Whither ‘Secular’ Indian Media?
Three unpleasant and deplorable incidents happened in just one week
- Junior Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti became an object of hate and ridicule. During a speech at an election rally in Delhi, she loftily used the words ramzada and haramzada. It shocked people, brought Parliament to a standstill and the media battered her hysterically.
- In Mumbai, actress Gauhar Khan was attending a public event when a Muslim guy comfortably broke her security cordon and slapped her. Why? Because he was against the skimpy dresses or shorts that she was wearing. He wanted to tell her that she was breaking religious edicts.
- In Kolkata, Mamata Banerjee said things which are not uttered in even lower-class families. “ Nijeyra kortey pareyni, jara korchhey sharakkhon tadeyr pechhoney ki korey bamboo dewa jay tar chinta korey jachhey. (They couldn’t themselves work for the people, they are always trying to figure out how to shove bamboos up the… of those who are doing it).”
She could be seen gesticulating with her right hand while she was making the bamboo references. The way the media reacted to the reports about the three above mentioned instances and treated them is a good benchmark to measure the level of partisanship in our media, and most importantly also to expose how much the liberals and the Leftists have shackled the traditional freedom of the Indian press.
The criticism and condemnation of Sadhaavi Niranjan Jyoti for her deplorable statement of “Ramzada and Haramzada” was wholly justified because a minister or anyone else using abusive language in public is just not passe’. Sadhavi made such a stupid statement presumably thinking that she was addressing a captive audience back home in Hamirpur.
A bhajan singer and doha reader from Ramayana has made her into a cult figure there. So there she could get away with many things. But when she used the abusive word Haramzadas she was speaking as a Union Minister, a politician and not a religious leader and was addressing people who saw her as a BJP leader.
The Congress-led opposition in the Rajya Sabha where NDA is in a minority was the most outraged and led to stalling of several Bills for days. Was an apology by Sadhvi and a conciliatory statement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi not enough?
The Congress, unable to find issues to go hammer and tongs against the NDA, was in no mood to give up especially with the eternally young and angry Rahul Gandhi leading the protest. It found a very good ally in MPs of Mamata’s Trinamool Congress. They were anxious to avenge the attacks by Amit Shah at his Kolkata Rally.
The media, which also finds itself foundering because of no patronage it had got used to, played as expected these days, its part in not only condemning Sadhavi but dragging in Modi. Why did he not sack her for such a blasphemous and communal comment? The conclusion, he
sympathised with such ‘unsavoury and communal’ characters.
The innuendo both in speeches by parliamentarians and during discussions on TV Channels was that Sadhavi when she said ramzada and haramzada, she meant Hindus were ramzadas and Muslims were haramzadas and she deserved to be a sacked. How was such a con-clusion reached?
In the heat of the fury, no one tried to find out in what context Sadhavi used the word Haramzada—although whatever she meant does not justify the use of the word Haramzada..its appalling. However, the reported part of the ramzada and haramzada was in context of corruption indulged in by Robert Vadra. “Jis sadharan parivar mein…bartanon ki dukaan rakhne wala…uska beta, Sonia Gandhi ka damaad, arab-kharab pati kaise ho gaya? Gareebon ko loota hai, gareebo ko choosa hai. Modiji kehte rahe hai, na khayenge na khane denge. (The son of an ordinary family, who had a utensils shop… Modiji nor will we tolerate it).”
“Aapko tay karna hai ki Dilli mein sarkar Ramzadon ki banegi ya haramzadon ki. Yeh aapka faisla hai (You must decide whether you want a government of those born of Ram or of those born illegitimately).”
Ravinaar while discussing the issue gave translated version of her speech “Does politics work on dynastic succession? A government of mother and son? There were so many scams in Haryana by the son-in-law (Vadra). The son of someone who had a small shop selling steel utensils, the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi, how did he get to be so rich?
“They have looted the poor, sucked them dry. Modi ji has been saying he won’t be corrupt nor let anyone else be corrupt. Remember, you have to decide whether in Delhi you want a government of the righteous or of corrupt bastards.”
And then he noted, “I have deliberately translated Ramzadon as righteous and Haramzadon as corrupt bastards since, though she used an earthy rhyme, that is the clear meaning of her statement. It is explicit that the Sadhavi is using “haramzadon” in the context of corruption, and is not, as The Hindu misinterprets as alluding to the minorities.”
Ravinaar explained in detail, she is targeting the opposition and also specifically, the dynasty, that she says has looted the poor, she is not talking about the voters or any community. Haram is equally a word for the corrupt (“haram ka paisa”) as illegitimate, and she links it to the Congress dynasty by taking on Vadra’s land deals in Haryana. Ram is maryada purushottom, the symbol of righteousness. Ram vs haram is setting up the contrast of Modi, who she says has sworn to neither be corrupt or let others be corrupt with Congress who has practiced dynastic corruption. It is a political attack, not remotely a communal one.”
There is an issue with her using the term haramzada (bastard) in the colloquial rhyme with ramzade as it is a profanity (though hardly the worst of them). Even Congress analyst Pawan Khera writing about this issue agrees that “Our villages are brutally honest about what they feel on any given issue… (As city dwellers) We gradually learn to cover our instinct, sometimes with guarded expressions and sometimes with stud studied silence.” But he is wrong about the topic of her brutal honesty. It is about disgust with Congress corruption and divisiveness, not about “minorities”.
In any case while the use of the word was deplorable, would it not be advisable not to give a communal colour if she meant the corrupt people like Vadra? In these days when a large segment of people are still wary of Modi, such interpretations could lit a powder keg.
But while the media went full throttle criticising Sadhavi’s statement—which deserved condemnation but without giving a communal tinge if she didn’t mean it—it has been silent about several other utterings and actions, some of which were decidedly anti-national or had a communal touch.
No ideology should prevent the media or anyone from reporting on anything that is anti-national, even a hint of it. The media in India is free but over a decade it has lost its shine of independence and non-partisanship, one took for granted. The Editors fought, suffered and sacrificed to guard against encroachment in their turf and attempts to curb their editorial freedom.
B.G. Verghese lost his editorship for refusing to obey the censure rules laid down by V. C. Shukla during Emergency. Chelapathi Rao fought even Jawaharlal Nehru over editorial decisions. The pro-Conservative Daily Telegraph in the UK did not hesitate to expose the shenanigans of Tory MPs and Peers who fabricated their expenses bills.
But there has been, especially in the electronic media, a marked tendency to develop likes and dislikes, the Right is always wrong and non-secular, the Left is always right and defender of secularism. Unfortunately the interpretation of secular is akin to that of Jawaharlal Nehru not of S. Radhakrishnan and C. Rajagopalachari. Both had advised Nehru that secular meant equal treatment and tolerance of all religions. But, Nehru tilted towards ‘protecting’ minorities. One might give him the benefit of doubt, for in the wake of the genocide in Pakistan, there could have been a reprisal in India. It did happen for a few days but never near the brutality on the other side of the border, because while the Indian Government curbed it as against in Pakistan where the Government gave free hand to rioters-cum-rapists-cum- murderers.
But to get back to the manner stories that do not involve the Right or the BJP and RSS are treated expose the double standards. Gauhar Khan was slapped in a public place by a man just because she according to his view was wearing a skimpy dress. This kind of protests have taken place in Bangalore and some other cities by group of bigoted Hindus.
Whenever such incidents have happened they have been reported and analysed on front pages of dailies and TV Channels have telecast discussions by social activists and self-appointed guardians of secularism condemning the ‘moral-keepers’. True such elements should not only be censured but punished.
But then why the incident of a man daring to attack Gauhar in public not highlighted nor condemned. This exposes the warped thinking that a Muslim slapping a Muslim is an internal matter. When the Hindu brigands forced girls from a night club, most of them must have been Hindus. The truth might be unpalatable to the guardians of secularism in the media but the fact is that their conscience is pricked and they sit up to censure or pronounce some pearls of wisdom when an incident or a comment involves a Right-wing organisation or its members.
Sadhvi’s neck, for example, was demanded for an uncouth word. But what about Mamata Bannerjee’s rant at a meeting. “Nijera 34 bochhor khamatai chhilo. Kichhu korte pareni, aar jara korche tader bamboo diye berachhe. Bamboo jangale hoi, ghar bari toirir kaje lage, jane na bamboo jake tara kore she palate path pai na. Amader chamkale amra garjai…” (They were in power for 34 years, but could do nothing. Instead they are trying to figure out how to shove bamboos up the … of those who are doing it)”.
Mamata is alleged to have used the same catch-phrase to attack Amit Shah. But despite Mamata being uncouth, uncivilised and foul-mouthed not one discussion, not
one debate and not one mention was made in Parliament. “”In short, Sickular abuses will pass but not the other ones.”
A tweet from Swapan Dasgupta is reproduced here for it sums up well: That’s right, to combat Modi and the BJP all such Jamiat-type outfits will be allowed a free hand, including violence and mayhem but “…our media and our impotent Opposition will rant excessively about the Sadhavi’s verbal nonsense to score some cheap points because they really don’t have any real issue to rant about. And even the media rants are reserved only for the Hindus or the Saffron clad….” Nothing that the Islamists do or damage will be significant for them.
The Islamists, mentioned by Gupta possibly refers to report that “Thousands of Muslims marched the city streets……shouting slogans against the “hegemony of the sankhaguru sampraday (majority community)”, a day before BJP president Amit Shah addresses a party rally in front of Victoria House….The rally (:Islamists) …..went out of the hands of the state police who stood mute spectators to the mayhem and violence, fuelling speculation that the police had to stay inert under directions from above”.
There was reportedly violence against cops and the general public but in the “Islamic State” of Bengal ruled by a Hijab-loving Mamata Banerjee such “crimes are okay,” wrote Ravinaar. And then an image from that meeting was reproduced.
The sample that you read earlier was sanitised and didn’t really reflect the real nature and background of this meeting of Jamiat in Kolkata. And if you think this was the first of a kind, you are wrong. Here’s a report from Rediff on a similar event last year:
“A rally for war criminals: Why are TMC, Left silent? – A belligerent rally in Kolkata by 16 Islamic organisations in support of Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, one of the prime accused in the 1971 genocide in Bangladesh, is indicative of West Bengal’s liberal space shrinking, says Dr Anirban Ganguly. Something unprecedented happened on March 30 in Kolkata. Sixteen Islamic organisations came together at the Maidan, the second largest public ground in the city, in protest against the ongoing war crimes trial in Bangladesh, against the Shahbag sit-in and in support of the vice-president of the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, one of the prime accused in the 1971 genocide in Bangladesh.”
“It was astounding to see a huge and belligerent crowd gather from all over the state to support one of the best known razakars and collaborators with the Pakistan Army in its genocide against Muslims and Hindus in East Pakistan”.
These were anti-national events. Yet did we hear about the recent Jamiat meeting or the earlier one on any news channel or read in any major newspapers? The famous anchors and “their little sidekicks” can only bark against the Right-wingers and condemn those whom they regard as communal. The tweet from Swapan Dasgupta said it all.
But will all such Jamiat-type outfits be allowed a free hand just because, many anchors, their bosses and the whole lot of Liberals and Lutyens club members want to get rid of Modi. Nothing else matters. Its enacting Jaichand.
Such rage or hatred must not affect the basic role of the media—to act as a medium of factual news dissemination to its readers, and to act as an impartial watchdog—if that presently needs criticising Modi, it must do so. But not because he is according to the media mandarins a Rightist and thus a danger to “secularism”. The watchdog will be justified in censuring him only if he does something which is not in the interest of the society, country or people.
The media has to introspect as to how its silence or casual reporting of the rally in Kolkata by 16 organisations in support of a criminal of war—Rediff report—be termed or categorised. One would not like to sit on judgement, but the media must. Its not in the business of preserving vote-banks. To hate Modi or whatever he represents is entirely one’s choice and right but to avoid exposing something which is against the country’s interest is not.
By Vijay Dutt