Ranjona Banerji: Absurd questions for the PM, and propah ones for RaGa

17 May,2019

By Ranjona Banerji

 

On Wednesday afternoon, the day after Amit Shah’s May 14 rally in Kolkata, where there was violence and destruction, I flipped through a few “news” channels. I find it easier to avoid television except for sports, but I was curious. This was the news on offer: The release of the BJP member who made a meme on Mamata Banerjee, the release of the BJP member who made a meme on Mamata Banerjee, Amit Shah’s press conference on the rally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi giving a speech…

No follow up to the violence itself. Nothing on the destruction of the statue of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, a 19th century educationist and social reformer. The move was already on amongst our fearless media colleagues to whitewash events and take sides.

By this time, videos of men waving BJP flags, wearing orange T-shirts, yelling in Hindi and breaking through the gates of Vidyasagar College on Kolkata’s iconic College Street were all over social media. Journalists had the option to follow up or just skim the surface.

The challenge for journalism becomes starker and more difficult as time passes. At the simplest level, this is because too many senior journalists have just given in and do not provide the necessary guidance to the young and the enthusiastic, is my conjecture. As newsrooms leave the basics of investigation and fact-checking to independent fact-checking websites, and concentrate on the instant drama of he-said-she-said, the further down the spiral we will fall.

The contrast between the interviews of Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi conducted by News Nation TV is a fine example of this. The interviewer was the same: Deepak Chaurasia, one of TV’s first names. To Modi, we got absurd questions about owning purses and equally absurd answers about radar detection and using email before it was invented. None of these claims by the PM were contested. To Rahul Gandhi, we got proper questions about campaign promises and the Congress Party’s intentions.

The Times of India edition dated May 16, which we get in Dehradun, leads with the Election Commission ending polling early in Bengal. The story is bylined Bharti Jain, which is most appropriate for a Bengal-related story since this is the same TOI senior journalist who retweeted a series of rightwing lies about Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen. Who else should cover a Bengal story and that too from Delhi, (as per the dateline)? Fittingly, the story does not really go back to what happened and concentrates more on the BJP president’s complaints than anything else.

Here is The Telegraph, Kolkata:

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/clash-of-cultures-shocked-bengal-witnesses-vandalism-of-vidyasagar-bust/cid/1690570?ref=topic-stories

 

https://www.telegraphindia.com/states/west-bengal/vidyasagar-bust-vandalised-in-calcutta/cid/1690571?ref=topic-stories

 

Veteran journalist Shikha Mukherjee writes in The Wire about the importance of Vidyasagar’s legacy:

https://thewire.in/politics/vidyasagar-bengal-statue-vandalism-bjp

 

And since we depend on them now to do our jobs, I give you AltNews on how the violence on College Street broke out and how the BJP tried to to manage the discourse:

https://www.altnews.in/a-fact-check-of-claims-made-by-bjp-about-vidyasagar-college-violence/

 

**

In funnier news, Vrinda Gopinath writes this hilarious piece, tearing apart Modi’s claims of “simplicity”, in her inimitable style:

https://www.newslaundry.com/2019/05/14/narendra-modi-a-humble-chaiwallahs-billion-dollar-lifestyle?fbclid=IwAR1R273nxHb40FtO5ruqxaWmHuC45WeWL4pxwYPH2-643XOXKeFe-O-Gg_4

By tweeting this, I have been “attacked” by several “Chowkidar” Twitter handles, that is BJP supporters, and I must publicly apologise to Vrinda because they are crediting me with her fantastic expose!!

Read and enjoy!

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. Her views here are personal

 

 

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