(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
If you were a Rajdeep Sardesai or Shekhar Gupta or Barkha Dutt, you would wish for a return of pre-2014 days. You could write or broadcast what you wanted, unchallenged, unquestioned; behemoth of India’s media, sought by global media outlets; prime ministers and presidents, kings and queens, knocking at your door for interviews; film stars lining up as if for auditions. You were firmly in your ivory tower, never seen in grocery shops or bookstores, metros or airports, malls or traffic stops.
Then winds changed. India’s right-wingers took hold in Centre. Websites, such as OpIndia and Swarajyamag among others, began nicking the bubble. The lies were exposed, bigotry was unmasked, anti-Hindu stance was bared in public. History began breaking free from the narrative of glorious Mughals, valiant Tipu Sultan, soothing Amir Khusru and pacifist Ashoka. One began viewing a Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, Audrey Truschke, Sheldon Pollock in the light they deserved. Amartya Sen and Raghuram Rajan lost their halo. The benign mask of neutrality dropped like shame around our film stars and directors. Writers and academicians were revealed to be peddlers. Jurists and legal luminaries were found to be men of straw.
An avalanche was thus set in motion. The ecosystem began drowning in the outrage of the masses. Narendra Modi won over the poor; the intelligent found the counter-narrative on social media. Eco-system upped the game, terming every threat as trolls or bhakts. Internet warriors, on their part, found new converts. Eco-system termed the rivals as fake news peddlers. Lutyens Media began organizing debates and seminars to save their turf. Anyone or anything which didn’t agree with them was “fake news”. The entire game was one of credibility – and they were losing it. The 2019 Elections confirmed their worst fears.
Now a new round of conflict has been set in motion. The eco-system has realized they have been outnumbered. Social Media platforms are rallying such mass to grow in size. The “fake news” narrative hasn’t helped. So they have now launched a new initiative. This initiative doesn’t just have newspapers and news agencies, it has also roped in biggies like the Google, Facebook and Twitter. “Fake News” has been given a new name of “misinformation.” What was seen as “local” divide in Indian context, now has acquired “global” dimension. We might just have stumbled upon the global network which feeds and breeds this “eco-system” to disrupt India.
The Hindu has a front-page anchor today where it has grandiosely announced that it is partnering BBC and other global media outlets to fight the “misinformation” in public domain. That it wants to protect its audience. That BBC set it in motion through a “Trusted News Summit” earlier this year. That those in it together include European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Facebook, Financial Times, Google, AFP, Microsoft, Reuters, Twitter, BBC and of course The Hindu. That,they would alert each other when a “misinformation” is to be fought.
It’s a new challenge to India’s internet warriors. So far, we knew the bias of, say Twitter, which suspended accounts (e.g of True Indology, Sonam Mahajan etc) made twitterati remove tweets (Paresh Rawal) while those with similar offence (Shehla Rashid etc) kept flourishing. Netizens were able to dig up the dirt on Raheel Khursheed, CEO of Twitter (2014-2018), on his pro-Pakistan bias. Parliamentarians were outraged enough to summon twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. The clamour against Twitter’s alleged bias has only grown bigger in our times. Dorsey has admitted his staff could be overwhelmingly Left-leaning.
So how should internet warriors respond to this openly-aligned forces against them? First, it must leverage its numbers. Every sixth of twitter’s worldwide users is from India. Is has grown in leaps and bounds in last two years. This collective might must be leveraged by netizens, hopefully under the benevolent gaze of the government.
The time perhaps has also come for India to come up with their own micro-blogging platform such as one of Sina Weibo which China has. It’s a mix of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. India could thus also protect its own data. The internet giants would have no option but to fall in line.
Importantly, The eco-system is getting ready to bite you—what’s your response?
My first instinct on reading this Times of India (29.1.2017) headline was that the likes of Romilla Thapar and Irfan Habib have been pressed into service by that bird of the same feather, the English Mainstream Media. The actual piece though relies on the evidence of two Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) historians and one from Delhi University.
First thing first. The reporter could’ve asked 10 different historians and would have arrived at a completely different conclusion if she had chosen so. That’s the first bias, the report is not balanced which is the first lesson a journalist is taught but probably this one was given a licence to be illiterate.
I need to dwell on Romilla Thapar and Irfan Habib as my reflex reaction for these two Left-Congress promoted, pampered and fattened historians for decades peddled the lie that Saraswati River never existed and that Aryans indeed drove the original inhabitants of our land into southern India on whom the title of “Dravidian” was affixed. The Aryans gave us Sanskrit language and Vedic literature which we ignorant believed to be indigenous. Both claims have been proved to be bogus. There has been no evidence of Aryan invasion in India, our genealogy has been shown to be unbroken for 8,000 years, Or for instance this matter of Ashoka’s remorse after Kalinga War is humbug. This is THE real history. But if you go to interpreters like Thapar and Habib, or for that matter these illiterate AMU scholars and DU professors, you surely would arrive at the bogus confirmation of your own agenda..
This brings us to the history bit. We all know history is written by the conquerors. You write what you want to be read. You hide what you want to hide. That’s the method every historian adopts. Surely, our despicable English mainstream media does. India treats its history not as “Itihasa.” It’s always people’s history, not kings. That’s why you don’t find any king’s burial in Mohanjodaro or Harappa or for that matter in Kalibangan, Rakhigarhi, Hanumangarh etc.
“Itihasa” as History is an affix West stamped on us in order to hijack and distort our cultural heritage. In India, Itihasa is never removed from oral traditions. It relies more on “smriti” (memory) and “shruti “(oral) traditions, not on written documents. It’s because our Rishis and Yogis understood that history will always be victim of misrepresentation. That’s why Hinduism has never relied on historical timelines which is central to Islam, Christianity and Judaism—all Abrahamic religions. Our Rishis and Yogis relied on smriti and shruti. India has always relied on oral traditions, not on written traditions which West employs less to document but more to twist and manipulate to their own ends. History is never for masses to understand in West. They are subjected to State control. That’s why you have so many historical societies in West. Trust me, the history that reaches us is mostly fraud.
History must never be treated in literal sense. Certainly not in written manner. Those tales which are passed on orally, through shruti, are far more reliable chronicles than the documents which paid historians and propagandists like English mainstream media indulges in. In such descriptions, 100 years from now on, the deaths of Akhlaq and Rohith would duly find mention in history but the deaths of BJP workers in Kerala, Karnataka or in West Bengal would go completely unreported. That’s history for you.
So in that sense, the reporter’s attempt to say Padmavati is not history is right. By another logic, those who say that Padmavati is real history are also right. It’s defenders could “historically” claim that Khilji’s lust for Hindu queens is an unassailable fact. Khilji fell for Queen Kamala Devi of Gujarat and the daughter of King Ramachandra of Devagiri. Even Amir Khusro, the court poet of Khilji, in his Khazain-ul-Fatuh, makes a covert allusion to Padmavati episode.
This illiterate reporter states that Allauddin Khilji was India’s most able administrator. She probably hasn’t read of the 20,000 boy-slaves Khilji kept in his harem. She probably hasn’t heard of Jazia Tax or thousands of temples Khilji destroyed. Or Khilji and Malik Kafur dalliance. She chose what good Khilji did. She ignored what was equally true but didn’t suit her agnda.That’s history for you. She says that the “Padmavati episode” was used to demonize Islamic empires. “Demonize” Islamic empire? So were they paragons of virtue? Isn’t this assertion scandalous?
Only one question to this reporter is enough to put her in spot: If Padmavati is a legend that Hindus have fostered how come they could do it as a subject race? Isn’t it possible that they relied on “smriti” and “shruti.” And hence no written records. Could it be that the chroniclers of Islamic rulers never allowed any written record of that period to survive? The fact that Padmavati has survived in the cultural memory of this land is enough to treat as “sacred” No need to affix it with the burden of “Itihasa” or history.