indian express

India’s police and the manufacturing of a storm

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

We don’t trust our police. Most would say they are brutal and corrupt.  There is nothing new here. You talk to your parents and grandma. It would be no different.

So when a father and son were allegedly beaten to death by cops in Tamil Nadu last week, the outrage was instant. It would’ve passed too if our newspapers hadn’t kept it in our face. Indian Express, for instance, is reserving its Front Page to the story for last five days. Be sure, it would be no different in coming days.

This jells with the present mood. None of us have forgotten Jamia and JNU. George Floyd and BlackLivesMatter are ongoing. Hong Kong is still on boil. Who knows, an immolation here, a custodial death there, shattered stores, burning buildings, graffiti and youths hoisted unsteadily on shoulders could transform it into something completely else. Anarchists, you see, have had enough of this “pause” induced by the Wuhan Virus pandemic. Tragedy in Tamil Nadu is the perfect “Wrecking Ball.”

Police would again make headlines. They would be told to uphold law yet not step on to the Liberty of citizens. It’s a delicate balance asked: Criminals after all don’t own up over a coffee. Batons alone are no answer to violent protests. Next stage is damning images in media. Police freezes; protests grow. Mobsters join the fun. Peaceful protests are now violent riots. Suddenly EU Parliament, UN Human Rights and US State of Department are interested. And you would forget it all began with the police.

Police is the face of democracy. This is the first line of its defence which anarchists target. There are enough funds in their coffers, and multiple evidence to suggest, that it works. All you need is your men in street protesting and a bought media to keep stoking the embers.

This media would bring you stories about a school teacher, math enthusiast, “sheros”, yoga fanatic, brave widow, grandma-on-wheelchair who are risking self so that democracy lives.  Months-old kids dead, who could only suckle, are “martyrs.” Volunteers, worthless otherwise, have front page pics. Running kitchens in sit-ins is always community-driven. Never mind, their newspaperwala hasn’t been paid for months.  Your media would never question their funds. Wad of millions, we must believe, have been gathered overnight by the unyielding spirit of India.

This never fails. It didn’t fail in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen where rulers were forced to cede power and we the fools celebrated it as Arab Springs. Or in the “Maidan” coup in Ukraine. Or in countless Latin American countries. Or in Eastern Europe. Or in Africa. Anarchy, you see, pays. And a democracy is a sitting duck. More so when a society is as diverse, divided and politically infested as India is.  A largely young nation who bristle in their youthful innocence are just playthings in the palm of India-breakers.

Mature democracies know the peril. Thus, you have police in the United States which is quasi-military. They even have private police for informal action not subjected to judicial review. They have been treating anarchists as terrorists for over a century. French believe that society must get precedence over the individual in order to fence the democracy.  Judiciary acts likewise. Citizens are told the limits of Liberty.  Police have powers denied to citizens.

India is different. It has only 125 police officers for every lakh of citizens; one of the lowest police-people ratios in the world. Vacancies are not filled because states don’t have the money to spare salaries what to say of pensions. Police stations are in shambles. Do they have the men and money for tech crimes which work without boundaries or distance? Or to snoop without being accused of breaching the privacy?

There is little doubt police needs to mend itself. But it needs be done at a local level.  Turning it into a national outrage, with media as tool of anarchists, is handing India on a platter to its enemies. We all have to make a choice: Between individual and society. For the larger good, we need to empower and not weaken the government.

Modi government has never needed tougher laws more than now. It must not be afraid of being called “fascists” or “nazis.” We have enemies out there who want to Balkanize India. We need to empower and not weaken the police. On it hinges the fate of our democracy. As Abraham Lincoln famously said: A government must not be too strong or too weak for its people.

 

First Patanjali, now ICMR: Why Indian Express is in a rush to discredit them?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Indian Express is breathless. It has two Front Page stories today on a Corona-Vaccine claim by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), made a few hours ago.

ICMR, in its Thursday letter, had claimed that it has partnered Bharat Biotech in developing an indigenous Corona Vaccine—Covaxin–which it plans to introduce for masses after Phase I and Phase II human trials by August 15. It has asked the 12 selected hospitals to make haste in view of “public health emergency.”

The headline of the first Indian Express story: “Vaccine by August 15: Scientists say ICMR claim absurd and risky” suggests that ICMR claim is “absurd.” That this apparently is backed by “scientists.”

In this long, long story, I couldn’t find one instance/quote which claimed that the Covaxin claim by the ICMR is “absurd.” As for “scientists” Express has mentioned in the headline, there is only one “scientist” who figures in the text. He is some Shaheed Jameel of Wellcome Trust-DBT Alliance. Shaheed too hasn’t stuck his neck out that the ICMR claim is “absurd.” All he has said that the August 15 deadline is “ridiculous.”

So two things in the story work against the Indian Express’ projection in the headline: One, the Covaxin claim is “absurd”; Two, it’s just a scientist, and not scientists, as revealed in the text.

The national newspaper is also livid that only six of the 12 selected hospitals have received approval by the institutional ethics committee. It also claims that these six hospitals, are relatively “lesser-known.” So, probably ICMR, the apex body in India, one of the oldest and largest research institutions in the world, should’ve consulted Indian Express. The newspaper also can’t wait before the other six hospitals receive the approval.

The second Front Page story is headlined: “Some hospitals selected for clinical trials caution against ‘impossible’ timeline.” Take time out to read the story, folks. Against “impossible” of two voices, there are several more who have said they would do their best. Some have said “they would try their best to comply (with ICMR)”; Others “This is an emergency situation and we can’t lose people”; Still others, “He has been getting calls from people wanting to be part o the trial:” Still others, “It was possible to generate some data on 100 or more subjects by August 15.” Several hospitals, as per Indian Express itself, “are now reaching out to health workers, posting messages on WhatsApp groups and making phone calls for healthy volunteers.”

The crux of Indian Express outrage is that ICMR is putting a deadline of August 15, 2020 for the launch of Covaxin when human trials of all three phases aren’t feasible within this timeframe. It puts ICMR in the dock. The only problem is: Indian Express hasn’t sought a clarification from the ICMR itself. It hasn’t mentioned that it sought out ICMR for its reaction and they said “no comment.”

The truth is ICMR has been quick to clarify. Times of India have mentioned “officials who have said the healthy ministry had asked ICMR about the letter and was informed that the objective was to speed up the processes relating to vaccine development rather than set any deadlines. ICMR officials told Times of India: “We need the vaccine at the earliest and that was what ICMR wanted to convey…no deadline was being set.”

Now let me take readers to another incident. When Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali claimed that it had made a breakthrough in an immunity medicine for Corona Virus pandemic, the censorious Indian Express, again within hours, had written an editorial on June 26, 2020.  It claimed that the company had “discredited” Ayurveda and it’s one of “litany of Patanjali unethical practices.” Now Patanjali’s Coronil is about to hit the market. The medicine was for “management” and not a “cure” in itself but undue confusion and doubts were created to malign them, as Baba Ramdev was to say later. The unputdownable Baba also said that the “drug mafia and multi-national companies were not able to accept the work being done by Patanjali Yogpeeth.” As per Baba Ramdev: “The drug mafia, MNCs and anti-national forces want me in jail.”

I am not saying that Indian Express is hand-in-gloves with the drug mafia. I am also not suggesting that Indian Express is an anti-national force. All I am saying is that the cardinal rules of journalism are being flouted by the “Journalism of Courage.” All it needed to do was to dial up ICMR and seek their views which were easily available.

That’s minimum you need to do when you have plans for two front-page stories against one of the leading medical institutions of the world. Similarly, with Patanjali’s Coronil approval now, the newspaper needed to acknowledge its mistake-in-haste to its readers. After all, at stake is a solution to a deadly pandemic, thousands of endangered human lives, and even the immediate future of India. Indian Express could have been more responsible—and restrained—in their diatribe. It could have done better.

 

A muscular India gives its army a “free hand” to knock sense in China

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

It would be a grave misjudgement to believe that China has walked over India in a physical showdown in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on Monday.

If nothing, ask the Chinese who made moves in lockstep over the last few weeks to test India’s nerves and found a nation mature in diplomacy and dare in equal measure.

India has used velvet gloves against a petulant Nepal which thumbed its nose on borders but didn’t elicit a raging anger from New Delhi that would’ve played into the hands of its puppeteer, China. India knows, as does Nepal, that the latter can’t survive without India’s open borders. Simply, the land-locked nation would run out of essential supplies. A manufactured border dispute has no future but for headlines and talk shows.

China meanwhile had crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at four different points in Ladakh, agreed for de-escalation but then stayed put when the two armies were to pull themselves back by a few kilometres. India would have none of an enemy’s forward-post left standing inside the Galwan Valley which belongs to India. It didn’t backdown from a physical combat either since arms and ammunitions are avoided by the two neighbours in sensitive stretches of border running into thousands of kilometres.

Now has come the news that Indian Army has been empowered to act as per the ground situation without looking for directions from New Delhi. In other words, the Indian Army has been freed from political constraints. It’s an unambiguous message to Beijing that they are now in the wilds. That your superior nuclear stockpiles, defence spending or armaments wouldn’t be of much aid if it’s bare knuckle fight. So, if it’s to fists, stones and clubs now, may the best man win. There is no referee.

Indian Express has quoted an army source thus: “Army has been given emergency powers for deployment there as per needs and new situations without looking towards Delhi…We have to demonstrate our strength on the ground…there is no need to show aggression, only our strength.”

This would put China in a spot. Either they shove the conventions and turn it into an armed combat. Or they pull themselves back as they did in Doklam in 2017. Or they escalate which wouldn’t go unnoticed to a concerned world. It’s a massive show of intent from Modi’s India which is largely consistent in its zero-tolerance approach on nation’s sovereignty and integrity.

It’s not like South China Sea where the Middle Kingdom has usurped islands, sea tolls, reefs and banks overriding neighbours protests. China could not only carry through the bluff but were assured of its efficacy by the mumbled response of the affected. India seems determined to call out the bully. It’s not the semi-autonomous Hong Kong, a cowering Taiwan or a Vietnamese fishing boat you could sink to the floor of the South China Sea.

China clearly is upset at India’s assertions in recent months. India has signed a pact with Australia in the middle of the pandemic which would give teeth to QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) between four democracies of Indo-Pacific: the United States, Japan, Australia and India itself. It has openly given a call to multinationals to shift their operations to India, a blow to China where it hurts the most. It has decided to screen the foreign investments beyond the FDI regulations. It now heads World Health Organization (WHO) which is to take call if China was complicit in hiding the truth on Corona Virus pandemic. It hasn’t helped the matter that Taiwan, which Beijing is paranoid about, could have “observer” status at WHO on pandemic deliberations. Then we have an expanded G-7 group of nations where India is to be included but no invitation has gone out to China

India has an uncontested control of Galwan Valley, between Ladakh and Chinese-occupied Aksai Chin, since 1962. It suffers from poor infrastructure in a hilly terrain unlike China which makes use of the flat Tibetan plateau to carry its road and highway network unhindered. India in contrast has to cross several mountains to access the LAC. It’s only natural that India wants to secure its borders. China would either have to give up the encroachments or face consequences, no less economic. There is a groundswell of consensus to boycott Chinese goods. The little matter of Huawei 5G also hangs in the balance.

There is little doubt China faces uncommon heat across continents. Pushback against its over-arching reach has already begun in Africa and Southeast Asia. Unemployment is unprecedented. Economic woes are spiralling. The world is a hostile theatre after China’s machinations on pandemic which has set the world back by a generation in economic terms. Its present misadventure in Ladakh is an undisguised diversionary tactics.

There is little doubt Indo-China relations would freeze in near future. It would bring Pakistan in closer ambit of China. India, on its part, would have the United States in its drawing room. Distrust between the two main powers of Asia would now run deep. Russia is a common friend which could find its loyalty divided.

Next time you quote them on Dalits, put them to this neutrality test

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

There is little gain-saying that Dalits have not suffered in India. They have been raped, murdered, discriminated against, distanced from wells and temples and that’s largely because upper-castes kept up the social barriers against them. The same utensils or glasses for both were out of question.

Thus you can’t quarrel with an Arundhati Roy (minorities-Dalits-living-in-fear); Shekhar Gupta (Dalits must suffer as they have over the millenniums and keep mouth shut); Rajdeep Sardesai (Access is not for Dalits); Barkha Dutt (the plight of Dalit women) or Sagarika Ghose (Upper-castes were bigger oppressors than the British) for they can back their claim with evidence. You also can’t pick a quarrel with the BBC (Dalit killed for eating in front of upper-castes); New York Times (Dalits scalped); Washington Post (Lower caste chamar slur); or The London Times (Dalits and discrimination on horse-riding) for highlighting the divide. You also can’t fault with politicians like Sonia Gandhi (horrified on Dalit atrocities); Rahul Gandhi (Dalits are beaten and crushed); Priyanka Gandhi (Dalits insult can’t be tolerated); Mamata Banerjee (Organized crime against Dalits); Akhilesh Yadav (Dalits suppressed); Arvind Kejriwal (BJP has insulted Dalits); Asaduddin Owaisi (I ask Dalits to stop suffering)  or Pinaryi Vijayan (Anti-Dalit politics by BJP) for they arguably are worried about the society. The angst of Dalit leaders like Mayawati, Prakash Ambedkar and Chandrashekhar Azad could also be understood. They are pained at the wrongs against their brothers and sisters.  I may be missing the instances of Rana Ayyub, Saba Naqvi, The Wire, The Scroll, The Quint, The Print, The Squint, The Caravan, The Huffington Post etc but you get the drift.

Now let me narrate a couple of instances of this week. Both instances occurred in Uttar Pradesh. In Jaunpur, houses of Dalit families were set ablaze by Muslims in Batheti village on Tuesday. According to police, the clashes erupted after two groups of Dalits and Muslim boys fought over cattle grazing.  The village head tried to intervene but to no effect. Muslim boys returned with a bigger force, stones were pelted and these Muslims indulged in arson and set fire to Dalit huts.

The second incident happened in Azamgarh on Friday. Sixteen Muslim youths attacked a group of Dalit men under Maharajganj police station. Twelve Dalit men were seriously injured. It occurred after Dalits objected to Muslim boys harassing some girls. One 22-year-old Sudhir was slashed with a sharp-edged weapon. Eleven others were badly beaten with sticks and stones.

A rabid Muslim, anti-Hindu or anti-BJP person would claim that this is a manufactured narrative. That this Muslim violence wasn’t because of caste-divide, never mind a few upper-caste violent acts against Dalits could similarly be over petty matters. Or they could ramble on what do you expect in a state of Yogi Adityanath. Or that these innocent Muslims have been framed by partisan police. Or that the state government has got another stick to beat the innocent, hapless Muslims with. That Hindu elements might have spread rumours for Dalits to confront Muslims and in consequence suffered physical and material losses. Or that this piece by me is a whataboutery to hide what regularly happens against Dalits by upper-caste Hindus. You could also cite the recent US State Department Report to shame present India. You could work out a few more excuses I might have missed out.

Let’s say I don’t contest such an argument. Let’s for a moment concede them the point. That these two specific incidents of Muslims against Dalits in Uttar Pradesh defy credulity. That Muslims can never beat Dalits.

But the thrust of this piece is above this narrow binary. It is addressed to millions of Indians in this country, who are more than a Hindu or a Muslim, more than a BJP or a Congress, more than an Indian Express/The Hindu or a Republic TV which represent the two opposite sides of the spectrum. These Indians who hold the future of India in their neutrality.

And the thrust is: Have you heard a Shekhar Gupta, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Barkha Dutt, Saba Naqvi, Rana Ayyub, the Gandhis, Yadavs, Mamatas, Owaisis, Kejriwals and Vijayans say a word in condemnation against these two horrific incidents against Dalits? Or even from Mayawati, Prakash Ambedkar or Chandrashekhar Azad, the latter who often threatens to fast-unto-death in the cause of his Dalit community? Or Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi who wipe the tears of Dalits and photo-op with lunch on the same plate? The Wire, The Scroll, The Print, The Quint, Caravan or Huffington Post outraged? And if not, next time you quote them would you be honest and accept that these illustrious could be prejudiced and don’t mind the ill of our beloved country? Or that you are prepared to sacrifice your next generation as long as you score a point on a Facebook debate?

If these icons in media and politics fail this neutrality test, would you confess that they could be biased. That they are not neutral. That they could be propagandists.  That they could be dangerous for society. For unity of India. Maybe paid for by forces which want India broken. For “Jewel of India” which is still lusted for by foreign cabals. Those who thought India would break up in pieces and are distressed that it has survived 70-odd years and practices the best of democratic traditions?

I don’t suggest you believe me. It doesn’t matter if I find currency with your or not.  All I suggest is that next time you read these sources, pause. PAUSE AND REFLECT. Notice if you see any bias or prejudice. Hold them under microscope and see if you still find them neutral. If they fail the test, don’t quote them next time. Make them honest; and not clink glasses on your back for having once against fooled you.

 

 

President’s Rule: What’s stoking this buzz in Maharashtra

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

India is worried on count of Maharashtra. The Western state appears to be losing the battle against Corona Virus. There are three matters which suggest we haven’t seen the worst yet.

One is a measure by the Mumbai Police. While imposing Section 144 till June 8, it prohibits any attempt on social media to incite mistrust against the government officials. It’s a loosely worded order which empowers the state machinery to take punitive measure on what it doesn’t like and considers as creating “mistrust” in public against it. It’s censorship otherly-worded.

Second is Rahul Gandhi going public in distancing himself from the Maharashtra government of which his party Congress is a part. In a video message, Gandhi said his party doesn’t have a say in key matters in running of the state.

Third is an Indian Express report which claims that there is “resentment in the cabinet” over Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s reliance on the bureaucracy who virtually are running the state’s Corona strategy and are “keeping ministers in the dark.”

Further, the Indian Express claims that the three partners in coalition—NCP, Congress, Shiv Sena—differ over lockdown. While Thackeray prefers an extension of lockdown, Pawar (NCP) “is keen on granting some relaxations.”

In plain terms, Corona is like a mad dog on the leash which is taking its master, the Maharashtra government, all over the place.  There is no firm hand to keep the canine on its trajectory. The Maha Aghadi (The Great Development Front) is a grumpy house where a key partner has distanced itself, the cabinet is sore over the bureaucracy and there is bickering on the lockdown strategy.

A few side issues haven’t won Maharashtra government many friends. The harassment of media personality Arnab Goswami is viewed prejudiced. The Palghar Lynchings of Sadhus is hanging fire. Then we had a few barons in the Yes Bank scandal, sought by state agencies, moving without intervention in their caravans amidst the lockdown. We now have reports where Shiv Sainiks (Shiv Sena cadre) have vandalized shops of individuals who allegedly didn’t have complimentary words for Thackeray. A FIR against the owners, two individuals, has added insult to injury.

Predictably, BJP has mounted pressure. The Railways minister Piyush Goyal has run hourly tweets on how Maharashtra government is doing nothing to avail Shramik Trains for stranded migrants. Now there are reports that a few BJP functionaries have met the governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari raising speculation over the President’s Rule. Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, on his part, has stated that they don’t need to win over any sitting MLAs as “they (Maha Aghadi) would collapse under its own weight.”

Meanwhile Loksatta, a Marathi news outlet, ran a twitter poll on whether the state should have President’s Rule. Within five hours, the voters leaned in favour of dissolution of assembly. Though the regional newspaper promptly dropped the poll, the twitteratis went to town on the mood of the people in Maharashtra.

Politics and power is small price compared to the catastrophe which is unfolding in the state. Cynics would say that it perhaps is the reason why Corona is spiralling out of control. So far up to 40 per cent of India’s numbers and deaths to the pandemic are accounted by the state of Maharashtra. The prized city of Mumbai has been gripped by the curse. The commercial capital of the country is bleeding and no end is in sight. It’s not good for state, definitely not for India. Besides, there is this question: How long could you keep the people locked out. How long would they watch the rest of india limp back to life while they are sealed between their four walls?

The alliance of convenience in Maharashtra must show itself as an alliance of saviours. Or give way to those who could get the job done.

 

Indians can’t desert Modi and leave him at the mercy of sharks

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

All of us would agree that public transport should’ve been allowed to let migrants reach home. Done and dusted in the first week of Lockdown 1.0 itself.  Free food and community centres are not homes.

Then came mischief. One fine day, we had thousands of migrants at a bus station in Delhi. Somebody had promised them transport home. This whisper also worked in Mumbai. Thousands poured into Bandra station. Somebody was trying to get them on streets. An educated guess is it was politics. As we would presently see, any political upheavals can’t be caused without people-on- streets.

It’s now Priyanka Gandhi on the move. Her bleeding heart has arranged a thousand buses for migrants for Uttar Pradesh. She has chosen buses over trains.  Never mind UP is successfully requisitioning tens of trains by the hour. Half of all Shramik Trains, 301 out of 642, have headed to Yogi’s state. She won’t tell, and our media won’t ask, if she has allergy to Indian Railways. She is surely not living up to her surname who once discovered India on trains and ended up as Mahatma.

So let’s agree on the basics: One, State made a mistake in denying migrants a window to escape. Two, somebody wants human misery on streets. This agenda was bound to soar on the headwind of people’s trauma. This was one reality which was wired to favour fiction.

We got to know of fictions on a regular basis though our media don’t give enough credit to its readers for intelligence. This usually happens when you are unchecked. NDTV was caught arranging migrants through a staged performance. They were shamed enough to delete the video but its men were soon up to another mischief. So, a report has Priyanka’s buses lined up, only the image actually is of Yogi’s buses for Kumbh Mela last year. One recalls a fake report in The Hindu of migrants being extra charged. Indian Express isn’t leaving a single migrant on a single highway who could add to its’ misery editions. India Today group meanwhile is selling migrants photos for thousands of bucks.

These are the kind of times when Western media wakes up to India. Washington Post has run dozens of photographs on Indian migrants; New York Times likewise; The Guardian wasn’t quite British in overplaying it as India’s greatest exodus since the Partition. Quite interestingly, the newspaper in a matter of 24 hours, was praising the United States and Australia for enforcing a complete lockdown on its people; no escaping the measure. It had drooled on UK lockdown as a “necessary hardship.’

All this doesn’t blind us to migrants’ nightmare. People have lost lives on roads, trucks and railway lines. Centre hadn’t seen it coming. Nobody had, truth to tell. Smiling idiots who pass off as experts were moving between one media house to another, predicting catastrophe for at least 40 million Indians. The end was near.

This is the thing about images. Young kids are psychologically scarred by Corona Virus. Possibly in lakhs. But they don’t make up images. Indifferent couples, in 24×7 proximity, hate each other more than ever. We possibly have lakhs of divorces sowed. Again, there are no images. Young entrepreneurs are ruined. Again, no images. Corona has been a pandemic which in real gritty world, outside our Netflixes and home-bakeries, has been nothing short of death to millions. Again, no images.

The political beasts know this truth from ages. In modern world, it’s the most important tool of imperialism. These days they don’t send out armies, well not everywhere. They strangulate you by propaganda. A government, howsoever loved, is pulled down through steps in these orders: (a) Bring people on streets; (b) Show police as murderers; (c ) police freezes; becomes spectators; (d ) anarchy on streets morphs into violent mobs; (e ) Pressure groups—UN, EU, Media, Human Rights Groups, NGOs—pounce on its prey. Its’ “sleeping cells” they have fattened all these years in the home country—opposition and corrupt media—are the proverbial fifth column. Judiciary succumbs. Before long, the popular leader is pulled down. Those who know the truth of Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Iraq, Libya and “Arab Springs” –and a pro-democracy fake in Hong Kong—would agree.

Narendra Modi is in this unfortunate situation. He is popular and nationalist – two traits which financial sharks don’t allow to exist. It hurts free trade and their agenda of endless profits. They hold the presidents and the prime ministers of the world by their little finger. Men like Modi, or Putin, Xi or Kim, who put nation first, are caricatured and shown as savages unworthy to be in office. First the world opinion is won over by propaganda. It paves their road for intervention in the name of “democracy” and “human rights.” The suffering nation would face financial sanctions; or worse military action.

This is Modi’s fate for next four years. People-on-streets is an agenda which has been set in motion. Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was the first roll of the dice. Migrants is another. They would keep recurring, in the guise of one or other, to bring anarchy on streets. Every day, every month, every year. This much I know for sure. What’s Modi’s response we would know. India can’t desert its man in this hour.

 

 

State and Indian media: The gloves are off; Where are the arbiters?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

I am in the middle of writing a book on World History where I show strands where the reality is vastly different to the narrative we have been fed through newspapers and academia. My compass is big, covers all continents, and this endeavour would take up my four years by a modest estimate.

One of the problems I am confronted with is references. Most books I pick have references which appear untrue. For instance, Pyarelal Nayyar, the personal secretary of Mahatma Gandhi mentions an incident from Second Boer War (1899-1902), quoting Natal Mercury where the date is before the event happened. It’s not typo, there are several such instances.

We are not talking of biases here. That is given in most cases. You pick facts and incidents to your liking. My issue is with “creating” those facts and incidents. People in social media, newspapers, TV channels are doing it all the time. These “fakes” are repeated, read or seen by millions and shape people’s opinions—and actions.

This is the background in which I want the present issue of journalists in India being hauled up be seen. Two prominent names, Sudhir Chaudhary and Arnab Goswami, are such. The are perceived to speak the Centre’s line and it has put them in crosshairs of opposition states. In Himachal Pradesh, 14 FIRs have been filed against five reporters. This is likewise in UP, Gujarat, West Bengal, Rajasthan and in many other states. Indian Express is moving heavens on one of their reporters facing action for what Delhi Police believes to be “fake news” on Tablighi Jamaat’s head, Maulana Saad. Is media’s freedom a thing of the past?

There are no clear-cut answers and there would never be. None of us can expound an opinion and say: Yes, that’s it. How can journalism survive if State is the Big Brother watching them all the time? How would State function if media is like an ass in a pottery shop, to borrow a metaphor from Aesop’s fables.

None of us would deny that State is prejudiced; and media is biased. Or that we don’t live in the world of corporate media. Power and money, the two essential evils, are working all the time to grow bigger today than they were yesterday. It could only be at the cost of citizenry, the sheep to be sheared, Where are the arbiters in this toxic, noxious air?

There could be many arbiters but let’s begin with judiciary which has the final word. What do they go by with? Our Constitution doesn’t provide freedom to press as an enshrined Article. Most of it is presumed under Article 19 (1-a). This is the Right to Freedom of speech and expression to individuals. This is Liberty, the root of democracy.  Ideally, media shouldn’t be interpreted from this prism. Unlike individuals, media is a “watchdog” for public interest which gives them privileged access to men and matters.

Yes, there is Press Council Act of 1978. It’s to ensure freedom of press as well as pull up media if untruthful. In essence Press Council is just a talk shop. Most members are hand-picked. Editors’ Guild of India and News Broadcasters Association (NBA) are no better. Their credibility is zilch. In essence, it’s a Big Boys Club who keep public interest out of their rounds of drinks.

Ombudsman, a neutral voice of credibility, was once deemed an important self-regulatory organ, to keep the content truthful. It has been a joke on us for last two decades if not more.

Then there are unseen arbiters, we the readers, the citizens, the suckers. Both the State and media would prefer us to be blindfolded, to be goaded into alleys of their own mischiefs. We don’t get the truth from either; yet we tilt one way or the other. An irony: Those who can’t do without us, have little of our interest on their minds.

The time has come to draw a line in the sand. Ambiguity must give way to well-defined laws. Journalists must follow the time-tested dictums: Present both sides of story; name your source who wish to be quoted or don’t use it at all. I agree it’s not possible in political reporting but don’t let a good story come in the way of a patient’s good who is on a ventilator.

I also know it’s easier said than done: your editors are mostly handpicked by your employers to serve their business or political agenda. That “little journo” on the desk, the sub-editor, also is prone to rejig your story in a manner which could induce a saucy headline and cause you embarrassment next morning. I doubt if there is any reporter who hasn’t muttered a swear to an editor/sub-editor on the final output.

State, on their part, must not allow mischief by press. But it also shouldn’t use the long arm of law to settle personal scores or come down on an investigative story. Mostly, States should limit itself to denying a news or offering a clarification. Or be a mouthful like Trump is to despicable US media. But state action or imprisonment isn’t on. Individuals could evoke defamation suit: Like Sonia Gandhi should have done against Arnab Goswami. It was shameful to involve a state machinery for her personal score.

Press is the breath of democracy: All you need is a strong filter. Putting a lid would suffocate it to death.

Migrants: Know the “dark” forces feeding on their misery

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

People-on-the-street is citizenry against the State. It affected the United States from continuing the Vietnam War. It brought down Charles de Gaulle in France in the 1960s as students came out in droves. Arab Spring had millions on the streets and toppled many governments in MENA (Middle East North Africa) region. “The Maidan” revolution in Ukraine bears a similar testimony. And Hong Kong hasn’t faded from memory in so-called “democracy” protests. India was in the grip of a similar meltdown on CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) before Corona Virus took the matter in its own hand.

Why people-on-the-street are a nightmare for the State is easy to understand. It could encompass a whole range of emotions: Anger, Violence, Hunger, Grief, Helplessness etc. It’s moving at a human level. Images connect the rest with the misery rolling on the roads. Slowly the whole citizenry gets on the back of the moving vulnerable.

It’s known States can’t do much if people rise against it. They either freeze themselves into inaction which only brings a domino effect on the “volume” of protests. Or if they resort to violent curbs, the matter goes out of hands and the world is up in arms. Stark images make headlines worldwide. United Nations, European Union parliament, rival nations, human rights groups pile on the pressure. Political rivals within the State smell blood in the pool. The State staggers. The nation stops.

It’s now well known that Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has made countless enemies on his nationalist agenda. Nationalism upsets powers of the world. These powers have swindled the world in the name of “globalization” and “free trade.” Their maxim is “World without borders”. In nationalism, they see a phenomenon where a State is putting Nation first. That’s why they hate Modi. That’s why they have an angst against Donald Trump. That’s how they see an existential threat in Putin. That’s why Xi is an elephant in the room to them.

Who are these powers? Well, elaborating on it would take my focus away from this piece. Nevertheless, a passing mention is in order. These powers are the ones who control money. If you control money, you control governments, control media and movies, which in turn allows you to control humanity. Money in our world is controlled by Federal Reserve and City of London and a clutch of international bankers. You don’t see much of them in our newspapers. But if you are aware of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB), you get the picture. George Soros is the only name I could suggest for the uninitiated.

Such forces were in work to hurt India on the pretext of CAA. But then Corona Virus happened. It threw a spanner in their machinations. The issue of migrants then fell in their lap. Migrants on the road served the same purpose as the CAA protestors did. They couldn’t care less about the cause or misery. “People-on-the-street” was good enough.

We would never know how lakhs of migrants gathered at a bus station in the Capital even as the lockdown was in place. Or how a similar movement thronged railway stations in Mumbai. It’s these pictures which anti-National forces feed on; if they don’t create it in the first place.

Western media described it as the “biggest movement of people since the Partition.” Indian mainstream media led the frenzy. The incidence of Tablighi Jamaat didn’t hold them back for long. They are again back on “migrants” theme. Harsh Mander, Barkha Dutt and their likes are busy with their poisonous pens. Indian Express isn’t letting it go. Nobody has died but a Front Page story a day is their staple diet. To them, Migrants is bigger than deaths and infections caused by Tablighi markaz.

Make no mistake that migrants is a real issue. They want to go back home. Either to be with their family. Or attend to their farms. But it’s also a fact that Indian states have made resources to feed and house them. Migrants are closer to medical help under states than they would be in villages. Isn’t it practical? What if they carry infection to villages where medical help of the scale seen in districts would be impossible to replicate?  Everyone is going through hardships. Migrants are no exceptions. Nobody has died out of hunger. Or neglect. These are the days of lockdowns. For the larger good. Personal inconveniences are the least Indians could suffer for the nation.

As things stand, migrants would move towards homes from April 20 onwards. Such arrangements are being made. Still trust the Lutyens Media not to let it go in a hurry. Already some are evoking the image of “detention centres” with the venues where migrants are being put up. Images would still do the rounds. You see, “People-on-the-road” is their design in Modi’s second tenure. They would persist with it in rest of Modi’s tenure.

Dear Folks, you have been warned.

 

Why Indian Express doesn’t want to stay on the Tablighi story?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

 

Yes. That’s the charge. A charge its’ readers like me are levelling: Why Indian Express doesn’t want to stay on the Tablighi story?

Express has opted for a banner headline (see the image) today which can’t get bigger even if World War 3 breaks out.

Only, this is not about Corona: It’s about four states “knocking” on Centre for extra funds.

Now,

(a)    Who are the states in question? Anti-Modi governments of West Bengal, Rajasthan, Kerala and Punjab of course.

(b)   Have they already asked for funds? Not yet.

(c) What’s the source of Indian Express story? An unknown official.

(d)   And why states could be asking for funds? Now hold your breath: For returning migrants. Not for Corona victims but for migrants.

(e)   And who are the states who should be in the forefront of seeking help even on migrants? Of course Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The Indian Express conveniently doesn’t seek these two states out.

So, no funds have been asked, no written or spoken request made, questionable states, questionable source, and that too for migrants and not Corona!!! And yet Indian Express gives a kind of banner headline which most editors don’t give in their entire careers.

This when Tablighi Jamaat fiasco threatens to drown the country in the misery of Corona Virus.

The cases have doubled and crossed 2000 figures overnight.

One single person testing positive could potentially infect 10,000 people.

Many Tablighi Jamaat attendees have gone in hiding.

Official request is making no difference to them.

Could they be bio bombers?

But none of these thoughts prick the conscience of our “newspaper of courage.”

It doesn’t ponder if it could be “infiltrators” and perhaps justify CAA-NPR-NRC

It wants its readers to concentrate on funds a few anti-Modi states “could” ask. This when the Centre is constantly in touch with states to seek out remedial measures. Modi is holding meeting with states regularly.

This is not the sole reason for a reader like me to believe Indian Express is doing its best to bury the Tablighi Jamaat complicity in spreading the Corona Virus. When this news hit the Indians like scalding oil on Tuesday, Express chose to almost bury the story.

That sensational story was not even front page lead in Indian Express that day. Worse, it chose to put a “Delhi area” in the headline (see image), instead of squarely blaming Tablighi Jamaat for the distress it has plunged the nation into. And this I am talking about the Delhi edition of Indian Express.

Don’t you think readers of the city needed a more frontal, and not ambiguous, coverage from its newspaper about its own city? About a story which could put their lives in danger? And what about the residents of the area? They wouldn’t even have an inkling of human bio bombs exploding in their neighbourhood and their chosen newspaper trying to keep them in dark.

I may sound angry. But I am angry. It’s a gross betrayal of readers, if not country, from a national newspaper. It puts doubt in my mind for what could be behind such Indian Express’ coverage. If it’s only about their journalistic competence, it needs to shut its shop. If there is more to it, if there is an interest in spiking this sensational story, then not just Press Council of India but even law agencies need to move in. Tablighi Jamaat has not only cost 10 lives thus far, It has put thousands on the line as well. It could submerge India in political and economic tsunami.

Indian Express would be under my lens for the remaining days of this Corona misery. Forget about Express exploring the Al Qaeda angle of Tablighi Jamaat about which I wrote yesterday; I would look carefully if Express is even reporting the mishap truthfully. As should be their thousands of readers. And authorities.

 

 

Who’s afraid of “Lobby of Six”? questions Gogoi; Puts nation on alert

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

It’s the last time readers you would hear about it. So I want you to be serious. Ranjan Gogoi, former Chief Justice of India and now a member of the Rajya Sabha, has said that there is a “Lobby of Six” which controls our judiciary by maligning them.  You could make it a fun exercise. Or if you are serious, reflect how our system is compromised.

Three names immediately spring to my mind as suspects: Prashant Bhushan, Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Singhvi.  They opposed tooth and nail matters of national importance, such as Rafale, Ram Temple, Article 370, EVM, Loya judge case etc in varying degrees, individually or collectively.  Remember the names who wanted an “impeachment” motion against then CJI Deepak Misra? A few judges too cross my mind for some strange verdicts. But I better not spell out my hunch.

( Or it could be that Gogoi might be hinting at a completely different set who work behind the scenes. So folks, send in your choice of “Lobby of Six” on my twitter or facebook handle.  Let this issue hang in our public discourse. For your newspapers are unlikely to give it wind. They have already dug up trenches to bury Gogoi’s views. I would follow up this pieces with due credit to your credible hunches).  

Gogoi says that this “Lobby of Six” took recourse to “maligning” to control judiciary.  You only “malign” through propaganda. And propaganda is best managed by media. This is rather easy. I remember a piece I wrote when a “sexual harassment” case was popped up against Gogoi last year.  Three websites with Leftist bent–The Wire, Scroll and Caravan—made a coordinated attack. They appeared hand-in-gloves with the forces who wanted to malign our judiciary. My piece then had tried to connect the dots. Read it and see if you agree with my deductions.

The Indian Express and The Hindu are two other national dailies which are more than suspects, in my humble opinion.  The judges and advocates they have in their rosters as guest columnists/rent-a-byte individuals, all have a bent towards a particular ideology.  Refer to the pages of these two newspapers when a “sexual impropriety” charge was made against Gogoi last April. Or the recent spate of articles they have had against Gogoi’s nomination in Rajya Sabha.  That Gogoi has now chosen to speak to Times of India, and not Express and The Hindu, carries its own message. Or it could be that Express and the Hindu didn’t approach Gogoi in the first place. The latter is worse: for the gold-standard in journalism is to hear both sides of story. Don’t pronounce someone guilty unless you’ve heard him.

Be that as it may, do read Gogoi’s interview in Times of India. He makes some pertinent points which deserve to be a part of the collective memory of we the citizens who unfortunately are also readers of a few disgraceful newspapers. As per the supposed perks on being a Rajya Sabha member, Gogoi puts forth the same arguments I had questioned Left-Liberals on in recent days.

Gogoi says that Ayodhya was a unanimous verdict by a bench of five judges. So all other were compromised? Rafale too was a unanimous verdict. So the other sitting judges were also compromised? Isn’t it a slur on their integrity? Gogoi also took on his critics who said he practiced “sealed cover” jurisprudence. “Should I have made public details on Rafale”? Pakistan would’ve laughed its guts out. Why was this bunch silent when the judiciary asked for sealed cover report on “2G scam”. Or when now the Supreme Court has asked for “sealed cover” report on Shaheen Bagh?

Strong words. And a bit of humour from his ex-Lordship: “I never was, never am and never will be afraid of anyone’s opinion, except my wife.”

Hopefully, Gogoi’s interview would give teeth to “independent” voices within the judiciary.  There is no reason to buckle down to this “Lobby of Six” or anyone else. You have nobody but your conscience to be answerable to.

(Post script: As to how our judiciary functions, listen to the voice of a fearless amongst us, legal hawk Vibhor Anand, who had penned for us a few pieces in the past).