“I am a nationalist. And I want to say today that being a nationalist is a prerequisite to being a journalist. In our reporting and in our relentless pursuit of the truth, our nationalism is our strength, our nationalism is at our core.”
(Arnab Goswami when he launched his new television channel )
Then why dear Arnab Goswami are you not in uniform? You should join the Indian Army as there you can be a nationalist, militaristist, and can wage war with all your might. You will be well looked after by the Army, believe me as I have spent my young years in cantonments and there can be no happier environment. And in uniform you will have a weapon, the use of which will be considered legitimate. And you can then fire away, actually with real bullets, at the damn Pakistanis and every now and again at these Kashmiris and various Indian- Muslim-Pakistan- supporters, and terrorists, and what have you dotting the Indian landscape, and getting your goat. Of course, the Army is a professional force but then who knows, you might change it to your indiscriminate rat-a-tat point of view, or else a miracle might happen. And the Army might discipline you!
Of course there you will be in the field, braving real bullets too. And when these hit, it will hurt, or even kill. Thats a scary thought right? Better to sit in an airconditioned studio, fancy yourself as the Republic (I know I know you were not allowed to use the ‘the’ word) and wage war at the drop of a hat. How powerful is that! (and how convenient but hush, thats just a secret between you and me).
This second letter I am writing to you—the first when you were in Times Now setting new standards of what you call journalism— has been inspired not by the content of your well funded channel, but by the words that you are reported to have said on the first day of what I believe was a launch (quoted above). As in those words you have tried to re-define journalism and that would have been fine I guess as you are so powerful, but unfortunately that no journalist passionate about this amazing profession can really let pass.
First a little bit about ‘nationalism’. This was first defined through the struggle for independence, that of course many who you so admire and who so admire you, were not even ideologically part of. It was a progressive, liberal struggle getting its strength from non-violence and with it peace, compassion, pluralism, secularism, equality with no distinction between castes and class. And much of what the struggle against the British stood for, was incorporated in the Constitution of India on which the freedom and the democracy of India rests.Thus, ‘nationalism’ remained a word that was barely used by the founding fathers of the amazing document, stood alongside citizenship, and the bottom line was and is : all citizens are citizens, with equal rights and responsibilities with the first being guarded in the Constitution as fundamental rights. Gandhi, for instance, never attacked those siding with the British through those long years as anti-nationals but then he was a great man, felled by an anti-national—is that usage right, do correct me if not—for precisely being who he was!
There is nothing, repeat nothing in the Constitution of India, the only document for all of us citizens, about macho-ism, and militarism as being the defining characterestics of a nationalism that seeks to differentiate between citizens of India, that usurps the right to judge others, that seeks to control an individuals choices–be these of marriage, food, music, films, books, paintings et al. And that derives its legitimacy from hate. This is because our Constitution recognised the strength of India, and of her citizens, and did not need to seek legitimacy by waging war against students, the poor, the minorities on the basis of brute power. Be that power in the executive and its agencies, or in television studios!
Journalists are not individuals but part of a profession called Journalism. And even though many of us hate to accept it, this journalism runs according to a code of ethics and principles. Its importance has been recognised world wide as a watchdog and in several democracies, including ours, as the fourth pillar that derives its strength not from the money bags who fund us no matter how important they or we think them to be, or from governments (in fact quite the opposite), but from the people. The masses of India.
We dear Mr Goswami are agents of the people, and not agents of power as journalists bigger than us,like John Pilger have said. Power is government, corporates, the ruling classes. The people are that poor Kashmiri youth tied to the front of the Army jeep as a human shield who you have so angrily written about with, “I am amazed that the same media has the temerity to question when an army officer makes a civilian sit on the bonnet of a car as a last act of self-defence.” Temerity? Seriously? Even The Republic does not give you the right to use that word against those doing their job honestly, let alone a funded channel like republic. Interesting that even the Army realised that this was not the way to go, and ordered an enquiry with apologies. And that someone who professes to be a journalist is defending the indefensible action!
Doyens in journalism, recognised, respected and revered and not just watched for Trp ratings, across the world have written volumes establishing that true journalism comes from its ability to question power, and to use the poorest of the poor as the yardstick for reportage. In India journalists were trained by professional editors in the earlier days valuing honesty, courage and independence to question the governments (regardless of the political party), follow the Constitution, articulate the voices of the poor, and be the independent communicators of this democracy. In my long years never did we declare our nationalism. And certainly never held pro-power, fawning journalism to be nationalist.
Perhaps you might to explore the difference between patrotism and nationalism, just a suggestion, don’t take it amiss.
So just as I began this article with a quote from your launching remarks that left me stunned all over again as being a silly optimist I had thought the hiatus might have leant itself to a makeover, let me end with a quote from Albert Camus: “I love my country too much to be a nationalist”.
Goodbye, and all the best for republic but it would help if you ensured it was included in the Entertainment section on Tata Sky and not News!