By Haider Abbas
This is the eighth year in continuation, of the BJP led PM Narendra Modi government, and finally, the highest court of law in the country, the Supreme Court, has aired vibes, to entail as to how a section of media-houses, news agencies and outlets, have tried their grist into an always Hindu-Muslim denomination! The occasion had arisen when Chief Justice if India N V Ramana, according to The Indian Express ‘expressed concern over attempts by a section of the media to give communal colour to news and flagged lack of accountability of social media and digital platforms, saying they do not respond to complaints even from judges. “The problem is everything in this country is shown with a communal angle by a section of the media… The country is going to get a bad name ultimately,” the CJI said. He made these remarks while hearing a batch of petitions — the Bench also comprised Justices Surya Kant and A S Bopanna — which sought action against news channels for presenting news of the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) meeting at the Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi last year with alleged communal overtones. Expressing anguish over the manner in which social media and digital platforms tarnish institutions at times, the CJI said: “There seems to be no control on web portals. They can publish anything they like. If you go to YouTube, so much is shown in a minute. How much fake news and distortions take place! There is no control. Anybody can start any channel, any TV. These channels… there is no accountability. They never respond. This is the condition of institutions, forget individuals,” he said, adding “they consider only people who are powerful. Institutions, common man, judges, they do not. This is what we have seen.”’
Perhaps, this censure came from SC, in the wake of, now hundreds, if not thousands, of cases of Muslim lynching since 2014, in which, of course a section of media has played a very nefarious role, amounting to ‘communal hatred’ brooding to the very question of safety-and-security of Muslims, as the memories as to how media called for its communal odour, against Tablighi Jamaat (TJ), at the onset of first wave of COVID-19 pandemic is for all to see. TJ, the way it was called as a ‘super-spreader’ of Virus, has all been ‘cleared-off-the-charges’ by the respective courts. No such claim was made by media, during the second-wave, which killed far more-greater in numbers!
The one-eyed some media houses, however, are still ‘gung-ho’ in search to twist a news item against Muslims on the slightest pretext and to add communalism to it. Disturb the social-harmony and foment communal riots, so as to polarize the society on religious lines as polarization is what suits BJP the most. BJP has always harvested the communalism formula in terms of its votes percentage. This has come all the more handy, as UP CM Ajay Singh Bisht has always targeted one-particular community in all these around the last five years! This is not so hidden-an-agenda at all.
How media houses knelt to toe the UP government official line, came from a news, about the various media houses bagging the ‘preposterous package’ as Network18 got Rs 28.82 Cr got in terms of Ad revenue to be followed by ZeeMedia ( 23.48 Cr), the last being TimesGroup ( 5.97), reported News Laundry . The staggering amount of 160 Cr. has been doled-out to media-houses by UP government in one year! Does the UP populace ever has an inkling as to how the tax-payers money has been lavished on media-outlets, for only the aggrandizement of the government (sic) where there hadn’t been, of late, any slice of ever an objective-reportage.
The big blow-ups, posters and banners, of UP CM and India’s PM, singing-paeans, put across whole of UP is also but a grand-ploy to capture the minds of people with shots of glamour and pomp, but all which will wither-away, as no amount of galvanizing will suffice for the millions who have lost their loved-ones during the second-wave of COVID-19, where even the basic availability of Oxygen was a mirage!
Today the news portrays everything in terms of Hindus and Muslims. It is pitting more and more vitriol to further communalize the living-environment, no wonder, therefore, Rakesh Singh Tikait, the most ardent face of farmers resistance to BJP has expressed his fears that a ‘Hindu leader will be killed before UP polls as RSS will do it, reported Republic World on September 1 3. This he said is the ploy of RSS to divide the society, on absolute communal lines, and cruise to power by any means whatsoever. His words are a scarring evidence and cannot be taken lightly as he has been a long-time activist and has been spearheading the movement of farmers, against the three-farmer laws brought by Modi, and is an old cog who knows the government policies well. What, therefore, the political leadership of today’s India wants is just a divisive agenda and media is just permeates it with its full pervading means. Media is a ‘free-wheeling module ’ of government machinery now.
SC effort is an expression of anguish over the prevailing scenario but the big question is that when political-class gets away ‘scot-free’, as has been getting done, since at least 1986, when Babri Masjid was unlocked, why blame just media alone. But, since the observation has come from the highest body of law, it will surely ‘blunt-the-blade’ to some extent to make media downsize its communal rhetoric. Or may be media-may-assume-it as just a ‘routine’ as after all SC has only ‘observed it’.
It would have been much worthy if any committee, under the aegis of SC was to have been ordered, with full autonomy and independence, to prosecute such media-houses/ social-media outlets, for injecting poison into the body-politic of India, and until that happens, only then, such media houses will have their wings-clipped. An immediate effort to tighten the noose against such-media houses is what is needed or else media will continue in its own nemesis. May be a cue for a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is in the offing?
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and a political analyst.