How HC took the wind out of our channels’ sails

26 Dec,2011

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The Bombay High Court sort of took the wind out of the sails of not just the Anna Hazare movement, but also our excitable TV channels. Suddenly, their high-pitched pro-Hazare campaigns had to deal with a court questioning the motives of this save-India hysteria.

 

The best way out was to just sidestep the issue, so Times Now went further into the reservation issue, plus an interview with Justice JS Verma who supports it, Headlines Today dwelt on the court a bit but concentrated on the now-tedious arguments between India Against Corruption activists and others, NDTV interviewed Arvind Kejriwal and so on.

 

The newspapers, however, did not restrain themselves, except perhaps The Times of India, whose headline on Saturday was a staid: “Allowing agitation may be akin to meddling with House affairs: HC”. Compare this with Hindustan Times: “After HC snub, Anna blames team” or The Telegraph,Calcutta: “Team Anna gets a lesson in democracy” or Deccan Chronicle,Hyderabad: “Team Anna earns sharp rebuke from Bombay High Court”. Mid-Day, surprisingly, did not have it on the front page. It was, after all, a Mumbai story.

 

The Bombay High Court indeed pointed out that it could not grant concessions to the movement as it was not convinced that this was a people’s movement and an endorsement by the court would be tantamount to the judiciary interfering with Parliamentary procedure.

 

The judges said, “How is country’s interest involved? We are a democratic set up. We have elected a government. Wouldn’t your agitation interfere in the functioning of Parliament? The bill will be debated in Parliament where our elected representatives will plead our case.”

 

Mani Shankar Aiyar was quick to point out that the point made by the court was too sophisticated for Anna Hazare’s followers to understand! Interestingly, Anna Hazare and his followers were sensible enough to refrain from attacking the court for being anti-people or anti-democracy.

 

The flip-flop on accepting donations by Anna Hazare (first no and now that they need the money, yes) was also downplayed by The Times of India but not by others.

 

Hindustan Times also carries a story about how an anti-Jan Lokpal agitation is now going on at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan, with activists, celebrities and journalists taking part. Perhaps this is democracy at work? Agitations against agitations?

 

* * *

Three edit pages pieces were well worth reading on Saturday morning. Jay Panda, MP, argued cogently for small “tweaks” in our current Parliamentary system to make it more up-to-date, while dismissing arguments for a change to the presidential system in The Times of India.

 

Ramchandra Guha, historian, talked about how exasperated he has been in 2011 by Anna Hazare and his followers, the BJP and the government in Hindustan Times.

 

And the piece de resistance was by Shekhar Gupta, editor of Indian Express, on the caste dynamics in corruption cases inIndia. He makes a compelling argument for the way in which the system is loaded against lower castes and religious minorities, in corruption and criminal cases – with examples. He also points out that our upper castes and classes are the most prejudiced section of society.

 

Thought-provoking and definitely a must-read.

 

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