What is democracy without free press?
Once bitten twice shy. A cat that has fallen in hot water will scoot even at the sight of cold water. Modi delighted to interact with the press in London but flatly refused it in Washington and resolfutely turned down a press conference suggested by the American side. Why?
Was it because the democrat in him took flight or because there is a not a trace of democrat in him but only the one-way diktat-Modi of ‘Man ki bath’ talking down to people and not listening to them or to anyone? You readers draw your own conclusion! World press hailed them both, Modi and Trump for their close affinity to tweeting (talking to people) and their aversion to free press, especially holding press conferences and taking questions to answer.
The lynching of 16-year old Junaid Khan from Haryana by a Hindu lynch mob shook the whole world and reacted with protests ‘Not in my name’ but globe trotting Modi troop had no eyes to see, no ears to hear, no heart to understand, no mouth to utter a word and no angst to express abroad, on what is happening daily in the country! Believable? Mr Modi was “cucumber cool”, as writer Anand rightly points out in an article below: Take lessons from Gandhi. Why? Didn’t we all look to Modi as the action-hero of Indian PMs? Think of the ‘swatch Bharath campaign’, ‘Yoga promotion campaign and make in India campaigns’ all actions going on.
Modi, Man of Action
Think again of demonitisation executive order at midnight and subsequent interventions to correct flaws every week, frequent flights to world capitals, the big-big hugs which spoke louder than words! All speak of Modi as a man of action! Yet why was there no instant arrests of ‘Gav Baktas’, the daylight murderers of Muslims, mostly in BJP ruled states? Why even now he refuses to take action against these ‘Baktas’? Is it because they are part and parcel of the RSS “the mother body of political Hinduism, to which he has paid allegiance since his teen years” asks BJP Shatrughan Sinha.
Our columnist below further questions: “Is this, how he would have reacted if members of the majority community had been targeted and done to death in cold blood by gangs roaming free”? Why these vigilante groups have not been asked to close shop instantly? There have been as many as 20 such episodes in the past six months alone, according to reports. Due to callous or calculated inaction from the top executive to imprison these goons and criminals, have we not turned our largest democracy into a mobocracy or anarchy?
Modi and Press freedom
Modi is described as the who has beaten all others in visiting more countries and spending more time on tour abroad than any other PMs, also spent less time in the country than any other. The best way to see one’s country and learn about it is to look at it from abroad and compare it with the country one is looking from. So Modi must have learned a lot about India’s democratic credentials and press freedom or its lack at home or abroad.
Definitly Modi is changing and improving on many fronts but it looks he has to go a long way more in listening and taking questions from an aggressive and critical press. Trump is not praised, but blamed for fighting with the CNN and calling all press ‘fake news’. In India press is called “Prestitute”. In US it used to be ‘embedded journalism’ and now under Trump “Fake news”.
What to learn from Gandhi?
When 9/11 happeed in New York, the French saw it, felt themselves one with the shattered US and said: “To day we are all Americans!” says the author of the article below. This scribe also saw it and wrote the article: “God Save America” in Indian currents.
When blood flowed after the India-Pak partition, a Mahatma would rush to a Muslim and ask: “Are you safe?” which some of his Hindu friends didn’t relish. To them he said: if he were in Muslim-majority Pakistan he would have rushed to the Hindu in similar disress and asked th same. Mercy, compassion and fellow feeling beyond the divisive lines of religion and nationality, is the lesson that we including Modi have to learn from Gandhi
It is here the press in India has a herculean task to do to help Modi to be a ‘Man of Action’ in dialoguing constructively with a critical press – press has to be critical — through persuation not through attacks or shouting, but using all the four tricks of “Samam, Danam, Bhedam, Dennam.” The CBI investigation of NDTV is the kind of measure Modi Government should desist from doing, as it should be the last step “Dennam” for both the parties to resort to. So let mercy, compassion and fellow feeling as humans break down all divisive religious barriers in India!. james kottoor, editor, ccv
Please read below Anand K Sahay’ article on taking lessons from Gandhi
Lessons from Gandhi that Modi could learn
Can Mr Modi understand that? Can his party? Can the RSS? The question is important because these entities are in power.
Narendra Modi took a lesson from his experience in London when he was last there as Prime Minister. So, in Washington recently, he flatly declined to take questions from the media. A joint press meet along with President Donald Trump was proposed by the American side and then taken off the menu.
Washington had suggested just one question each for the two leaders, not more. Evidently, the PM was keen to duck even that. He had been singed in London by a British reporter’s volley on a Hindutva matter.
In Mr Modi’s India there are too many things happening simultaneously on the Hindutva front, and “Sabka saath, sabka vikas” — the anodyne mantra promising development for all without discrimination, as though this isn’t what the Constitution mandates anyway — won’t fob off a determined press in the Western hemisphere.
Frankly, it won’t do so in India either. The Indian media has caved in by and large, scared further by bullying searches by the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate or income-tax authorities. But annoyingly for the government, the breed of questioning souls is not extinct in the press.
That’s why the PM has taken to being blasé, not risking a single professional interaction with the community of journalists in three years, not even to repeat the tired taglines of his administration with which his one-way communication through the radio, television and social media — or when he takes the mike, specially in front of overseas Indians audiences — are plastered.
Like it or not, that’s India’s democratic dispensation for you at present. The star witness for the defence refuses to take the stand.
And in the current context, the killing of the 16-year-old Junaid Khan from Haryana by a Hindu lynch mob, who first accused him of being a “beef-eater” and then thrashed and knife-stabbed him to death before tossing his lifeless body on to a railway platform at a wayside station, was oven fresh when the PM landed in the US.
The boy was returning home from Delhi, where he’d gone for Id shopping. Id-ul-Fitr, the big day of Muslims, was three days away. The crime appeared too shocking, too brutal, too unreal to be true, and yet, the stark truth could not be hidden, not even by those who disabled the CCTV cameras. The murder drew a gasp from anyone who heard about it, regardless of religious affiliation. But the Government of India heard nothing. Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was the exception. He alone responded with angered shock in a public statement, like a decent human being.
In his monthly radio broadcast “Mann ki Baat”, aired on Sundays, Mr Modi was cucumber cool. He pattered on about the sanctity of the Muslim fasting month of Ramzan, which culminates in Id. He praised a Muslim-majority village in Uttar Pradesh, which had built community toilets, spurning government funds. But on the cold-blooded murder of a young Muslim boy days before Id, he let maun vrat or silence prevail.
In this, he was being himself — one who sings paeans of self-praise and refers to opponents in indecorous and mocking terms, in season and out of season, within the country and when travelling abroad — and, studiously avoids making any mention of even deeply-disturbing happenings such as the killing of Muslims, the killing of dalits, the shooting dead of farmers by the police.
However, at Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram on June 29, the PM’s hand was forced. The night before, in cities across India, including in the nation’s capital, as well as at the renowned School of Oriental and African Studies in faraway London, ordinary Indians of many hues held massive protest rallies, calling these coordinated events “Not In My Name”, to raise their voice against the lynching of Junaid and the rising tempo of mob killings of Indian Muslims in the name of cow protection.
Unofficial figures suggest there have been as many as 20 such episodes in the past six months alone, and there is no known record yet of anyone facing punishment.
At last Mr Modi spoke at Gandhi’s ashram, but was again anodyne. He said killings in the name of “gau bhakti” (cow devotion) were “unacceptable”, and “will not be tolerated”. That’s it. Nothing about what action would follow, or holding the authorities responsible.
Last August, the PM had called the vigilante killers “anti-social”, giving us a new synonym for murder. The vigilantes are naturally unimpressed. Perhaps they know that Mr Modi does not mean business and that threatening noises are pro forma.
The PM should ask himself a single question: “Is this how he would have reacted if members of the majority community had been targeted and done to death in cold blood by gangs roaming free”?
For good measure, Mr Modi also said at Sabarmati Ashram that Gandhiji would not have approved of what was happening and urged us to follow the Mahatma’s teachings. Is this for real? If the PM means what he says, he will have to ask the RSS, the mother body of political Hinduism, to which he has paid allegiance since his teen years, to close shop. This is because the RSS and Gandhi are opposite poles, and those who assassinated Gandhi were influenced by the precepts of political Hinduism.
When the outrage of September 11 took place in America, the French gave the rallying cry, “Today we are all Americans!” This was a compelling expression of solidarity with the victims. It woke us up. If Gandhi were alive now, he would have gone on a fast, his hallmark act of atonement, and might have said, “We are all Muslims today!”Can Mr Modi understand that? Can his party? Can the RSS? The question is important because these entities are in power.
Just after the Partition of India, when communal hatred had made blood flow, Gandhi would rush to the aid of the Muslim and ask if he felt safe. Many Hindus did not like this. The Mahatma told them, if he were in Muslim-majority Pakistan he would have rushed to the Hindu and asked the same question.
Compassion for the victim was Gandhi’s credo. This is also the essence of pluralism and democracy in the true sense. Mr Modi does not seem to know this from his training or temperament. Can he still try to learn because he is the PM.