The Modi hating journalists of new India and their business of political revolution

If I were a doctor I would say that it is my professional opinion that all journalists should stop debating on national television and start writing pieces that can actually influence change. Of late whenever I switch on the news channel, I see useless, pointless debates. It was amusing to watch at first… One politician who wants exposure come on live t.v and begins to talk and then there are 4 more people countering and or agreeing to a particular point of view. Next thing you know, the argument is pointless. Because the Indian timing for creating change is directly proportionate to the post promised during the next election. Well.

Often times, I wonder how a country like India rid itself of the British. The size is the same still and the country is finding it very difficult to pass a policy in the upper house!!

How did journalists inspire a revolution without primetime television and live debates?? I suppose that the radio helped. But there were journalists there too wielding the power to inspire a revolution through their work. But when this desire starts clouding one’s judgement as a media professional, then it becomes problematic. The visceral hatred for one man who is now the Prime Minister of India is making many observers of politics lose their objectivity and sense of proportion. In their desperation to see Modi on his knees, they find meanings where none exists. They experience unwarranted euphoria over insignificant victories such as the ABVP losing a seat in Delhi University student’s union election; they are even willing to hear bugles of war in Rahul Gandhi’s Berkeley speech.

It is not as if before 2014 the roads in India were paved with gold and that milk flowed through its rivers. It is not as if previous governments had done wonders for the welfare of the poor and marginalized. Of course this government has problems and one of them has been intimidation in the name of cow vigilantism. The Modi dispensation has to be called out on promises that have turned out to be hollow. In other words, roads in India are not paved with gold and no milk flows through its rivers even after 2014. But reporting this has to be done realistically without spelling a constant sense of doom and without conveying this impression that Modi is personally supervising an imagined Armageddon.

Biases and hate crimes against Dalits, for example, have existed since the very beginning; farmers have committed suicide for years; law-and-order has been non-existent in many parts and continues to remain so; there has always been tension with Pakistan. Nobody, including Modi, has a magic wand to make these things disappear even if he and other leaders before him have given us such an impression. Journalists doing their job must nevertheless highlight the failings of this government. It is sometimes vital to take a step back and look at how certain things have worked for Modi even as most of us predicted that they would prove to be his Achilles heel.

Demonitization for example, is one of the most obvious scenarious where journalists have proven to be blind. We have written and spoken about it extensively. We have shot videos of long queues outside banks and of marketplace gloom with our cellphone cameras. We still don’t know the long- term effects of this decision, but it also needs to be recognised that Modi’s BJP has scored a spectacular win in UP despite the disruption caused. This should make us pause and wonder if we are disconnected from how the people of this country think.

Somehow Modi has managed to convince people that this is going to pinch the rich more than the poor. He has managed to impress upon them that he seeks no personal gain, that he has no Robert Vadra in his family who requires fancy bikes and cycles and expensive SPG cover, but only a mother who wears a worn sari and whom he goes to meet occasionally.

Instead, some of us seem to have turned antagonism towards Modi into a sort of spectator sport without realizing that Modi would not be who he is if he was not hated so much. A journalist friend speaks of her colleague who, while travelling through UP, would ask for her driver’s opinion on demonetization and when told he had a good feeling about it, shouted at him for being so ‘ignorant’.

Modi bashers often use a term, ‘Godi media’, for those who they think sit in the proverbial lap of this government, doling out a favorable narrative of its efforts and achievements. But they sometimes forget that they themselves have become ‘Goop media’, turning to jelly whenever they try looking at the failings of non- BJP politics.

The hate reporters against Modi can be divided into two categories: the ones with ideological moorings which make them oppose the BJP and RSS no matter what they do. The other is that of the naïve lot who think that they are modern and rebellious if they harangue him. They use perfunctory Modi bashing to stay relevant. It is almost as if some are saying things just for the heck of it, pointing at themselves and shouting: ‘Look, look, I have also said things about Modi, now somebody threaten me, please.’

Just the other day, a journalist wished Modi death and the website for which he wrote banned him, sparking outrage among many in the Goop media. How is such a journalist being objective—or even acting in a manner appropriate to his job—when he tweets that since terrorist outfit Lashkar- e-Toiba planned to kill Modi, he is putting such and such information out there ‘in the universe for good luck’?

Another senior journalist posted a donkey’s photo on Twitter for Modi’s birthday, and when yet another journalist criticized her for it, immediately blocked him on that social media platform.

It takes rigour to not slot people by the Left or Right binary of politics, but that is what is happening day and night. Such an attitude reminds me of George W Bush’s ‘with us or against us’ dictum. It takes hard work to go somewhere and speak to a person and say, ‘Hey, you support Modi. I would like to know why.’ It is much easier to label a person a ‘Sanghi’ and then cast him out as an Islamophobe.

The country’s common people are sick of media. They are sick of propaganda and don’t want to see a corridor in Bogota being passed off for a corridor in Modi’s Gujarat. But they are also weary of this constant hate activism on social media. The need is to drain the public space of bile and attain moral clarity on wrong-versus-right no matter who is on which side.

In a fine essay in The Wire, Monobina Gupta makes a case for journalists turning into activists: ‘If activism denotes resistance to violence in society at large, defense of rights—whether those pertain to the media or to individuals and communities—then this perhaps is the moment when journalists should consider not being shy of wearing that label anymore.’ I, for one, have argued for long that, yes, when you go to a place like Bastar, it is important for journalists to shun notions of neutrality and stand clearly with those who suffer injustice.

It is a journalist’s duty to go out of newsrooms and travel and bring to light stories of violence against Dalits, the plight of farmers, corruption, the builder mafia, the police- politician nexus, environmental degradation and what all this has done to the lives of millions. But activism should not be confused with political activism. It is okay to be anti-authority, but that should not be only because there is a particular man at the helm of affairs. The idea is to write consistently about the wrong policies of this government, any government, not to hold meetings with others on how to bring it down.



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