Monday, December 21, 2015

Real India lies beyond TV studios

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference. 

She feels scared to open the newspapers every day.”

While Aamir Khan is drawing lot of flak for his statement that his wife wondered if they have to leave India, this other statement of his has largely gone un-noticed. Why does she “feel scared to open the newspapers every day”?

You and I would be scared too, if we pick up the newspaper and see this on the front page.

For the record, this is front page of The Hindu, in its Hyderabad edition, on June 7 2015. I read this and will feel sad that this had to happen in Mumbai, the “maximum city”. Then I will go about talking to my friends that day and tell that something undesirable is happening in our country; that we should all live in harmony etc. We will get bored of that discussion, and then be like “Chalo, let’s lighten up, and have some chai”. And by the end of the day, we move on. But the thought lingers.

I am a lazy person, so all I see is front page of the newspaper everyday. And maybe perhaps the movie page. And therefore, I will never, never know that the following is the true story:

The front page story of The Hindu turns out to be a bogus one. 3 different newspapers/websites have confirmed that it is a bogus story. Police enquiry has confirmed that it is a bogus story. The Hindu, did not even care to publish this news in its newspaper. Instead, they let the thought linger on. Their faithful readers would have never known that the story is bogus.

Perhaps I am exaggerating and dramatizing a one-off incident by a reputed newspaper? Let’s move away from this newspaper for a while then.

But Siddarth Siddarth ….. We also have to accept we didn't do full reporting.”
What is this full reporting about? “Media did not do due diligence before presenting the church attacks as an example of some Hindutva backlash.

Hey – I didn’t say this. Neither did the BJP. Barkha Dutt said this to Siddarth Varadarajan. Yes – you are reading this right. In this 55 minute video, where they were supposed to interview the Environment minister of the country, at around 23:50, Barkha Dutt reminds Siddarth Varadarajan that they “didn’t do full reporting and due diligence”.

Do I need to remind you, the informed reader, on how the “Church attacks” were played up during the campaign of the Delhi election? Do I need to remind you, the informed reader, on the number of editorials, op-eds, blogs that extolled us on the need for being tolerant and how this was all expected because the BJP government came to power (never mind that one attack was in West Bengal)?

There was only one article that showed the facts and the truth, during that time-frame itself, and quite conveniently the article was ignored by the entire main stream media. And months after the damage was fully done; months after the agenda to spread communal fear was successfully accomplished, we the people, get to hear in a commotion-filled discussion – “We also have to accept we didn't do full reporting”. Not in the form of an apology, not in any article. But somewhere in a commotion, I had to pick it up. What did we do to deserve this kind of a mainstream media?

Perhaps I am still dramatizing, given the frustration on how the “intolerance” debate is being framed? Let’s move away from this whole communal angle for a bit.

On the same day, June 28, two journalists of repute wrote something very disturbing:

Journalist 1: 23 witnesses and an accused dead in the Vyapam scam. Who is behind it, why isnt it getting more media attention?

Journalist 2: 51 dead, almost 1800 in jail across India, the #VyapamScam is surely a fit case for much more media coverage than it has so far got?

The Journalists in question were Barkha Dutt and Sagarika Ghose. How can your numbers be so far off? How many died? 23 or 51? Or do bodies don’t matter to the media at all? Or was this in a fit of anger against the BJP? Maybe we the people should wait for a detailed report that gives better numbers?

NDTV published a report and I had this query about their report – “report says 29 deaths. Byline says 35. Can you please clarify”.  The responses I got in the conversations here and here are so revealing. Our media is not even able to get the number of dead people right!

Then there’s of course the dramatics. The coverage of the Vyapam Scam in the English media began when a journalist of Aaj Tak died under mysterious circumstances. The fraternity was up in the arms that this was a murder. And then we were told there was a simple demand – “Simple Demand of all journalist orgns in Akshay Singh death. MP govt must forthwith send viscera report to AIIMS.”
The MP government sent the visceral samples (and not just the report) to AIIMS. Have you heard back from the “journalists orgns” on what happened since? Are you familiar with what AIIMS told in their report? Is your answer a resounding NO? I leave it you, the informed reader, to see the pattern of their coverage.

Let’s now come back to The Hindu and the communal intolerance debate. When Rupa Subramanya again gave us facts on the number of communal incidents in the country pretty much were the same since 3-4 years, what the associate editor of The Hindu tweeted (a series of 7 tweets) is very revealing. 

While I paste all of them here, I wish to highlight a few portions:

Nitwits who argue that outrage against lynching/ communal polarisation & communal mobilisation during present regime is unjustified.. because there were riots & communal polarisation before as well, are basically being nitwits. Of course, riots & communal polarisation happened bf4This regime is qualitatively different is because of its ideological persuasion which encourages & supports the basis for communal poison. And in the many other riots/ incidents in the past, the party in power as part of the #Parivar played a role in inciting many of those incidents. The outrage is therefore only justified.Nothing of what is happening today in terms of the lynching, the uber-stupid #beef controversy etc is surprising. Little else was expected when the unapologetic BJP, associated with the #Sangh whose ideology is seeped in communalism, came to power”.

They are openly admitting that facts do not play a role. They are telling us, the readers that they will report more about communal polarization only when the BJP is in power and not when the Congress is in power. But then what are the facts? Last week, The Hindu itself published a front page report:

The statistics are quite telling. More communal incidents happened under UPA’s watch. The media chose not to highlight them. The editors are now open about it – the communal incidents under Modi will be highlighted till saturation, irrespective of whether it will affect the nation or not.

Prime Minister Modi recently very aptly said – “There is an India beyond what TV and newspapers are showing”. I hope the likes of Kiran Rao wake up to go see that India. I have no hope though that the English media will wake up to go see that India. Like I have been saying from a long time – we deserve a better media.


Balvinder Dadyal said...

sukhbir singh badal

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