Will government ads return to The Hindu?

For how much longer will the bulk of the Indian media continue to overlook the Modi government’s transgressions

Image Courtesy: social media
Image Courtesy: social media

Ranjona Banerji

The lynchings of Muslims and Dalits continue unabated and the economy is still on a downward trajectory. And the Indian media is still at odds at what to do, what to cover and what to cover up.

One of the owners of The Hindu, venerable, stable and courageously anti-establishment at most times, tweeted about a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Malini Parthasarathy says she is “grateful for a warm and illuminating” conversation with the PM where he shared his “insights about his vision” for India.

One can only conjecture from subsequent tweets about some grand plan about Kashmir, written by a senior journalist on the beat, that the meeting was mission accomplished.

Will the government ads come back to The Hindu or is one being unfair? The other reality in Kashmir was that the Governor, Satya Pal Malik, (member of the BJP) asked terrorists to kill politicians who have cheated Kashmir. Later the governor made the excuse that he had said it all in a fit of anger.

Good stuff. The PM’s vision or the BJP’s vision or Nagpur’s vision or no vision at all?

For how much longer will the bulk of the Indian media continue to overlook the Modi government’s transgressions? Since the general election results in May 2019, various BJP functionaries have made their intentions, and in most cases their lack of knowledge, very clear.

One worthy has said that drinking Ganga water will stop women from having caesarean surgeries, another said that all Indians have descended from rishis (sages), another made up appalling lies about the Muslim birth rate (50 children each and so on). In all of these statements, ignorance, discrimination, prejudice and hatred are evident.

The media certainly highlight these statements for their sensationalist value, but many just refuse to dig deeper into the reasoning – although it is self-evident. Instead, evening news debates continue to exacerbate inter-community fissures all because it makes for exciting viewing.

The last week has seen television media so excited about the rampant and open attempts by the BJP to bring down the Karnataka government (not that they put it that way), that the bill to change the Right to Information Act for the worse has gone through, and changes have been made to our human rights and minority commissions, also for the worse.

The Centre wants to accrue all powers to itself – all that earlier guff about cooperative federalism notwithstanding – and the Karnataka story is just to get control of the Rajya Sabha.

That a political party works out a strategy to appeal to voters is its democratic right. But for the media to turn a blind eye to that strategy is dangerous for democracy and dangerous for all citizens in the long run. For the media to be taken in by symbols and distractions of “national pride” is appalling and ridiculous.

The NRC is still roiling Assam and the North East as story after story of discrepancies and mistakes emerge. All kudos to NDTV here for keeping the story alive on television, regardless of the threats made to them in whatever way.

The disdain which parts of “new India”, and sadly this includes the media, displays for human rights and the rights of citizens can only mean even more disasters in the future.

How many times does it bear repeating that a media which does not show truth to power is not fulfilling its basic responsibilities?

The current excitement is over US President Donald Trump’s claims to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan that Modi asked Trump to intercede in the Kashmir crisis. No one’s claiming that this was Modi’s “vision” as described to The Hindu but as manliness is now the main criterion for governance, who has the bigger chest, Modi or Trump? And, perhaps, who is the bigger liar?

The Modi Government is scrambling for self-esteem and sections of the media are doing whatever they can to protect the PM. Mr Trump is of course a loose cannon and he never retracts, never apologises.

With so much work to be done it is hardly surprising that Karnataka gets more airtime on Indian news TV than killer floods in Assam and Bihar, mob violence, Sensex crashes and foreign affairs disasters.

Damn the BCCI, Star Sports and cricket associations for not quickly organising a tournament as a distraction!

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Published: 29 Jul 2019, 12:22 PM