Turning 50 and other problems!

16 Dec,2011

By Ranjona Banerji

 

I was quite happy to discover that this is my 50th update for Freaking News and am unhappy to find that I was so wrong yesterday. By the evening, it seemed that TV had decided that the shenanigans of Team Anna required as much exposure as possible and that being sensible was just a whole lot of horse feathers, while being unreasonable was so much more fun. So there were members of the core committee of the anti-corruption movement doing their normal threatening and grandstanding all over TV and this morning had an unpleasant photograph of Anna Hazare and Kiran Bedi ominously wagging their fingers at us. Bedi on Times Now was as annoying as she can be, insisting that the Cabinet and Parliament must go no further than the Jan Lokpal Bill.

 

But it was later that matters got really appalling on Times Now as Mumbai-based film-maker and activist Ashok Pandit (I did not recognise him because his grey hair has turned black) accused another guest of being a terrorist because she looks like one (a Muslim, she was, of course – Hamida Naeem, a lecturer at Kashmir University). What was even worse was that although Arnab Goswami said “no personal remarks”, he did not stop Pandit and neither did the other guests, Madhu Kishwar and retired general, Shankar Prasad. The issue was the death of a young shopkeeper in Kashmir who was beaten to death because he refused to shut shop. The people who killed him are called “stone-pelters”, a special breed of humans who exist only on TV land. TV wanted to know why the Armed Forces were blamed for all kinds of things but “stone-pelters” are not condemned with the same outrage by hardline separatist groups in Kashmir. The many specious conclusions in this argument need another whole article to deal with them.

 

So I was wrong again because I really believed that the deaths of 145 people from drinking adulterated illegal alcohol in West Bengal needed more prominence.

 

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The end of the American occupation of Iraq got plenty of play on international channels but only minimal on Indian TV, not unnaturally. The newspapers as usual filled in the gaps.

 

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The Hindu has an interesting editorial on how the BJP loved Union home minister P Chidambaram when he was tough on Naxals and Maoists but are currently gunning for him because he targeting Hindutva-inspired terror groups. Who knows, this may well be true.

 

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After the Parliamentary debate on black money, newspapers could have given us more figures on the parallel economy in India, its size and reach. The problem is not just about money stashed abroad: it is as much about the money within India which never enters the system and so bypasses not just tax but also quality control and standards laws.

 

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Incidentally, just for the information of our ultra-jingoistic TV-wallahs, the battle against the Armed Forces Special Protection Act is not limited to Kashmir – the act is also why Irom Sharmila has been on a hunger strike for over 10 years in Manipur. Do we as journalists have the mandate to take sides without adequate information?

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