Rethinking India – Vedchetan Patil

From past few days, I have constantly been thinking about India, India our country, our motherland, and the first thought was “what is India? What do I mean by India? What does, for that matter, we mean when we talk about ‘India’.

India, the land of farmers, India the land of philosophy, India- the land of idol-worshippers, India the land with diverse cultures blended by an unknown fibre of unity, India the land of villages where the beauty of life manifests itself into various forms, India the land of few globalised cities, India the land of the best Scientists and Jurists, India the land of Gold, the land of developing Industries, India the land which is rising back to the Zenith which it was bound to achieve, perhaps this is India.

Perhaps we must also think about the farmers who often sleep hungry, farmers who are born, live and die in debts, farmers who are robbed by their own Nation, farmers who are ignorant about the whole world, farmers whose lands are taken away by their own government on the name of development; perhaps we must also think about the Indians who are isolated, left way back by the system to suffer in their own lives surrounded by the ghettos, ghettos not only where humans dwell, but also the ghettos where crime and disagreement is nourished and prevails; perhaps we must also think about the villages where caste system- social structure can be witnessed at the zenith of its inhumane character, the villages where still the barbarism prevails with the peace and love which rises every morning with the Sun; perhaps in those lands of development, perhaps in those globalised Indian Cities where we study about the boom in the IT sector and Film Industry, we must also think about the those on the pavements whom we the civilised and globalised Indians, perhaps many of us, look at with disgust. When we contemplate about India perhaps we must also think about those still living a century behind us.

India- the world’s largest democracy, the world’s most corrupt and diverse state where politics is based on dynastic emotions, a democracy which thrives on the attachment of the people with their leaders rather than the policies of their leaders, a democracy where people vote their emotions and integrity with utmost loyalties to their parties, rather than a policy and development oriented vote. India- a democracy which sustains on its own vote bank calculations, India- a democracy which despite of all its loopholes have survived at all the levels of State. India- a democracy which has survived because of the faith of its people in its institutions and leaders.

And of-course least to mention democracy sustains on the public opinion and the makers of the public opinion, in a diverse country like India, are the masters of their respective lands. These masters, not necessarily power-holders, as seen in the Indian scenario, are generally the satraps of their respective castes and  regions and their appeal is universally focused on the spring of their common identity and historical or political bias which is inherently capable becoming ‘potential exploitative factor’ in the diverse and plural Indian society. In all the cases we must not forget the another important and major ‘opinion maker’ in Indian Society is our ever-celebrated, always criticised and TRP centric media, which by and large believes in creating an ‘issue’ out of everything possible, precisely our Indian Media is that tiger from the democratic den which is always out on a hunt and once the so called ‘deer’ of (potential) ‘sensational news’ is caught by one of the Media Tigers, then the entire fraternity enjoys it repetitively in bits and pieces till the time they have a new substance to hog on.

My entire contention in piece and parcel remains that whether this practice of generation and sensationalization of news and influencing the public opinion at large is righteous in its own nature or not and whether such acts and publishing and broadcasting stunts by the Media houses are justified in the light of the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and expression which as a part of settled law includes the freedom of Press.

The pioneering role of media in the sustainability of Modern Democratic State, has been a matter of debate and discussion for long all over the world, one may deliberate on this issue as per their own understanding and outlook toward the problem. Whether media is acting responsible enough to be truly called as the ‘4th Pillar of Democracy’ or is just one more sector of business, or is it mainly focusing on ‘Sensationalising News’ to boom its own business. The world and the country have debated enough on this issue, and I am sure all the readers may agree with me that this is a never ending debate.

However my outlook for the same problem is a little different and I would try to focus on the following issues to highlight the functional fallacies of Indian State and Indian people –

  1. Is Media acting like hypocrites
  2. Is Media correct in commercialization of News.

(The answer o the above questions may vary depending upon one’s perception about a particular News Channel and of course the relevant time when the above questions are asked.)

When we say Indian State, then some scholars may refer to the Government, but here I refer to the term State as a wholesome combined standing of the Government and its institutions along with the people and their associations and organisations which to a considerable extent represent the larger will of the different sections of the society. Secondly, hypocrisy of media can’t be outdone or checked by law and the commercialization of news is matter of fundamental right for the Media houses.

My point is when these two things of media cannot be checked either by law or by moral criticism, isn’t an option open to the masses at large to protect their opinion from getting influenced by such irresponsible acts of the strong media houses. The answer is of course yes, but the point remains how do we do that, given a condition that on an average Indian still remains ignorant about such opinion making strategy and is more vulnerable to fall prey of such business oriented media broadcasting.

Well, if I am to ask this question to myself, then this just reminds of two major ‘selling issues’ in India on which Indian Media survives, firstly our Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s loyalty towards Mrs. Gandhi and the family and secondly the largest selling rising leader of the Marathi Manoos– Mr. Raj Thackeray.

Happily our media portrays that — how powerless our Prime Minister is and how all his decisions are reversed by ‘Madame Gandhi’, fortunately our PM never comments nor attacks the Media for the allegedly wrong portrayal of his image like Mr. Raj Thackeray, but aptly few weeks back when some violence was reported at Azaad Maidan, Mumbai, when thousands of Muslims had gathered at the venue to protest against the Assam Violence, the prompt reaction by Thackeray by calling a ‘Shakti Pradarshan’ (Power Show) rally at the same venue was sharply criticised by media apprehending whether Raj was turning ‘Saffron’, reportedly the official answer was of course no, but ‘hats-off’ to his subsequent attack on media about cutting short his sentences and quoting and referring them without relevant context. It just reminds me of how he mocked the ‘news reporting’, who allegedly displayed his negative image and manipulated the public opinion against him.

Well least to mention, there are so many cases when Manmohan Singh has reversed the decisions of ‘Madame Gandhi’ but are not reported in the Media. The point is Why? Of course gentlemen- it doesn’t sell.

Also, let me take the liberty to revisit the Media hypocrisy and its irresponsible behaviour in the times of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Well I will not repeat the issue that media reports were watched by the terrorists sitting in the Taj and Oberoi hotels and that they got the entire report of the NSG movement sitting inside the hotels, but I would take the liberty that how media by its irresponsible behaviour is capable of manipulating the mass opinion. I remember there was a mass message which was circulated all over India which read as – “The entire NSG (National Security Guard) is constituted of North Indians and South Indians and no single marathi speaking soldier is present, hence Mumbai is saved by the North Indians and South Indians so that Raj Thackeray and his Marathi Manoos can sleep peacefully in Shivaji Park.” And surprisingly this message was continuously been highlighted on all the TV news channels, no doubt in the course of those two days, this message struck my cell phone too, being sent by one of my close friend- Himachal Pradesh based- daughter of a Senior Army official, my heart sank the moment I read that how just for the sake of money and to increase the TRP, media houses are maligning the sanctity of Indian Army by giving it a regional colour.

Well least to mention, the acts of Raj Thackeray may be justified by some and opposed by others for their own reasons of divisive politics and so called patriotism, all those who were present at the sight of 26/11 attacks including me had seen the MNS ambulances serving the injured by escorting them to the hospitals. What more can be expected from a politician, lets be rational and keep aside the political bias against him, of course I am sure no body who witnessed the attacks wanted Raj Thackeray to come with a rifle and fight with the terrorists. Lest, the then Central Home Minister Mr. Shivraj Patil just went back once from air port to change his shirt, good his trousers were neat and tidy and he didn’t think of changing them again thereby further delaying the NSG flight to Mumbai.

(I am happy that Indian Army personnel never created a issue on their postings in the different parts of the Country, lets imagine Rajputana Rifles or Maratha Lite Infantry (the names are based on Historical performances) serving in North East, Kashmir or Punjab border and our benevolent Media identifying the Indian Military units based on their origin and constituent armed soldiers.)

My point is not whether Raj is wrong or right, neither am I intending to highlight the saviours of Mumbai, I am precisely focused on when such statements are made and promoted by media in the times of crisis, when the entire sanctity of Indian Army is impliedly put to a regional test, isn’t it a grave act of misleading the public opinion?

Can we totally deny the possibility that an ordinary ‘marathi manoos’ who may not owe his allegiance to Raj Thackeray will become more vulnerable and emotionally attached to the Marathi sentiments when the entire valour and contribution of the Marathi Manoos in the service of Nation is brought to question by circulation and broadcast of such messages and statements. Precisely this is how our media affects and manipulates the public opinion and at times it may prove fatal to the very roots of the society and State.

In this series of articles I will specifically deal with following seven factors, the role of Media, manipulation of public opinion, diversion of public attention- which we have to consider before we could understand India as against propagated by Media-

  1. The Village structure- the caste system- the Land Acquisition- but they stand against the system- within land acquisition- the politics of Brahminisation and Hindu-Muslim race for supremacy over the lands. Major Labour class is from the low caste- so problems of agriculture widely vary.
  2. Globalisation- Arbitrary Land Acquisition.
  3. Urbanisation- Death of Indian Civilisation and birth of a new culture totally strange to the Indian way of life but slowly homogenised in Indian way.
  4. The politics of Supremacy amongst the castes, regions, parties.
  5. The parties with no philosophy, the politicians only with the greed for the power.
  6. The politics in the expectation of Sacrifice for Development.
  7. The clash between the Land-holders and land-acquirers and labours on the third side.

 (To be continued)

The Author is an advocate practicing at Bombay High Court.

One comment

  1. great analysis of India and its media
    keep it sir

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