(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
“For SC, two tweets a bid to shake key pillar of democracy”. This is the headline Indian Express has given on Supreme Court holding senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan “guilty” of contempt of court. There is little doubt many in the country would hold a similar opinion. Come on, maan, It isn’t such a big deal.
I have a feeling that many who consider the Supreme Court’s pronouncement as overbearing, if not regressive, don’t recollect the exact tweets which has messed up Prashant Bhushan today, possibly for next six months.
So, let’s get the two “offensive” tweets out of the way first.
In the first tweet, an image of Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde is posted, sitting on a motorcycle. The tweet reads:
“CJI rides a Rs 50 lakh motorcycle belonging to a BJP leader at Raj Bhavan, Nagpur, without a mask or helmet when he keeps the SC in lockdown mode denying citizens their fundamental right to access justice.”
In the second tweet, Bhushan pens:
“When historians in future look back at the last 6 years to see how democracy has been destroyed in India even without a formal Emergency, they will particularly mark the role of the Supreme Court in this destruction & more particularly the role of the last 4 CJIs.”
Both these tweets were posted this year. Both have subsequently been deleted. But you can trust our good old Yogendra Yadav, a wolf in sheep’s clothing to his detractors, keeping them safe for posterity. So, here it is.
Before we look at the two sides of the argument, let’s get the insinuation by Indian Express—“Just two tweets” out of the way.
Tweets of 280 words are actually too many to shake the pillars of society. Three words, uttered to a Muslim woman not long ago, had put millions into a hostage mode for over seven decades. Karl Marx said “Workers of the world unite” and since tens of millions have lost lives to this utopian dream. Galileo Galilei muttered Eppur si muove (Yes, it moves) under his breath when he was forced to recant his belief that it’s the earth which moves around the sun. Yudhishtir told Guru Dronacharya during the Mahabharat that Ashwasthama is killed, but added almost silently “naro va kunjuru” (whether a man or an elephant). If you are a Hindu, you would believe “dharma” prevailed that day over “adharma”. If Muslims were not giving a war cry of “Allahu Akbar”, the history of the mankind would’ve been different.
I have rarely seen any newspaper go to this length to report the moment. After all, Bhushan is just a lawyer, howsoever in public eye. Beginning as lead, the story runs for nearly 1500 words. Then there is a lead editorial in disapproval over the Supreme Court’s ruling. And, of course, there is Faizan Mustafa, “from the Indian Express panel of specialists” giving his gyaan on the matter, dominating Page 17 of the Delhi edition.
If I was an individual who was object of this derision in Bhushan’s tweets, I would find it insinuating that (a) I am shown hand in gloves with the BJP—riding a motorcycle of a BJP leader in Raj Bhavan”. Clearly two narrative are being pushed here: One, Raj Bhavan in Maharashtra is presently occupied by a BJP Governor; (2) The bike belongs to a BJP leader; and thus Bobde is comfortable enough in the environment to astride it.
The second tweet is a frontal attack. It says that in the last six years, democracy has been destroyed in India and the Supreme Court has played a key role in its destruction.
These are not just two tweets. These are two DAMNING tweets. Besides accusations, these are factually wrong too, as Supreme Court elaborated in its judgement on Thursday, in response to Bhushan’s assertion that SC in a lockdown mode was denying citizens their fundamental right to access justice. Said SC:
“From 23.3.2020 to 4.8.2020, various benches of the Court have been sitting regularly and discharging their duties through video conferencing. The total number of sittings that the various benches had from 23.3.2020 to 4.8.2020 is 879. During this period, the Court has heart 12748 matters…
“…(Bhushan) has made such a scandalous and malicious statement having himself availed the right of an access to justice during the said period, not only as a lawyer but also as a litigant.”
The thrust of Supreme Court’s view was that such wanton conduct could lower the image and credibility of judiciary in the eyes of the common man for whom Courts alone are a mechanism where he could get justice.
Over the next few days, expect the pressure on judiciary to mount on this matter. The apex court is to announce the quantum of Bhushan’s punishment on August 20. You would see a concerted campaign to ensure that Prashant Bhushan gets off lightly for his crime. If he gets the maximum of six months of jail, it would send the chill down the spine of those who are in the business of targeting judiciary regularly. It would thin the ranks of axe-wielders on judicial banyan tree. It would upset the entire agenda of a certain set.
We all would see whether the Supreme Court makes an example out of Prashant Bhushan or lets him go lightly, coerced by the media pressure. Just scan your newspapers closely for next few days. I promise you a lot of fun.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Millions of Indians today would term West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is arrogant. Or why she wouldn’t pick up the phone calls from Prime Minister Narendra Modi or returns call to state governor Keshari Nath Tripathi when crisis is as grave as Cyclone Fani or the state is sitting on a time-bomb on doctors’ agitation?
Tens and thousands of us would also call “Didi” a fascist. Or why she would jump out of her caravan and confront people who are merely chanting “Jai Shri Ram”, a matter of greeting among India’s masses? Or why she would tell the agitating doctors to return to work within four hours or face the consequences?
Lakhs of Indians won’t deny either that she is communal in her approach, favouring Muslims and running down Hindus. Or why she would change “ramdhenu” with “rangdhenu” in textbooks? Pass the stricture that idol immersion in Durga Puja must be postponed on Muharram day?
An overwhelming numbers of us would also term Mamata Banerjee as an autocrat. Or why she would deny prominent opposition leaders, from Amit Shah to Yogi Adityanath, from landing on her turf for election rallies? Tear up the posters of BJP’s rallies? Pull up custom officials who have the temerity to stop her relatives at the airport?
A still bigger number of us would’ve no doubt that the only news emerging from West Bengal for so many days is violence. Mamata Banerjee and her TMC must take the blame for violent politics. So rampant is the politics of blood that 34% of seats in Panchayat elections go uncontested. Or the lynchings which takes place regularly on Bengal’s streets.
None of us would also deny that Mamata Banerjee is undemocractic and unconstitutional. People (Priyanka Sharma) are jailed for posting memes on whatsapp; professors (Rakesh Sinha) is booked for inciting violence when all he has done is to visit a temple with his mother.
Millions would nod in affirmative that Mamata Banerjee resembles a dictator in Bengal. The bureaucracy is under her thumbs; police is an extension for her coercive politics and is shielded from investigations by Central agencies. She even resists interventions of Supreme Court.
Millions would’ve also heard about the ongoing Saradha, Narada and Rose Valley scams and the charges that Mamata Banerjee is corrupt. The corruption charges have engulfed her TMC party.
All too often we hear that terror network and jihadi forces are rampant in West Bengal. That terror-network Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen has taken roots in the state. The news that radicalization has taken place in madarsas in districts such as Bardhaman. That the dreaded Islamic State (IS) has named a new “emir” in West Bengal. How would Mamata Banerjee deny the allegation that she is a “secessionist” and one of India’s “tukde-tukde”gang?
Now please put all these adjectives together: arrogant, fascist, communal, autocrat, violent, undemocratic, unconstitutional, dictator, corrupt etc together. Name one person who has been called all this by India’s ecosystem in the last five years: Yes, you are right—Narendra Modi. And I challenge you to show one instance in our mainstream English media—Lutyens Media—who has ever accused Mamata Banerjee of such traits.
What is an ecosystem? Ecosystem isn’t the government in power. Ecoystem is a network of politicians, media, academicians, lawyers, bureaucrats, institutional heads, cultural czars etc who work in unison to push a particular agenda.
So think about the politicians (such as Rahul Gandhi, Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah, Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati etc), journalists (Shekhar Gupta, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Barkha Dutt etc), laywers (Prashant Bhushan etc), academicians (Prof. Ram Chandra Guha, Faizan Mustafa, Rajmohan Gandhi etc) institutional heads (former Election Commissioners, Police Commissioners, Ex Chief Justices of India who occupy the edit pages), cultural czars (Javed Akhtar, Kamal Haasan etc) etc. Look at their twitter timelines to show me if they’ve ever accused Mamata Banerjee of being communal, autocrat, corrupt or instigating lynchings etc. How is that when rest of India has almost a similar opinion on Mamata Banerjee, these biggies who occupy our ears, eyes and minds have a completely different opinion?
It is easy for India’s ecosystem to do whataboutery. So when violence happens in Bengal, it’s both TMC and BJP who are guilty. If provocation happens, both TMC and BJP are at fault. If communal issues are flaring up, both TMC and BJP must take the blame.
But now the eco-system is in a bind. The doctors’ agitation can’t be blamed on BJP. It’s people who are rising up against Mamata Banerjee’s TMC in the state of Bengal. You can resort to propaganda against RSS and BJP, weave themes on lynchings and communalism but how do you face up to the wrath of millions. It’s the people of India who stood up to the ecosystem and showed it the mirror in the 2019 General Polls. It’s the people who are again exposing this network in rapidly deteriorating West Bengal.
As they say, you can fool some of the people all the time. But you can’t fool all the people all the time.
(It’s a reprint from NewsBred).
This is a poser for you, readers. Please tell us what’s common amongst Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra, Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, Chandrababu Naidu, Lalu Yadav, Rabri Devi, Tejaswi Yadav, Arvind Kejriwal, Ashutosh, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Barkha Dutt, Shekhar Gupta, Naseeruddin Shah, Aamir Khan, Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Swara Bhaskar, Pritish Nandy, Vir Sanghvi, Karan Thapar, Prashant Bhushan, Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, Omar Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, Raveesh Kumar, Rana Ayoob, Saba Naqvi, Ramachandra Guha, Harsh Mander, Apoorvanand, Faizan Mustafa, Siddharth Vardharajan, Sadanand Dhume, Christophe Jaffrelot etc. Stumped?
Ok, let me try to suggest a few alternatives to you: (a) They all are anti-Modi; (b) They all stand for “freedom of speech”; (c) They all are for democratic, secular values; (d) they all are against totalitarianism; (e) They all are for feminism and stand for equality and dignity of women; (f) for freedom of press; (g) they are all of the above.
One option which you all must have missed and I would name now is that they all are SILENT on arrest of BJP’s young leader Priyanka Sharma by the totalitarian government of Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal. Like they were silent when CBI officers were held as hostages; police officers under probe being shielded; violence in elections; opposition candidates unable to file their nomination papers; TMC goons forcing voters favourably in polling booths; arrests on mere chants of “Jai Shri Ram”; scuttling of Ayushman Bharat only because it’s BJP’s scheme; Refusing to pick up Modi’s phone on Fani cyclone because she doesn’t consider PM a PM; refusing to let BJP land helicopters for scheduled rally; preferring Ramzan over Durga Puja; custom officials harassed only because they found 2kg gold in the bags of wife of Mamata’s nephew; number of alleged scams etc.
I cite these instances to show how fake are these forces and the ethical and moral cloak they use to hide their agenda. But at a more urgent level, this has probably encouraged Mamata Banerjee to go berserk. Look at the issue of Priyanka Sharma. She circulates a photo-shopped image of Mamata Banerjee, imposed over a latest picture of actress Priyanka Chopra. A complaint is filed and she is sent to 14-day judicial remedy. Mind you, Priyanka Sharma hasn’t created the image, only shared it. Yet amongst thousands of such shares, she alone has been made to bear the brunt of suppression. The clear corollary is that she is made to suffer because of her political affiliation which Mamata can’t stand.
Yet these forces are silent. Even as the hashtag #ISupportPriyankaSharma on twitter is building up a considerable steam. Twitteratis are so upset that they are changing profile picture with the one which has landed Priyanka Sharma in trouble. “Arrest me, if you must,” is an assertion by many twitter-users under the above hashtag. Yet none of these forces are taking note. A BJP worker is jailed for sharing photo yet it’s Modi who’s a “Hitler.”
Newspapers are wrongly defined as a bridge between people and the government. In Lutyens Media, people don’t matter. Or only a certain kind matter. A Modi is hauled for uttering “Bhrashtachari No.1” while a Mamata Banerjee can get away literally with murder. Remember, she recently said she would put pebbles in soil and present it as rasogoolas so it breaks Modi’s teeth? How did these forces react? Silence.
I remember an instance when RSS ideologue Prof. Rakesh Sinha had a non-bailable warrant issued against him by West Bengal police for posting a picture of his with his mother in Mahakal temple in Ujjain. The West Bengal police acted on the complaint of an individual who felt Sinha’s “provocative” picture spoilt the communal harmony in the state! An aghast Sinha didn’t know what hit him. “I haven’t even visited West Bengal in the last two years,” a baffled Prof. Sinha had said. Where was the outrage from these soldiers of “democracy”?
The sixth phase of 2019 General Elections would be over on Sunday. Election Commission, worried over history of violence in West Bengal during elections, spread the one in the state to all seven phases. Yet, even the cover of central armed forces haven’t been much of a help. In each of the six phases so far, violence has happened; cases of rigging have been reported. Yet the names mentioned above haven’t bat even an eyelid. Shekhar Gupta, head of Editors’ Guild, instead is drooling over Mamata “fighting fire with fire, venom with venom.” A Rajdeep Sardesai is gushing and asking Mamata Banerjee the secret of her energy. (Boost, of course, you terrible).
A real Mamata Banerjee is very different from the Mother Teresa-like sari she wears. Her autobiography conveys the image of a woman who likes to play the victim card. She is deeply insecure about losing control. She is also extremely star-struck. Just look at the number of MPs, MLAs and ministers who are stars and starlets in West Bengal. A whole lot of them were recruited in 2014 General Elections. Many more have been made candidates for the 2019 General Polls. Why, she even got a few from across the border to do her bidding.
This piece is just not about naming game. The most troubling is the intimidation which any Indian citizen in any state could be subjected to by the longest arm of law in West Bengal. Judiciary hasn’t been much of a help. Nor the Centre who many believe should’ve imposed President’s Rule in West Bengal seasons ago. Even Islamic State declaring they have an emir in West Bengal hasn’t brought home the horrible truth that West Bengal could be a beehive of Islamic/Jihadists designs today.
West Bengal is slipping out of Union. All the ideals enshrined in our holy book, the Constitution, are being butchered today. The worry is, we are all being reduced to spectators. Some by design, some by helplessness. Time for a saviour. Maybe, May 23 could throw up light.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
It’s mayhem in our newspapers. Nobody has come out in support of 10 percent reservation bill which the Modi government has sought for economically backward classes. Through their editorials, columns, opposition quips, wall-to-wall coverage, we the readers are left with four major antipathies: (a) It’s an election gimmick; (b) It’s a “jumla”; (c) It’s breach of the 50 per cent reservation quota; (d) it provides quota on economic criteria. All of them agree: It wouldn’t stand the judicial scrutiny.
You see readers, I try to make it simple for you. The above points are all there is to it. NOTHING ELSE. Save yourself from the fatigue which your newspapers are inflicting upon you. For example the Indian Express has no less than six pages devoted majorly on this issue today. Or The Hindu which has an editorial and a column besides the coverage on front page. Times of India and Hindustan Times are a little better but only in comparison.
Indian Express has gone berserk to raid the mind and heart of its readers. Three big pieces from A.M. Ahmad (a former Chief Justice of India), Faizan Mustafa (vice-chancellor NALSAR University of Law) and PS Krishnan (ex-secretary of Government of India) put its readers under siege. The newspaper still won’t let up. It quotes from national parties you wouldn’t have heard in your lifetimes, especially if you are not from Kerala: Revolutionary Socialist Party and Indian Union Muslim League. Doesn’t matter if their presence in Lok Sabha is only 1-2 members. It quotes Congress member KV Thomas: “You (BJP) are butchering Indian democracy;” and gives a screaming headline: “Opposition sit-in in House to protest extra sitting.”
Such a massive coverage and not a line on what Arun Jaitley said in defence. Surely Indian Express was not lacking in man-power, space or intent. Then why blank the man who is BJP’s voice and who has demolished all the above points in his typical clinical fashion? What happens to the time-tested commandment of journalism to present both sides equally? Why not admit you are partisan.
So readers hear out what Jaitley said on all the points: punch for punch, blow for blow. His words are in quotes:
- It’s an election gimmick: “It’s part of election manifestoes of most political parties, including Congress.”
- It’s just a Jumla: “Why it’s a jumla for BJP and not for Congress, or others, who have a similar manifesto?”
- It’s a breach of the 50 per cent reservation quota: “The 50 per cent ceiling is on castes as provided for in Section 16 (4) of the Constitution. This new quota is activated through a new section: 16 (5). This 10 per cent quota is from the general category—not reserved category.
- It provides quota on economic criteria: “If out of that 50 per cent (for general category) 10 per cent is being shared among the poor who can have a problem with it?… Just as equals can’t be treated unequally, unequal people can’t be treated equally.”
Jaitley firmly opined: “No legal pitfalls in the way the legislation has been designed…it buffers it from any adverse legal opinion.”
All the English newspapers have gone big on stating that a similar attempt by PV Narasimha Rao had been struck down by the courts. Most obscured Jaitley’s views on it: “PV Narasimha Rao brought it through notifications. States too tried reservation through notification or normal law. They didn’t have power from Constitution…there was no provision in the Constitution which supported quota on economic criteria (as the BJP government has now sought through the Constitution.)” Or that “21 private members bills have sought a similar quota in the Parliament over time.”
There is another mischievous twist to the fact: “Over 95 per cent of the population would now be under quota.’” Not 95 per cent of the population but 95 per cent of the economically backward section!!!
This piece is not about the merit of the move: whether the country needs further reservations or not. This article is about how English mainstream media misleads its readers and warps facts. For the readers to question who gains if India loses.
If anything, our newspapers should have exposed the hypocrisy of political parties who put the same in their manifesto, give a mouthful in front of media yet vote in favour to the extent that the scoreline is 323-3. Or what Jaitley pithily said about the Left: “The Communists were opposing a measure brought for the poor.”