Print exposes Anna’s ‘barren’ truth

28 Dec,2011

By Ranjona Banerji


“Mumbai slow to Anna’s fast” said a front page headline in Mid-Day and that puts it succinctly. Hindustan Times, in its Mumbai edition, went with “Team Anna finds Mumbai cold, too” on page 2, nodding to both the fact that Tuesday was Mumbai’s coldest December day in 19 years as well as the reason for shifting the agitation from Delhi to Mumbai.


But that wasn’t the news of the day, as it happened. First it seemed it might be Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th 100, but then he got out at 73. After that, it was all about the debate in the Lok Sabha over the passing of the Lokpal Bill. Of course, bolstered by the knowledge that the whole country was with the India Against Corruption agitation at the MMRDA grounds in Mumbai, the Ramlila grounds inDelhiand all over the country, TV channels promised us non-stop coverage.


Unfortunately for all the time and money spent, not enough people showed up, either in Mumbai orDelhi. Unlike earlier times where TV cameras would concentrate on a small group and reporters would tell us that thousands had come, this time cameras ruthlessly panned empty grounds.


So how many people showed up? The Times of India gave it a generous 10,000 to 15,000. Times Now and Newsx said about 10,000 at its peak, 4,000 through the day and 1,000 by the evening. The Hindustan Times quoted the police figures of about 5,000 as well as India Against Corruption figures of 30,000. The last is possibly wishful thinking and by the evening on TV, crestfallen youth were telling us that this agitation isn’t about numbers at all. This is somewhat at odds with Arvind Kejriwal’s earlier statement that the whole country was with them and if Aruna Roy could gather a group of 50,000, then she could push the government for her bill.


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Of course, it is left to newspaper commentators to call Anna Hazare’s core team for their somewhat offensive language, since the cacophony on TV makes criticism very difficult. Hindustan Times has to be commended, for calling out Anna Hazare himself on his remark that “barren women cannot know the pain of childbirth”. The word “banjh” is a derogatory in most Indian languages and characterises the sort of insensitive language that is common usage in societies where sensitivity for the less unfortunate is unheard of.


In an aside, it was amusing to observe the absolute silence of the Mumbaikars present when Hazare held forth on the importance of village politics in his speech. One can imagine the youth scratching their heads wondering what on earth he could mean.


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The Lok Sabha debates and the confusion of whether the Constitutional amendment had been passed kept our TV anchors and studio guests busy till midnight. Luckily the Rajya Sabha was adjourned on Wednesday morning so the further passage of the bill is now delayed till tomorrow. The shortage of Constitutional experts available for TV consumption was felt very strongly on Tuesday.


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Cricket was back in the spotlight and there is now also space for the apparent reconciliation between the two Ambani brothers.


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For a change, the Rendezvous interviews conducted by Zainab Badawi on BBC News are quite refreshing. Guests range from Annie Lennox to Richard Dawkins to Michelle Yeoh, so the conversation is varied.


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