highlighted headline – “Centre escapes harsh criticism”. What “harsh criticism” is being directed at the Centre? That they are not answering properly on why the handlers of the boat didn’t behave in a logical manner? That they are not releasing all intercepts?
Security of the source trumps all stupid questions – there is a reason parties don’t resort to “harsh criticism” – because there is very little scope for it, in this instance! On a side note, please notice how the communists link “ache din” to even this incident! No wonder they are nearing extinction now.
Does that mean the Army/Navy/Air Force/Defence units should not be questioned? Of course, they can be questioned. Questions have to be relevant, not innocuous or random ones that have no bearing on the incident. The mere ranting of an officer who was not even involved in the operation gather front page news; rantings are mis-interpreted so as to set a false narrative, and then claimed that the Centre is not coming clean!
The Defence Ministry is very clear on the entire operation. It is quite clear from the 1:25 minute video (I also wonder why 1:25 minute is released!) that the officer never claimed he “ordered”. Yet, our media is trying desperately to create a false narrative. This is deliberate lying at best, and delusionary at worst.


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