Ranjona Banerji: Much ado about cross-border skirmishes

15 Jan,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Back in Mumbai after six weeks, I suddenly have to get used to reading newspapers early in the morning. On the outskirts of Dehra Dun where I have been, the newspapers don’t arrive till around noon. Often they are “dak” editions and this means that some of the news is more than a day old. In the days of 24-hour television news and the internet, it is difficult to justify this kind of arrogance for “mufussil” areas on the part of newspapers any more. One understands the difficulties of printing and travel but some thinking and perhaps use of technology needs to be done.

 

Meanwhile, I find myself missing the appropriately named Garhwal Post and the somewhat strangely named Himachal Times for a local Uttarakhand newspaper. The Post is a tabloid and it takes the business of newspapering very seriously. In its 18 to 20 pages, it manages to fit in serious national news, editorials, columns, local news, international news, entertainment, features and sports. In fact, it is a potted version of a larger newspaper and you really don’t feel like you’re missing out on much. The editorials are not always local either but present an excellent world view. The columns also deal with local and larger issues and very popular is the “tips” section where you learn that soaked nigella seeds help with indigestion and stuff like that.

 

The Himachal Times on the other hand prides itself on the small stories – “Car parked on Rajpur Road for three hours creates panic”. English is often conspicuous in its absence, making sometimes for a very enjoyable read.

 

The Times of India and Hindustan Times also have Doon supplements which are soft-feature driven and the TOI supplement at least comes from the Response editorial department. Production qualities are better but I would read the Garhwal Post over either of them anyday! The Hindu sends the Jaipur edition to Dehra Dun so you learn all about Jaipur.

 

Amar Ujala used to be the top Hindi newspaper but with the arrival of Dainik Jagran, everyone else seems to have been shaken up a bit. Hindustan has some mentions, especially for its entertainment section which one supposes is the power of Bollywood.

 

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Here in Mumbai, it is business as usual. The Times of India goes blanket, the Hindustan Times gives you focus, Mid-Day looks at the city and Indian Express has its own spin. I have still not felt the need to exchange The Economic Times for Mumbai Mirror so all I know is that Pooja Bhatt is very angry with Mirror, via Twitter!

 

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But the difference between Times Now and The Times of India over the current border tension is intriguing. It has been commented on before but it remains a subject of discussion. There’s the “Aman ki Asha” Times of India campaign running for a couple of years now and there’s the extremely provocative stance taken by Times Now and Arnab Goswami. The cynic tells us that this is part of some Bennett Coleman conspiracy to cover every angle, but I wonder.

 

It would be interesting to know however whether our news channels really think it is necessary for India and Pakistan to go to war over cross-border skirmishes. The sort of patriotic hysteria being drummed up every night itself borders on irresponsibility. You read the newspapers and you get news. But you watch television and you get a constant barrage of petulant questions seeking some sort of public apologies and declarations from both sides. The world is not yet, I reckon, run from TV studios.

 

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Without taking away from the pain of a brutal death, I am slightly squeamish about calling every soldier who has been killed a “martyr”. The horror of having an army with soldiers is that death is written into the employment contract. A martyr has a very specific definition of someone who has sacrificed himself for a greater cause. Harsh as it may sound, we pay members of the armed forces money to die on our behalf. There is a difference and sentimentality cannot change that.

 

Conversely however, it is heartening that the death of a jawan is causing so much pain since foot soldiers are usually forgotten in the battles of fat cat generals and the use of such unsightly terms like “friendly fire” and “collateral damage”.

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Contributing Editor, MxMIndia. The views here are her own

 

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