The din of jingoism over the terror strike in Pulwama and air raids on Balakot may seem to have drowned the voice of protests of farmers, unemployed youth, adivasis and Dalits for the time being, but the widespread discontent among the people over price rise, unemployment, increasing incidents of violence and atrocities against the minorities and weaker section portents a strong anti-incumbency wave in the coming Lok Sabha elections.
The fever-pitch ‘nationalism’ and ‘war cry’ ramped up by nonstop political rallies addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah since the terror strike in Pulwama have impacted only the cities and towns of north and western regions and have least affected the rural population which is grappling with problems confronting their day to day life – joblessness, poverty and crime.
Those questioning the Modi government on its failure in checking terrorism and instilling confidence among the people of Kashmir, the Northeast and the predominantly tribal regions of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and parts of northeast Maharashtra are being labelled by the BJP as ‘anti-India’ and ‘Naxalites’.
In Gujarat, the home state of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, there have been protest demonstrations by organisations representing over half a million state government employees who are employed as contract worker on daily wages. These include school teachers, para medical staff, forest guards and even police constables.
While the Prime Minister conducted a photo-shoot operation of him washing the feet of sweepers in Kumbh, the sanitation workers of Ahmedabad struck work as part of the all-India bandh call given by SC, ST and OBC organisations. They are contract workers employed by the city civic body.
In Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s constituency, two sanitation workers died while they cleaning a sewage. This was the second such incident in the last two months. In Odisha, the members of the Dongria tribe of Niyamgiri, have planned to take out a march in the state capital on March 11 to protest against the Supreme Court’s order to evict them from forest land. Their leader Lingaraj Azad was arrested on March 6 on various charges including that of sedition.
Anti-Pakistan jingoism, on the other hand, dominate the screens of a majority of TV channels. The exception, however, are the Malayali and some Bengali TV channels. However, the social media, namely Twitter and Facebook, are performing the duty of reflecting the problems and expectations of people which should have been the primary job of newspapers and TV channels
A nation-wide protest was organized by the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha (NSM) on February 28 following which the protesting NREGA workers filed police complaints against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, allegedly for “fraud in NREGA wages of workers”. Alongside complaints at hundreds of police stations across the country, a petition was sent to Modi and Union Minister of Rural Development for immediate release of ₹25,000 crore for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) budget. The farmers in Uttar Pradesh, which has witnessed lynch mobs of self-proclaimed cow vigilantes killing people for transporting the bovine from one place to another, are facing the invasion of marauding stray bulls and oxen in their fields destroying their stand crops.
Dalits in the cow-belt states have been beaten up for daring to ride a horse in their marriage processions. All such reports of injustice, cruelty, barbarism and atrocities on the weaker sections get buried in inside pages of newspapers as short one, two para news reports while TV channels do not consider them worthy of featuring in short takes.
Anti-Pakistan jingoism, on the other hand, dominate the screens of a majority of TV channels. The exception, however, are the Malayali and some Bengali TV channels. However, the social media, namely Twitter and Facebook, are performing the duty of reflecting the problems and expectations of people which should have been the primary job of newspapers and TV channels.
A complete blackout of pro-people reports critical of the ruling party by the mainstream media does not mean that ‘Achche Din’ (good days) have arrived. Once the din created by the jingoistic slogans and narrative dies down, the real issues that are affecting the lives of people are bound to influence the choice of voters in the coming general elections. Any type of fever, even the one caused by jingoism, has a shelf life. If prolonged, it may prove to fatal.