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Watchdog or Lapdog : How media ‘covers’ Modi

modimask

 Guest Post by Subhash Gatade

On completion of 30 days in office, Prime Minister Narendra said that
he had no luxury of ‘honeymoon’ period. Any neutral observer would tend to
disagree and can easily throw light on the great hiatus between Mr Modi’s
claim and actual situation on the ground.

Instances galore which demonstrate how has been kind to him and how
it has skillfully tried to avoid raising anything discomforting to his well
cultivated image of a ‘doer’. Neither his appointment of N K Mishra as his
principal secretary by promulgating an ordinance amending the Telecom
Regulatory Authority Act 1997 – which was enacted by the earlier Vajpayi
led NDA government itself- to enable this former chairperson of the
regulatory body to take up employment with the government, nor his
government’s ‘crude’ and ‘small minded approach’ to put down a candidate’s
nomination as a judge of the Supreme Court came under its wider scrutiny.
As rightly noted by many analysts the campaign of innuendoes by CBI and
Intelligence Bureau against Gopal Subramanium has indeed left a bad taste
and has definitely dented the image of the government.

Thanks to social media especially Twitter that the world at large came to
know how PM Modi addressed Bhutan as ‘Nepal’ and later Ladakh in his
maiden tour outside India and his speech to the National assembly there
when members of the assembly as well as other dignitaries were listening
with rapt attention. Not very many media outlets even reported this
incident and thus saved him from many embarrassing moments.

Imagine (ex PM) Manmohan Singh’s trip to some neighbouring country and he
committing similar ‘faux pas’ like calling Sri Lanka Pakistan or
‘rectifying’ himself by calling it Kashmir on the floor of their house,
realising bit late his slip of tongue? Media would not have looked at this
gaffe with sympathy but would have definitely chided him for his slip of
tongue.

While Modi’s mention of Bhutan as Nepal etc can definitely be termed as
slip of tongue unlike his earlier campaign speeches showing his scant
disregard for facts or his ignorance of history then. One still remembers
how he then talked of ‘Nehru not even attending Patel’s funeral’- despite
proof to the contrary or his claims at Patna rally wherein he is reported
to have said that ‘Alexander had come to Bihar and was defeated by Biharis
– despite the obvious fact that Alexander never crossed the Ganges – or
placing Taxila in Bihar although it is in Pakistan’

Remember the treatment meted out to the verdict in the Akshardham terror
attack case which incidentally came on the day when Modi emerged victor in
the recent Lok Sabha elections. The Supreme Court of the country had
nothing but harsh words for the manner in which innocents were lodged in
jail on fabricated charges for around twelve years for no fault of theirs
and the decision taken by the concerned authority ‘without applying mind’
to give a sanction to try them under the draconian POTA act. Modi, PM of
the country happened to be CM of Gujarat then also handled the home
ministry then. Forget demanding prosecution of guilty police officers who
connived with their seniors to concoct the case – for getting some medal –
forget asking for compensation to these innocents, the media – barring few
exceptions – had by and large remained silent.

In a press conference held in the capital after the verdict one of the
‘accused’ who had been honourably acquitted by the courts, told the media
his interaction with B L Singhal, a police officer who was instrumental in
fabricating the case, and was lodged in the same jail for his alleged
involvement in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case. According to him
Singhal, who was then passing through a bad patch in life – with his son
having committed suicide not some time ago – had no answer to his query
that why he spoiled his life’s precious years.

The same Singhal, , a quadruple murder accused and the snoopgate
protagonist, was recently reinstated who was out on bail in this case, by
the Gujarat government. Here also the media did not put under scrutiny the
hurried manner in which this decision was taken by the Gujarat government.
It also did not bring forth the fact that, not only a prima facie case
exists against him in this infamous encounter case, but he has also been an
important link in the chain of events which culminated in the killings. Few
months back it was widely reported how he had submitted an audio tape to
the investigating agency providing ‘proof ‘ of the directions he had
received from highest authority in the administration. It was clear what
his mention of ‘safeddadhi’ (white beard) and ‘kali dadhi’ (black beard)
alluded to. (
http://www.truthofgujarat.com/gujarat-government-reinstates-gl-singhal-quadruple-murder-accused-snoopgate-protagonist/
)

Perhaps the pinnacle of media’s silence pertained to Mr Modi’s reply to
motion of thanks to the President’s address to the joint session of the
parliament wherein he talked of “1,200 years of slave mentality’. Apart
from other details he said “Barah sau saal ki gulami ki maansikta humein
pareshan kar rahi hai. Bahut baar humse thoda ooncha vyakti mile, to sar
ooncha karke baat karne ki humari taaqat nahin hoti hai (The slave
mentality of 1,200 years is troubling us. Often, when we meet a person of
high stature, we fail to muster strength to speak up).

Till date all of us have grown up on the hard fact of “slavery of 200
years” which refers to the period when we were under colonial rule. And by
expanding this period to 1,200 years – which includes a period in which
many rulers of the country were Muslims – he definitely tried to bring
about a paradigm shift in the way we perceive our history.

It is worth emphasising that this is not for the first time that he has
mentioned this ‘fact’ and has used it in quite a few addresses in previous
years which very well suits with the understanding propagated in the RSS
circles. One can easily note that this understanding disregards the
difference between the British rulers and the earlier Muslim Kings who came
here. The British did not make India their home, whereas the Muslims who
came here, settled in India and contributed to the country’s culture which
gave birth to the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb ( syncretic culture)

Emergency, whose anniversary was recently ‘celebrated’, happened to be one
of the periods in ‘India’s transition to democracy when thousands and
thousands of political workers were put behind bars and there was severe
curtailment of civil liberties and democratic rights. It also happened to
be a period when media happily abandoned its role of a ‘watchdog’ of
democracy and sang paeans to the 20 point and 5 point programmes started by
the mother-son duo of Ms Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi, respectively.
Commenting on the behaviour of the media during the infamous period of
emergency, it was said that it ‘decided to crawl when it was asked to bend’.

Today, no such emergency exists but it is evident that the media wants to
demonstrate that it’s behaviour during emergency should not be considered
an exception.

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