(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
It’s a bad time to read Indian or Western media or perhaps there would never be a better time to read them.
Headlines such as “India’s politics of hate” (Washington Post); “Millions of Indians could be in detention camps” (Bloomberg); “New Delhi turns into battleground” (New York Times) or Newsweek talking about India’s ruling party’s agenda to “marginalize Muslims” are guaranteed to give you a bad conscience. However, it could also be an occasion to brush up your primer on Western Media and know why they do what they do.
I of course am referring to the unfortunate violence which erupted on New Delhi’s streets and claimed 20 lives even as the president of the United States Donald Trump was beaming from ear to ear on the massive welcome he received from masses and Indian establishment this week.
Let’s believe Hindus and Muslims could’ve been on the opposing sides of violence even though India’s intelligence is in the middle of determining if it was engineered by inimical forces. Let’s also not deny that law and order, crime against women, caste, linguistic identities, inequality etc is unreal in India. Let’s also not frame this debate on the narrow binary of rise of Narendra Modi which has let the genie of Hindu-hating Western Media out of the bottle.
Modi alone is not the fall guy
The truth is no Indian leader—be it Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Atal Behari Vajpayee or Modi—has escaped the scalding venom which Western Media has poured on them. Nehru was lampooned for his Non-Aligned Movement; Indira for standing up to violence in neighbouring East Pakistan; Vajpayee for Nuclear test and Modi of course for everything he does. It doesn’t matter that these leaders, at various times, were overwhelmingly voted into power by India’s massive population.
In essence it’s the colonial and imperial hangover of the “North” against the “Savage South” who must get tutorials on “tolerance”, “peace” and “multiculturalism.” This hangover is the binding thread of policy, business, academia and media in the West. Woven with the cloth of liberty, religious freedom and human rights. Of American Exceptionalism and the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon world. An outsider like Donald Trump might be loathed. But the moment he does “right” things against Iran or Venezuela, he is a darling.
Try pointing out the racial violence on American streets, the bogus wars it wages in Middle East or elsewhere; or the travel bans it has on Muslims from around the world. Try asking them why they oppose countries which choose an independent course, such as Russia, China, Syria or Iran—and yet pat those who were dictators like Suharto and Pinochet and reserved bayonets for their citizens. Why proven legends of humanity such as Salvador Allende, Kenneth Kaunda or Kwame Nkrumah don’t catch their ticking human hearts.
Why local elites mirror Colonial masters
The Indian case is typical of any country which has freed itself from the colonial yoke. The freed countries are left with elites who are a mirror image of the masters. Same language and mannerism. Their worldview is similar. In due course, the two collaborate. They work to validate each other. When masses go against such a view, they are “savages” and “bigots.” Then popular mandates,such as for Rouhani, Assad, Putin, Xi or Modi, don’t matter. For the “masses” are not allowing the “classes” to keep the countries unstable; to exploit its’ wealth and resources.
It shouldn’t be too difficult for an educated Indian to comprehend that media is business. Media is not out there for ordinary folks. It’s for profit. Such profit would only come from subscribers. Home subscribers in UK or US are forever looking for who is a “good” or “bad” guy. Such boxes are duly created. In India’s context, those who could afford the subscription of Western media outlets such as Washington Post, New York Times or the Guardian are prime catch. Ordinary folks, who neither could understand English nor pay to buy Western rags, don’t matter. When such faceless masses, who don’t come to TV studios, rise and Trump, Putin Modi or Brexit happens, there is mayhem.
India has its problems. It always had. It always would. It can’t be otherwise in a country of multiple religious and linguistic identities. Yet it has grown to be one of world’s biggest economic success stories. It’s digital and space milestones are massive. Its democratic traditions are unbroken. Its interiors today have access to health, education, houses, electricity and gas. Its’ roads, trains, airports and infrastructure are on a major revision course. India is more than just one Narendra Modi. Let Western Media and their local mirror image see India in the Modi- binary alone. You and I should know better.Western media has always peddled a narrative and people from Asia—and Africa—have suffered most from it. If you don’t wake up now, this “rape” of our minds would continue into our next generations.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Who’s afraid of Western media? Certainly not Modi’s India. The telltale signs of recent times convey a stunning departure from India of old when every censure from a New York Times or British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) sent a chill down the government corridors of New Delhi.
Now an extremely well-networked Western journalist Aatish Taseer, who writes for Time, Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph, has his OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) card revoked by New Delhi for concealing his parentage and despite a personal written appeal by 260 celebrated men of letters, including Salman Rushdie, to the Indian prime minister, it hasn’t elicited a word in response from Narendra Modi.
It’s nearing four months since the political heavyweights of Jammu and Kashmir were put under house arrest by the Modi government after it abrogated the “special status” of state of Jammu and Kashmir and broke it into three separate territories. Despite the din and orchestrated campaign in Western media, the Modi government hasn’t bothered to put a timeline on their release.
In the altered reality of our times, the gravity of the world has shifted to Asia where India along with China, and Russia, have popular leaders in control of the destiny of their countries. Nationalism is at the heart of their policy which by its very definition runs counter to the liberal narrative of the Western media.
Western media isn’t just about the United States or the United Kingdom—it by and large represents most West European countries and comes in a language-bouquet of English, French, German, Spanish, Italian etc. Western media is the foot soldiers of West in winning the public perception in latter’s favour. It has a veneer of independence but actually is an extension of the liberal establishment which acquired hegemony after World War II. West detests any assertion of sovereignty and nationalism and so does its media. Brexit is a case in point.
The evidence too is hard to ignore. The Economist openly urged Indian voters to vote for Congress and not Modi’s BJP in both 2014 and 2019 elections. Yet voters overwhelmingly voted for BJP. The Guardian bemoaned Modi’s win as “India’s soul lost to a dark politics.” The New York Times found India to be suffering from Modi’s “raw wisdom.” Washington Post believed Modi won because “India had no credible alternative.” All through, the Western media narrative has been the demonization of Modi, on the “divisive” politics of beef and “lynchings” of Muslims. Yet it made little dent to Modi’s popularity.
Modi’s India thus sees no benefit in trying to cultivate a network which is fundamentally in conflict with their sovereignty. It relies on its strong domestic base which won them a second successive term with full majority this summer. As an economy which could be third largest in coming years, it knows it’s attractive to the world’s largest corporations and business. It received its largest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) ever this financial year. India now ranks very high in the Ease of Doing Business rankings too. It’s also aware that millions of Hindus, quite a few well-heeled and a force in Western capitals of New York and London, are quick to pick up the cudgels against orchestrated campaigns.
India appears to have hedged its bets well. The two strongest cards West and its’ media plays are “human rights” and “democracy.” West uses these two weapons to wreak havoc in countries as diverse as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan are from Bolivia, Chile and Cuba. Sometimes there are direct military interventions overriding international laws; on other occasions, there are suffocating economic sanctions; at other times it’s stage-managed internal eruptions as have been witnessed in Ukraine, the Middle East and now Hong Kong.
India bets against such a scenario because it’s not only economically attractive to the West but also Donald Trump’s United States hopes to ride on its shoulders for its’ Act Asia policy. Internal eruptions are a powerful tool which the United States has perfected over the years. But India is assured it won’t happen to them in the near future, at least till the 2020 US presidential elections are over, a year from now. Without an active US intervention, New Delhi’s streets won’t be filled with demonstrators as it’s happening in Hong Kong or Bolivia. Modi knows well within he could ignore the barking dogs.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
BJP has swallowed Left in West Bengal which is a significant tide in the history of the state and the nation.
With Kerala gone too, along with Tripura last year, Left as a political and ideological force has its’ funeral procession waiting at its door.
It was a political force which dominated the discourse of independent India, shaping Nehruvian philosophy and garnering numbers of its own which helped form many a government, most notably in 1989, 1996 and 2004; the last one being a stunning guerilla ambush of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s “Shining India.”
Left was a far deadlier force as an ideology since its call to the poor and “secular” cloak hid the agenda of breaking up India by pitting poor against the rich; Hindus against the Muslims and making sure India doesn’t reclaim its glorious heritage and thus identity.
Left stood on two planks of Congress and propaganda. Congress provided the spread, power and fund which in turn turbo-charged propaganda through media and academia. (I am sure many names will swirl in your head when I name media and academia but let’s resist name-shaming for the time being).
It’s reasonable to assume that their ideological fulcrums in Russia and China massively nourished this elephant in the room for many decades and perhaps still do. Fundamentalist Islamic states which seek converts worldwide, couldn’t have ignored this massive power bloc. Colonial forces, without colonies but not without agenda, sprouted NGOs and CIA never slept. With a friendly umpire in Congress and Left, India’s pitch was queered and transgressions were ignored.
Such powerful entities don’t die easily. Left has no takers in politics but its’ foolish to assume they are dead ideologically too. That they wouldn’t be up to their mischief. I suspect they would strike back with double the vengeance. They still have their tools in media, academia, judiciary and bureaucracy. The ears and pockets of foreign forces aren’t spent. A strong India would be an eyesore to many. More so to the West who dreads a resurgent Asia.
In the first Parliament in 1952, Left was the main “opponent.” Once it split in 1967, the newly born CPI-M made steady progress in subsequent elections—(19 seats in 1967), (25 in 1971), (30 in 1980). In 2004, it stood at 43 seats! Indeed, it put Congress on wheels.
The rise of BJP has struck at its roots. Its’ cadres and proxies, or whosoever was left after Mamata’s poach, are shifting in en masse to BJP. In 2009, Left had 19 winners and just nine in 2014. They had two seats from West Bengal in 2014—now they have none. Kerala, where they had the majority stakes in the ruling coalition, they now have just one. Barring four in Tamil Nadu, that too thanks to Congress and DMK which made space for them, it’s politically over.
Those who know the troubled history of Bengal, its’ vicissitudes, they won’t miss the magnitude of this seminal moment. It’s been a land of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Ravindranath Tagore, Subhas Chandra Bose, Vivekanand, equally vivid in the nightmare of blood which flowed in the streets, if not in Hooghly, on many a occasion. Be it the sinister design of Muslim League and Suhrawardy—Direct Action Day—or when Bangladesh beckoned on the other side. Writers, poets, revolutionaries, social reformers have jostled side by side with butchers, scoundrels, monsters and Satans. Bengal has always been a land of extremes.
But for propaganda tools, little is left in Left’s kit. No longer can they sell poverty to an aspirational India. No longer it’s a magnet to deprived. There are no takers to these dream-merchants. They can foment trouble in fertile universities, dictate narrative through Lutyens Media and flash their blood-soaked daggers. India can’t go back into the jar of 60s.
Sure, Left still controls the levers of Lutyens media and academia. It’s not a negligible tool. But Modi 1.0 has shown it can be combated. India, by and large, didn’t fall for it. Yes, NYT, Washington Post, Time and BBC, the typical choirboys, were at hand. But people knew better. As long as 1.3 billion people can smell rose in their verandah, these guys can walk up and down the street and stare at “Beware” signs. We can live with that. Archaeology can have its new section. Dinosaurs can have their museums. Market won’t run out of wreaths.
It’s without bitterness or rancour that I point out how the rotten media—both Indian and Western—keeps the “Dead Man Walking,” that is, Indian National Congress.
Vir Sanghvi, out from the edit pages of Hindustan Times for nearly a decade after the Radia Tapes leaks, is back strategically ahead of the 2019 Elections. On Friday, he warned BJP it has a “fight on its hands,” since “Rahul Gandhi has grown in confidence.” The first time Sanghvi’s political pen is unfrozen in a decade, it flows in obeisance. To take a hint from his own Brunch column, it’s in “rude taste.’
The last we saw of the child-boy Rahul on national screen was during the “hug debate” in Parliament last Friday. He had a dark visage, stung by the rebuke of generally mild Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan, followed by BJP’s Anurag Thakur ripping open his Rafale lies in front of the nation.
Yet the same newspaper, only a couple of days before, was showcasing Shekhar Gupta almost celebrating the “Bofors moment” of BJP on Rafale. Now Shekhar isn’t shy on Congress or slinking type—remember how he made light of “pimping-for-Congress” remark of Arvind Kejriwal? So boldly Shekhar has gone ahead and penned another piece close on its heels—and you’ve guessed it right: “He (Rahul) has risen in stature as a pre-eminent leader of opposition.”
The next name which came almost instinctively to my mind was Barkha Dutt. Why? Because she links with Sanghvi as one who was badly stung by Radia Tapes leaks; and with Shekhar as a columnist in his venture to which once she briefly was a partner.
Barkha these days is usually found parked in Washington Post. She found Rahul Gandhi winner all over on “Hug Day” in front of the nation: “He won the headlines…he won the talking points.’
If Barkha is around can Sagarika Ghose be behind? She is used to being called a Gandhi loyalist. Her first sentence in Times of India on Rahul-hug is: “(it) has stunned the government and left the Prime Minister looking thunderstruck.” Her husband, Rajdeep Sardesai, was far more nuanced but still couldn’t resist stating: “Pappu can hug saala.”
None of them realize that if there is one definitive moment which has sealed Rahul Gandhi’s fate in the eyes of the nation (as well in the eyes of other prospective allies) it is this “hug moment.” He looked kiddish, impulsive—first asking Modi to get up from his seat and when the wily Prime Minister didn’t oblige—throwing himself at him like a sack. He then allowed himself to be called back by PM; to be patted; and sent hurtling back to his seat. It was not a “winner” but a very “poor optics” beamed to millions. He became a laughing stock and sealed his fate with his own act.
And so have these court-jesters who masquerade as journalists. Remember the words most of them had to say about “Hugplomacy” of Modi: if you believed them or their Western ilks, Modi had made himself a laughing stock in front of world leaders.
Read BBC (“he has become a caricature of himself”); Washington Post (Modi an awkward hugger); Quartz (penchant for bear hugs) or news outlets closer home, unfailingly you’d find Modi plastered to the wall for offering warm hugs to fellow statesmen and leaders. But when Rahul Gandhi does so, all of these pen-pushers can’t stop gushing in admiration. The same Congress which ridiculed Modi and his hug on a youtube video, now has posters where Rahul’s hug has all but saved humanity. I mean how ludicrous could it get???