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It is good to remember things which had historical impact on our political life. The emergency imposed on intervening night of 25th-26th June, 1975 by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi showed how dictatorial minds work on the ‘popularity’ and megalomania.

Mrs Gandhi was a staunch nationalist though tilted towards a bit of left in the 1970s, suppressed media and used it to promote her own personality cult. Her over ambitious son Sanjay Gandhi who was running the show. Sanjay’s team had many young ‘handsome’ leaders whose only job was to target opposition and bring negative stories about him. His wife Menaka too used media to denigrate political opponents like Jagjivan Ram and tried to create a sex scandal around him.

The chamchas of Sanjay Gandhi would oppose all the opposition leaders. Bureaucrats would just obey his directives and media had surrendered completely barring a few exceptions like the Indian Express and few others. People would not trust All India Radio while Doordarshan was only known for Chitrahar and old Hindi films so there was not much there but the popularity of BBC radio’s Hindi service soared high. So much that even if a rumours have to be given credibility, you would say, this ‘khabar’ came on BBC. It reflected how Indian people believed on international media when the national media had surrendered.

A number of today’s leaders in the ruling party and in many states, went to Jail during emergency. They all celebrate emergency day as it is a good time to shout at Congress Party which is already in ‘ICU” at the moment. It does not know what to do at the moment. But the biggest hypocrisy is shown by those in power, who celebrate this and talk about ‘independence’ of media.

Today, government does not need to impose emergency. They have everything under their disposal to claim a democracy and yet do exactly the opposite. Indira Gandhi was demonised but still she went to appear before Allahabad High Court. Can we expect any top leader of the ruling dispensation to appear before any court, if needed ? Havent we seen how judiciary is being ‘guided’. During emergency, media was reporting Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi with great devotion. They would boycott opposition rallies. Doordarshan would show popular films on the exact times when a certain rally of political opponent was to start. Attempt were made to divert attention from people.

Rajiv Gandhi showed this tendency when he came to power. The anti defamation bill was attempt to muzzle media. journalists were brought over and used. Today’s Telegraph, which look so good was used under M J Akbar by Rajiv Gandhi to defame his political opponent V P Singh. Telegraph ‘discovered’ V P Singh’s St Kitts Account with the help of Chandraswamy. Media was manipulated but still there were newpapers who showed sign of resistance. Electronic media had not that much of presence during his time.

In the Modi age, India has become digital. Airwaves are privatised whose business interests are known to every one. Right from big builders to jewelers to mining and what not, today, one business house has control over a majority of India’s media. So, we demolished state monopoly but created another one, which is private and I would call it Bania monopoly on information and money. Journalism is nothing but denying opposition the space. Now, anchors are ruling party’s spokesperson and their only job is not to defend the government but condemn and mock opposition. Modi’s media does not merely deny space to opponents, it create news too. Common people does not understand fakenews. The nationalism that is being put into our throat is nothing but brahmanical narrative to suit the interest of the dominant caste groups which are enjoying their caste privileges. Today, we are living in time when media is manipulating news, creating artificial enemies, distorting facts and doing every thing to deny people their right to correct information. A society which is growing on fake news, distorted facts cant be healthy and democratic society. How can there be tolerance towards dissent and diversity when narrative is being build for a homogenised one language, one culture, one religion India.

India is at cross roads. You may win elections but governing India will have to be done through consensus and bringing all people together. Media has become more than eager to serve the business interest of the ruling netas. Never was media so much threat to democracy as it is today. I am again saying that I am not generalising things and there are print media who despite all reservations I appreciate whether it is The Hindu, The Indian Express, The Tribune or The Telegraph but the minds are being criminalised by the rabid communalists sitting in the TV newsrooms. So, I am speaking from that view point where no dissent and opposition voice is being allowed and anchors are concluding things with abuse and ‘open channels’.

There are many other ways which the power can do and does it. use of official machinery particularly different tax agencies against political opponents and dissenters which happened during the any regime with power.

The only thing is that Indira Gandhi never divided people in the name of their caste and religion. We dont heard much about her in such a brazen faced manner as today’s leaders with their open business interests. A huge number of land was distributed to people during her period and today we are just witnessing the ‘ulta’, the land being snatched from the people.

During emergency many of the media as well as in the opposition played heroic role. There were giants as leaders which is in totally absent today. Media is a partner in crime these days as they have allowed their spaces to be used by political criminals. The sad part is that India had great leaders such as JP or VP who fought and build coalition of diverse groups and sections of people against the tyranny of Indira and Rajiv but in todays time we have none of the stature of these giants and therefore not merely absence of critical media but a strong ideological opposition which can take the might of the ruling party, should worry us more than anything else.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social activist


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