Wanted : ‘Arrogant Editors’

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Biswajit Roy
Biswajit Roy
is Consultant Editor with eNewsroom India. He reports on major news developments as well as writes political pieces on national and Bengal politics and social-cultural issues.

BJP MP from Bengal and union minister of state Babul Supriyo called R Rajagopal, the editor of Calcutta-based daily, The Telegraph on September 21, demanding an ‘amicable small apology’ for an alleged misreport on his fracas with left students at Jadavpur University two days back. As the editor refused to apologize since he did not carry any report or captioned any picture suggesting that the minister had elbowed a girl protester, the enraged singer-turned politician hurled abuses including berating him a ‘f***ing sold out’.

TT reported the exchange next day highlighting the ‘intimidation tactics’ by a ‘representative of the government’. Its front page report also included the post-call tweet from the junior minister in Narendra Modi Ministry in which he called Rajagopal an ‘arrogant editor’ and accused of using ‘filthy lingo’ against him. The newspaper denied the charge and dared Supriyo to come out with the unedited version of the verbal face off which he claimed to have recorded. The tech-savvy minister is yet to respond.

This is not the first time a minister or ruling party politician has tried to browbeat ‘arrogant’ editors and journalists as less privileged members of the tribe of scribes will vouch for across the land. But such brazen intimidation of the editor of a national daily is unheard of except in the Emergency era. Neither the Editors Guild nor the Press Council of India has come out against it so far. May be our media fraternity would have reacted had it happened in Delhi or Mumbai.

Anybody who questions the constitutional legality and morality on prolonged gag on Kashmiri media and general communication clampdown in the valley since the revocation of constitutional special status of J&K is called anti-national and risks sedition charge. Similar will be the treatment if one raises doubts about latest National Citizenship Register in Assam that has excluded more than 19 lakh people and its proposed extension in West Bengal that has already led to suicides.

The regimentation of media

The incident is another reminder that India is fast becoming a republic of fear and forced submission. The journalism with professional courage and conviction is facing a huge challenge of entwined threats from the rulers of the day and the media barons-turned politicians or vice versa. Journalists have lost jobs when they refused to change tunes as ordered by the boardroom and newsroom bosses, even in the media houses where latter liked to be known as the crusaders for media freedom. Worst are the tycoons and journalists who aspire to be part of the regime to secure a Rajya Sabha seat, even a lesser berth in government committees with perks.

Frothy hyper-nationalists, armchair war-mongers, quixotic former generals with handlebar moustaches, professional hate-merchants and other caricatures of Nazi apparatchiks are now ruling the roost on prime time TV every evening. Masquerading as journalists and experts on national security, these devotees of our Fuhrer-in-making have become the self-appointed inquisitors for anybody who dares to question the regime’s gospel truths. Their high-octane harangue is aimed at silencing and demonizing the critics, particularly those from religious minorities and secular- liberal camp while offering smooth sail for drummers and cheerleaders for the incumbent rulers.

Globally, embedded PR persons have outnumbered the journalists who have not bothered to wear their patriotism on their sleeves while exposing their government’s misdeeds and misadventures during war and peace at home or in foreign lands. But the endangered subspecies is now almost extinct in India, thanks to the totalitarian rulers and hegemony of their narrative of nationalism and their cahoots inside media.

But none of these satraps could institutionalize the fear and cowardice, manufactured consent and forced consensus in newsrooms and larger public domain across the land. None could muster the ideological state and non-state apparatus to organize a planned onslaught on freedom of expression and conscience in every sphere of life. The BJP regime’s tightening of the legal noose around the necks of dissenters across the ideological spectrum while unleashing the bigoted vigilante groups in the streets on minorities, both religious and secular, are unmatched.

Anybody who questions the constitutional legality and morality on prolonged gag on Kashmiri media and general communication clampdown in the valley since the revocation of constitutional special status of J&K is called anti-national and risks sedition charge. Similar will be the treatment if one raises doubts about latest National Citizenship Register in Assam that has excluded more than 19 lakhs people and its proposed extension in West Bengal that has already led to suicides.

Any talk about the economic mess and consequent huge loss of jobs that has been continued despite all jumlas, even the soaring price of onion that has brought tears to our eyes, upsets their agenda and triggers attacks against vulnerable media persons. Pawan Jaisawals have already bore the brunt.

The Sangh ideology makes the difference

True, this is not the first time mainstream media is crawling before the government of the day and the ruling party. But unlike the eclipse in Indira Gandhi era, the second run of Moditva has ushered us into a night of prolonged darkness. Our regional rulers, neither Amma of Tamil nadu, Bua-bhatija of UP were nor Kerala’s Vijayan and Bengal’s Didi are the angels of tolerance to critical voices in media and larger civil society.

But none of these satraps could institutionalize the fear and cowardice, manufactured consent and forced consensus in newsrooms and larger public domain across the land. None could muster the ideological state and non-state apparatus to organize a planned onslaught on freedom of expression and conscience in every sphere of life. The BJP regime’s tightening of the legal noose around the necks of dissenters across the ideological spectrum while unleashing the bigoted vigilante groups in the streets on minorities, both religious and secular, are unmatched.

The difference lies in the fascist ideology and organisation of the Sangh Parivar. Now in a hurry to herald the dawn of Hindu Rastra following a post-May adrenaline rush, the Parivar is spreading the cancer of communalized hypernationalism fast. What they are preaching and practising in the name of Ram and Ram Rajya is not of Gandhian or Tulsidasi and Kabirpanthi variety. For, they have publicly owed their brand of Hindutva to Hitler and Mussolini in the 1930s.

The constitutional cornerstones of our secular democratic republic that have largely epitomized our civilizational unity in diversity, syncretic traditions and common goals of freedom struggle despite the trauma of bloodsoaked Partition. They are now under systematic attacks by those who had hardly joined the battles against the British Raj. The prime minister Modi’s televised speech on 15th August has made it amply clear that the standard-bearers of Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan are now hell-bent on imposing their idea of a steamrolled India, first by introducing ‘one nation one election’ and then to ‘one party one leader’ rule, a la Fuhrer and Duce.

From Kashmir to Assam, we are now witnessing the Indian version of Nazi ‘final solution’ about Muslims (the purported roots of Aryan India’s all evils, past and present, like the Jews of Nazi Germany). Since the Assam NRC has also excluded lakhs of Hindus too, the BJP is trying to salvage the situation by flaunting the Citizenship Amendment Bill. Already passed in the Lok Sabha, it seeks to regularize old and new refugees from all faiths except Muslims from neighboring countries.

These are the giant steps towards Hindu Rastra, the other name of majoritarian fascist state. The upcoming detention camps for the ‘foreigners’ including those stigmatised and segregated families now lodged in state jails remind us of Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps. The Constitutional pledges of equality before law and no discrimination on the basis of caste, class, creed, gender and birth have been blown to smithereens.

In this backdrop, one remembers Anne Frank, the Jew girl who had immortalised the fears and hopes during Nazi occupation even as she could not survive the regime. ”Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.” We need many such candles to lit up in all languages across our motherland today.

 

Opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not of eNewsroom. This is an open forum and 
we try to give space to every school of thought.

 

Biswajit Roy
Biswajit Roy
is Consultant Editor with eNewsroom India. He reports on major news developments as well as writes political pieces on national and Bengal politics and social-cultural issues.

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