Monday, March 7, 2016

Some thoughts on Parliament coverage

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

Narendra Modi’s speeches in Parliament come in a loaded package – content related to various facets of governance, statistics, ideas, wit & humour. His recent reply to the debate in Lok Sabha is no different. Whilst the English media stuck to his comments on the Congress party, other significant points of his speech were conveniently left out.

He suggested that for one week in a session per year, only the first time members should speak and debate. The agenda of the Parliament will not be altered, but we will just have the first time members speak. In any field, ‘freshers’ bring with them, well, freshness! Freshness of thoughts, ideas, and action plans – all of these help in evolving a better system.  Thar is exactly what the Prime Minister was referring to – let’s listen to fresh ideas, and not embroil in the same old “tu-tu, main-main” slanging matches. This is a superb idea, and I really hope this translates into reality and we get to hear the new members.

Another crucial point that the Prime Minister made - an appeal to let the Parliament function – because ultimately the nation loses when the parliament does not function. Most of the work gets stopped in Rajya Sabha because of the likes of Sitaram Yechury. Rahul Gandhi’s party too, plays a very important role in obstructing the progress of the country, in the Rajya Sabha. Infact, this Lok Sabha has a very impressive working record. During the last session, this graphic was doing rounds on the social media.

The political messaging of this graphic aside, have a look at the numbers for the Lok Sabha! Astounding productivity. However, it is a real pity that we don’t get to hear or read more details on the kind of legislation that has transpired in the Lok Sabha, in our main stream media.

For example, did you know what the Modi government is bringing in a law to repeal more than a thousand  old and outdated laws? Did you know that they have already repealed more than 200 such laws? Did you know that 758 such laws have been repealed by the Lok Sabha and are pending in the Rajya Sabha? Haven’t you heard of politicians and journalists asking why we need old laws? But have you heard the same journalists asking why such a simple legislation is being held to ransom by the opposition?

Another example, the PM has told us that even the National Waterways bill is pending. What possible politics could want you to stop this bill? The list of pending bills is long, and the variety of topics these bills cover is a fascinating read. The only website, outside of government websites, that gives us these details is PRS. And it does a phenomenal job at it.

A few years back, I was often questioning the main stream media journalists on twitter, as to why they don’t cover any news when Parliament functions. They are out by the dozen when it came to criticizing the BJP for obstructing Parliament (Note how they don’t blame the Congress now, but that’s not what we want to focus). I wrote an e-mail to a prominent editor-in-chief then, suggesting the following:

I know Parliament these days isn't functioning much. But on days that it functions, there is sparse coverage in the media. For example - Question Hour. There are days when Question Hour happens without any interruptions. On such days, I suggest that you scroll on your channel, the question being asked and the questioner (just like LS TV does it). You can also do the same for topics raised in Zero Hour. And in your prime time bulletins, you can maybe devote a minute quickly reading all the topics that were discussed in Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha on that particular day.”

The response was: “there is a thought here. However, LS TV is best equipped in this regard, We will aim to focus on important issues in parliament.” I am yet to see a 30 minute show on English Language TV channel that discusses the various legislations being debated or passed by the Lok Sabha. Actual important issues in parliament need to be discussed threadbare, and maybe it is time for Social Media to take the lead here too. Perhaps, we can bring in a whiff of fresh air to these debates!

Some real questions to Kanhaiya and Umar

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

If one were to make a list of top journalists who are not particularly delighted about PM Narendra Modi's ascension to power, then Nikhil Wagle will definitely make it to the top three. So when he writes this – “Now media is overdoing #KanhaiyaKumar. All these patronizing interviews repeat same old questions. Do our interviewers lack imagination? “– then perhaps it is time for the cabal to sit up and reflect how much they are over-doing it.

I haven’t watched any of the multiple “exclusive” interviews that Kanhaiya Kumar gave to the TV channels after being released on an interim bail for 6 months.  Nor have I seen his “midnight” speech (that some hail as the best after the famous 1947 midnight speech). The transcripts and excerpts I have read were enough to put me to sleep. Why did every single news channel repeat the same questions; only to get the same answers, in different words, and then ran exclusives, when his answers were anything but exclusive?

And this brings me to the core point – what are the questions that have to be put to Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and the rest of the gang? I have listed down below a few questions that I would like to ask them.

Questions for Kanhaiya Kumar

1.Tell us about your educational background. When did you finish school? Where did you do your bachelors degree? When did you join JNU?

2.What is your current area of specialization in JNU? How much longer do you anticipate your studies will take?

3.Can you give us some insights into your research papers, given your stay for a long time in the JNU? What kind of career prospects do you envisage after your education here?

4.When were you elected as the President of JNUSU?

5.What kind of actual student problems have you resolved, during your tenure as President?

6.What is your version of the events of February 9th (And depending on this answers, I will probably have a couple of follow up questions).

7.What is your relationship with Umar Khalid? He says that – “Kitne Afzal maaroge, ghar ghar se Afzal niklega” – do you endorse these claims of his?

8.You claimed that Rohith Vemula is your icon. He has written many times deriding the egalitarian character of the Left parties, and particularly Sitaram Yechury. Mr. Yechury is reported to have said that you will campaign for the Left parties. If Rohith is your icon, can you go ahead and campaign for them?

9.On similar lines, many in the English media are hailing you as the next icon of the Left. If your icon is Rohith Vemula, then why haven’t you condemned their portrayal of you as the new Left icon?

10.It is said that in a TV interview, you have claimed that Maoists killed by the state, should get the same respect as soldiers. Is this true? If so, how can you even remotely compare the two?

11.Your speech was loaded with political responses to the Modi government. The many things that you demand “azaadi” from are legacy issues from 60 years – most of which time we were ruled by the Congress party. Shouldn’t you demand answers from them, instead of making comments on “Sabka saath, sabka vikaas”?

Questions to Umar Khalid (because I am sure, the same drama will be repeated once he is out of jail):

1.Tell us about your educational background. When did you finish school? Where did you do your bachelors degree? When did you join JNU?

2.What is your current area of specialization in JNU? For how much more longer do you anticipate your studies will take?

3.Can you give us some insights into your research papers, given your stay for a long time in the JNU? What kind of career prospects do you envisage after your education here?

4.You wanted permission for “poetry reading”. Here is a line from one of your “poems” –“Kitne Afzal maaroge, ghar ghar se Afzal niklega”. Afzal is a convicted terrorist, hanged to death after due judicial process was followed. Through your “poem”, are you threatening to make more terrorists?

5.Do you respect the Indian constitution? If yes, then why are supporting terrorists? If not, then why are you living on a subsidy provided to you by the very Indian government that you despise?
Please feel free to add any more questions that you feel like asking. It is time the newly crowned heroes of the cabal get questioned hard. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Meet NDTV's Vishnu Som

The following article was written for OpIndia. Pasting it here for reference.

Back in the year 2009, the Swiss government issued a ban on building minarets in their country. Quite expectedly, the English TV media in our country went berserk over this decision. However, one journalist’s reaction stood way above everyone else, and he went on to become the toast of the day.

When asked why Indians should care so much about this ban, here is the response:
It represents a fundamental threat to millions of Muslims in our country.
Yes, you read it right. A ban on minarets by the Swiss in their country is a fundamental threat to millions of Muslims in our country. The said journalist is from NDTV (needless to say!), and goes by the name Vishnu Som! His claim to fame had begun.

Back in the year 2012, all of us are quite familiar with how the movement in protest of the Nirbhaya rape took the country by storm, and tens of thousands of people voluntarily came on to the streets in various cities to protest.

As always, the English TV media focused on what was happening on the streets of Delhi. A constable died, and immediately the English channels went on a rumour spree – that he was killed by mob violence. Leading the tribe was Barkha Dutt (who deleted a tweet), followed by Rajdeep Sardesai.


Thanks to Social media, it was increasingly becoming clear that constable Subhash Tomar died of a heart attack, and not because of any violent attack. In the 9’o clock primetime show, one anchor vehemently questioned the ACP of Delhi like this:
Twitter is abuzz with rumours that Mr. Tomar died of a heart attack and not an assault. Can you confirm this?”
Yes, you read it right. “Abuzz with rumours” merely because it was not fitting into the agenda they wanted to pursue that day. The said journalist is from NDTV (needless to say!), and goes by the name Vishnu Som! I (and many others) have given him proof about these rumours:


It did turn out that the constable died of a heart attack; it turned out that protestors actually helped to
take him to hospital; and of course it turned out that Vishnu Som and his ilk never clarified on this. The entire sequence of events has been captured here – I’d urge that you visit the blog I wrote if you are keen to know how English TV media tried to fan violence.

Back in the year 2015, Arnab Goswami suddenly started playing up an alleged scam. Sushma Swaraj helped Lalit Modi, and therefore she deserves to be sacked. And all hell broke lose – only on the English TV channels. Suddenly people started remembering that Lalit Modi is accused of financial crimes and tried to score shouting points over one another.

Amidst all this noise, Prabhu Chawla’s name got dragged into the mess. So he appeared for an interview on a English news channel. The belligerent interviewer asked Prabhu Chawla:
Lalit Modi has 2 dozen cases pending against him”.
And at one stage, when Prabhu Chawla was trying to explain a point, the anchor cuts him short and says, “but that’s just a technicality”.

2 dozen = 24. I asked the anchor multiple times as to where I can read details about these 24 cases on NDTV. Any link where I can be enlightened on the 2 dozen cases. I haven’t received a reply till date. The said journalist is from NDTV (needless to say!), and goes by the name Vishnu Som!

Infact, like you can see, I persisted for quite some time to get these details. I even involved his senior management to get an answer. I even wrote to their ombudsman, Mr. Soli Sorabjee. He replied back saying that there are indeed “several” cases pending against him. My query was specific – Is the 24 number correct? Where can I find a link on NDTV of these 24 cases against Lalit Modi?


After a while, I didn’t pursue the matter and infact forgot about it. But I recollected all these events last night. What prompted me to write this? Why am I boring with you incidents from 2009 onwards about some Vishnu Som guy?

Since 2 days,  Vishnu Som launched a tragic personal diatribe on an army man on twitter. He complained to the army man’s seniors, and claims to have gotten a response too. By the way, contrast that to the response *I* got, when I complained to Vishnu Som’s seniors!

He went on to claim that serving officers are not allowed to tweet, and that some of his tweets are personal and offensive. Speaking of offensive, I was immediately reminded of a few times I saw Vishnu Som anchoring, and found them to be very offensive to basic common sense. It was distressing to see a mere journalist talk about knowing people in high places; and a mediocre journalist boasting about “20 years of covering the fauj”. I wanted to show to the world the quality of journalism that Vishnu Som has produced over the years – just so that he may get off his high ground.

The agenda driven journalism of Indian media, particularly the English TV media, gets exposed almost every single day on social media. Yet, they never seem to try and take any corrective measures. It is high time the viewers start getting offended too, for being taken for a ride.