Newswatch: Vidyadhar Date on the Thackerays and the English media

27 Dec,2011

By Vidyadhar Date

 

There are several dimensions to the way the Shiv Sena looks at the media. I was present at the launch of the party’s mouthpiece Saamna in 1989. Bal Thackeray, the Sena chief, declared quite clearly that the Congress had made money in the municipal corporation in Mumbai for all these years and now they are going to do that.

 

That was the ideological framework in which their mouthpiece was launched. Uddhav Thackeray had not arrived on the scene then. But now the Sena has launched his son, Aditya as well. The Sena now gets respectability from various quarters.

 

The recent full page write-up, in what can be termed as ‘paid news format’, praised the Shiv Sena’s performance in the civic body in a ‘Response Connect initiative’ in Maharashtra Times on December 21. The feature can be seen as virtually the launch of the campaign for the civic elections in February 2012.

 

What takes the cake is the projection of Aditya Thackeray as a youth leader whose efforts gave a roof to poor municipal students to study for their examinations. Night-time study centres were started in 16 municipal schools because of his alleged efforts. The credit is also been given to the Yuva Sena which he heads.

 

Now a team from the civic body will also inspect sanitary facilities in civic schools, again thanks to the young man’s virtual directive to the municipal standing committee.

 

A good section of the English language media has often gone out of its way to prop up the Shiv Sena. I have seen this from close quarters in The Times of India where I worked for over 30 years.

 

A senior executive of the paper claimed that it was because of the Shiv Sena that Hindus in Mumbai were saved, post Babri Masjid demolition riots. Maharashtra Times, headed for many years by Govind Talwalkar, an erstwhile follower of MN Roy, has changed considerably in the last few years. Its editor, Bharatkumar Raut, went on to become a Shiv Sena MP. After this, he ceased to be the editor but remained as editorial adviser to the TOI group.

 

A Hindustan Times Media Marketing Initiative of December 22 gave full page coverage to the Shiv Sena for providing allegedly ultra-modern health facilities. The page is full of pictures of Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sainiks and medical equipment. All credit is given to Mr Thackeray.

 

Ironically, Uddhav Thackeray released CDs of the historic daily Maratha earlier this month at a function organised by his family. Maratha, now defunct, was a roaring voice for ordinary, poor people during the Samyukta Maharashtra agitation in the 1950s. It was fairly left-wing and its famous editor, litterateur Acharya Atre, was often accused by the Sena in the past of being a Communist sympathiser. Atre and Uddhav’s grandfather, Prabodhankar Thackeray, were at loggerheads and indulged in much mud-slinging in the media in the late 1950s. It is said that the term Shiv Sena was actually coined by Atre though he had quite a different kind of Sena in mind.

 

The Atre family deserves credit for preserving the paper for posterity in digital form. Even large media groups with huge resources have failed to preserve their history in this way. The TOI, which claims to be the world’s largest selling daily, has not democratised its content, and one has to pay high fees to see a single page of the microfilm content of the paper.

 

Curiously, the Atre family was approached by the Congress party, the Sena and the Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, for preservation of Maratha’s old files, according to Meena Deshpande, daughter of Acharya Atre and author of a Marathi novel on the Samyukta Maharashtra agitation.

 

Interestingly, Narayan Rane, a former Shiv Sena chief minister, and now Congress minister, used his Marathi daily Prahar (assault) to attack the media calling it “dirty media”. “Dirty picture, dirty media” is the headline of the front page signed article by Narayan Rane on December 22. He was incensed by the electronic media’s coverage of legislators when they went to see Dirty Picture at a theatre inNagpurduring the legislature session there. The media had no right to intrude on the privacy of the legislators, he claimed.

 

The writer is a veteran journalist.

 

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