I had long left watching the PR agents on the TV studios discussing nationalism or pushing the particular agendas of their political parties. It is over 5 years that I stopped buying newspapers or magazines. I do go through the news through my twitter handle as well as some other forwarded material but that too I am quite selective. In the morning, I go through the important tweets that i follow including some of them coming from prestigious dailies internationally as well as nationally. The new web news-portals are doing far better work than the çhaudhuries’ of our so called mainstream media.
In the past, when I used to read a whole bunch of papers and magazine, I only read them for getting news. One news in 5 different dailies would be presented in different ways. During the Babari Masjid demolition period, I found that the owners of the biggest dailies and news conglomerate did a balancing act. Most of the owners had group of publications in English and Hindi. Some of them went to the other languages too. So, one publication was dedicated to promoting Hindutva while other would be chasing them out. But it was basically a division of work between Hindutva brahmins versus socialist brahmins. A Padgaonker would write against BJP while a Vidya Niwas Mishra, sitting in Navbharat Times would be giving them sermons of greatness. And it was not the story of the Times. All the major newspaper houses were doing that. All of them had two commonality of ideas. One, to portray Hindu Dharma as the greatest of the world, most liberal and second all of them happened to be opposing Mandal Commission recommendations and hated reservations. Some of them had open hatred while others had concealed hatred for reservation. There was other combination. Arun Shourie in the Indian Express and Prabhash Joshi in Jansatta. Both had mastery over their languages. While Shourie was a hard core anti Mandal who used VP Singh and later started abusing him, Joshi remain his friend yet condemn his Mandal Act. Both of them would interact with their readers. Arun Shourie was dismissed unceremoniously by Ramnath Goenka when he wrote a nasty piece against VP Singh which the Express owner felt was against the policy of the paper. Shourie slowly made his way to Hindutva camp abusing all the seculars and minorities. His third class work on Ambedkar became a talk of town among the middle class casteist Hindus who jumped on his anti reservation rhetorics.
Not many people knew that the first ever book that Shourie published was a kind of critique of Gita and Hinduism itself but he perhaps has disown that. I don’t know whether the copies are available but later he became an unabashed fan of brahmanical Hindutva. Prabhash Joshi became the champion of the secular brigade who considered that Hindus can not be represented by the Sangh Parivar. His viewpoint was clear that the Sanghi brahmins cannot represent the secular-socialist brahmins but Joshi was arrogantly proud of his brahmin faith. He would quote copiously from those texts. Joshi was the ‘progressive’ editor who supported the Sati and felt that it was the highest tradition of sacrifice of the Indian woman.
Once Prabhash Joshi wrote an article in Jansatta : Jaat pe mat jaao meri baat pe aao’, where he responded in details the accusation of being castiests. I wrote a letter regarding that as an editor he will have the last laugh. He can interact, write and unilaterally be selective. I told him that all his arguments can be countered very easily but I respected him because I loved his language. He personally wrote and send me a handwritten letter giving in details why he felt pained because people charge him with being casteist but then the facts remain. I did not enter into an argument but in his later stage he perhaps was more visible in the social movements on economic issues as most of the time they are afraid of caste issues because of their uncomfort.
Today, our media is doing the same. The media war is a reality today. I wrote about it long back when Times Now unleashed a campaign against the screening of a documentary made by a British documentary maker and was supposed to be broadcasted at the NDTV. So, the corporate houses are jumping into it as profit is the main motive. As I said, we have a Mirror Now, started by Times Houses and it is taking political position in contrast to Timesnow. The woman who is main anchor speak absolutely like Arnab Goswami, perhaps his student with only difference is that she is taking on the Hindutva fringe too. I don’t know this is her ideological position or a guidelines by the Jains of Times of India.
So journalists whose job was to give us unbiased news have now become news themselves. And most of them have their followers or Bhakts who quote them like Gita, Quran and Bible. Whether pro and anti, we are victims of the new world order that work on branding so we have a few brands in each segments. Many Brahmins, Banias and a few of them from the others to get fixated into their scheme of things. Some are raising the issue of Hindu pride and suggesting why can’t we do it while others are championing the cause of ‘secularism” but in these two dividing lines and their followers, there is no space for the segments who are victims of both these high class sawarna perception. There is no space for an alternative vision and thought. If somebody is secular and want to discuss about Ambedkar, the panelists are the same on their identity lines. This fixing will not help as media has lost its credibility. Whether you pretend to be secular or non, most of you don’t want diverse voices in your newsrooms.
The recent CARAVAN-Express spat is another point. The story of Judge Loya’s suspicious death was reported very boldly by Caravan magazine. None of the ‘mainstream’ media picked it up but suddenly an Express story tried to debunk the entire issue of ‘suspicion’. It picked holes in the Caravan story but embarrassingly got stuck into those holes itself. So far the Express has not bothered to answer those questions which have been raised. This is the second biggest fiasco that the Express has done in recent years. The first one was Shekhar Gupta’s so called ”scoop’ of General V K Singh and army attempted coup several years back. The Express neither regretted nor challenged those who questioned. Some time, in their attempt to look different these things comes up.
While we appreciate Express’s investigative journalism and stories and definitely among these crowd they stood apart but we must not depend on them too much. People have found their ways out. We know ultimately all these newspapers and channels have their own interests and they can’t go beyond a limit. During the UPA period too, media, had an understanding not to target a few individuals which included the PM, Chidambaram, Manmohan Rahul, Sonia, Arun Jaitley, Sharad Pawar, Naveen Patnaik and all those who were in power to get their thing done. Media may look divided on ‘secularism-communalism’ issue but on broader issues of economic liberalisation, they remain the same. Almost, all of them, have been speaking for it and singing jai ho for the opening up of our economy and selling of the public sector and handing them to private corporations. All these ópinionmakers” remain highly anti Dalit and casteism as can be reflected in the nature of people they have in their newsrooms and the mindset which hate the issue of Dalit Bahujan identity and their issues of fair representation in all walks of our lives.
The only way is now that people should take the best and leave the worst. Look for news and not the views. Verify news from various ways and focus on developing our own. Today, they hate social media, call it uncontrolled and want it to be regularised but are our channels better. They have become trolls themselves and teaching hatred and contempt for the opponents. When we are in a position to do on our own, they want to close. Indian mainstream media can not even match the great warriors in Sri Lanka and Pakistan who are courageously taking a bold stand against the misdeeds of their government and publishing people’s stories. Of Course, the loudmouths may claim them the best and biggest champions of nationalism but we don’t need to respond to them as they have openly exposed themselves and the ideology underneath which reflect in their venomously cooked up stories spreading poison of hatred and conflict just for attaining farcical TRPs. Their high decibel sound bites have created thousands of semi literate bunch of goons who don’t know the repercussions of their act towards integrity and unity of the country. Mainstream media therefore, has become the biggest obstacle in our free and fair choices. Rather than defending the rights of the people, it has become the lapdog of those in power and defending their misdeeds with planting stories, defaming the opponents, killing and defaming civil society and human rights movements and therefore who else can we blame for the degradation except this mainstream media whose acts have now become a threat to democracy.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at www.manukhsi.blogspot.com twitter @freetohumanity Email: firstname.lastname@example.org