Dainik Bhaskar was clearly targeted by Modi govt for its intrepid coverage of COVID crisis

Dainik Bhaskar did a series of stories on COVID dead of UP. It deputed 17 reporters to span the Ganga from Varanasi in UP to Buxar in Bihar, to get a count of the floating dead, and shallow graves

Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@dube_nitish
Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@dube_nitish

Sushil Kutty

Remember Arvind Subramanian? He was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chief economic advisor. Then he quit. Nowadays, he’s with Brown University, US. He also has links with think-tank ‘Center for Global Development (CDG)’, which in a study claims that India’s Covid death count till June 2021 was 49 lakhs, while the Modi Government’s official death count stood at 4 lakh.

Will publishing these “excess deaths” lead to the hounding of the media outlet that reports the anomaly? The Modi Government, if you haven’t noticed, is behaving rather strangely these days. Maybe it’s the abnormal number of Covid-19 deaths which the media isn’t supposed to report, but which certain media nevertheless reported.

Like Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar, published from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, which dared to. Dainik Bhaskar did a series of stories on the Covid dead of Uttar Pradesh. It deputed 17 reporters to span the length of the Ganga, from Varanasi in UP to Buxar in Bihar, to get a count of the floating dead, and shallow graves.

Bad news for Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The state is up for elections in 2022 and Dainik Bhaskar was out to measure a coffin to bury the Yogi Government in! Not done. It didn’t go down well with the Modi/Yogi governments.

Moreover, Dainik Bhaskar also did the ‘unthinkable’. It went back in time to resurrect the claim that Modi-Shah allegedly ordered surveillance on a “woman of interest” in 2013. Dainik Bhaskar posted a snippet on its website. Only to pull it down within a couple of hours.

The snippet sank without a trace. But the damage was done. It buttressed the unspoken claim that Modi-Shah has a “history of snooping”, and old habits die hard. Only the “geography” and the targets had changed.

Let’s not beat around the bush. The overwhelming majority of India’s media are frustrated, helpless at bringing the Modi Government to book. Modi and Shah have most of them sewed up. The mainstream electronics media in particular. Top TV anchors blindly echo Modi & Shah. For them Pegasus is peanuts. And mentioning snooping and 2013 in one breath is taboo.

They say IT sleuths raided 32 Dainik Bhaskar establishments across destinations. Some put the number at 40. It’s only recently that Dainik Bhaskar started targeting the Modi Government. Otherwise, Dainik Bhaskar was no different from Dainik Jagaran.

The feeling among media houses is if “today it’s Dainik Bhaskar, tomorrow it could be any of them”. But for the message to sink in will take time. The IT raids did not yield a “cash cache”. They were to harass and put the fear of ‘Big Brother’ on dissent.

Today, Modi-Shah have a stranglehold on the Council of Ministers. There’s not a squeak from any of the ministers, even those with a conscience. India is today an authoritarian duopoly, with a bunch of embarrassingly quiescent media.

Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, the Modi Government’s ‘phone-a-friend’, says Amnesty International’s involvement in the Pegasus Project makes the investigation suspect, including the global media consortium’s links with non-profit ‘Forbidden Stories’.

Goswami forgets that it’s not the Modi Government alone, other authoritarian regimes are also in the unholy mix. Human rights activists and the “rogue” daughter of a GCC sheikh were among those pegged to be tracked and hacked by the winged horse. The Dainik Bhaskar Group might be guilty or not guilty, but the timing of the IT raids is indicative of the Modi Government’s intentions, and state of mind.

(IPA Service)

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