Down with Meenakshi Lekhi!

13 Dec,2013

YouTube screengrab of BJP's Meenakshi Lekhi on Newshour on Times Now on Thursday, December 12

 

By Ranjona Banerji

 

I have been both an admirer and a very harsh critic of Times Now’s editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami in these columns. But now I come as an admirer. His equanimity in dealing with an appalling personal comment on the News Hour debate on Thursday night is truly commendable. The BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi accused Goswami of taking money from interested lobbies in a discussion on political reactions to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises homosexuality.

 

While Lekhi is free to have her personal opinions about homosexuality and morality, she perhaps found herself cornered in this discussion. Her stand was that the whole fuss about the Supreme Court recriminalising homosexuality was “much ado about nothing” – although the media and many sections of Indian society are up in arms. The media has sided with human rights, dignity and the rights of the LGBT community. These may not be the same views as the conservative part of society, which Lekhi’s party represents. But to accuse Goswami and the media of being paid to stand up for Constitutional freedom is unacceptable.

 

It is to Goswami’s great credit that after a somewhat menacing exchange with Lekhi, he continued with the show. However, by then the atmosphere had changed and it was a very subdued and hurried end to what had until then been a lively discussion.

 

Casual conversation nowadays often refers to “paid media”, thanks mainly to the media itself discussing it. But that does not give licence to people to point fingers at someone’s personal integrity without proof on national television. The idea itself is ludicrous: that the LGBT community will have paid everyone from the media to lawyers to politicians to speak out against a clear attack on human rights. If indeed the LGBT community could do that much, then Section 377 might have been struck down long ago by legislation.

 

But logic is not part of this argument. The fact is that the Congress, unlike its normal pusillanimous self these days, came out strongly against Section 377. The BJP has obfuscated the issue. Lekhi herself first said that she was happy that Section 377 was not struck down. And then she came up with this “much ado about nothing” line, a blatant misuse of Shakespeare if any. Instead of being feted on news television the way it normally is these days, Lekhi found herself under attack. A mention of the RSS – the mother organisation from which the BJP draws its moral strength and raison d’etre – and Lekhi saw red.

 

It is possible that Goswami will be the larger person and let Lekhi’s comments go. But they are no less reprehensible for all that and represent an attack on media integrity as a whole. In my view, Goswami should not let it go. Legal action is a possible recourse for him since Lekhi’s remarks can be seen as defamation. But the media and the BJP need to relook at the suitability of Lekhi as a spokesperson. Much as television in India has challenged all norms of civilised behaviour, this one crossed the line.

 

**

 

The English media has been, as is evident, ranged against the Supreme Court after this judgment and came out in full support of the LGBT community. Newspaper coverage, from front pages to editorials, has spoken in one voice. So has news television. This is most welcome. Although there is likely to be a backlash from conservative and religious voices – letters to the editor already suggest as much – the media has not flinched. Indeed religious leaders of all colours have been made to explain themselves on TV, much to their discomfiture. Interviews with parents of gay children have given us the human picture of the families and support structures affected by this judgment. The grandmother on Barkha Dutt’s show on NDTV is most memorable, bringing tears to everyone’s eyes. Rahul Eeshwar – who often represents the right wing voice on TV especially on religious matters – was shot down when he tried to present his bogus science on Times Now on Wednesday night. Vikram Seth’s interview to Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN’s Devil’s Advocate presented the pain of the Indian homosexual in erudite terms.

 

**

 

Social media as ever was at the vanguard of the anger against the Supreme Court and Twitter certainly offers a quick idea of how the wind is blowing – even if it is limited socially and economically. For the most part, apart from some absurd tweets which said Sonia Gandhi was against Section 377 because all homosexuals are Christian, the rabid side of Twitter was less apparent.

 

Post a Comment 

7 responses to “Down with Meenakshi Lekhi!”

  1. naren says:

    Does the nation not want to know this 😉

  2. Vintam says:

    I don;t agree with you Madam. Arnab Goswami has a knack of being obnoxious, contemptuous and even disrespectful while interviewing people. At an interaction of the TV News Media with the PM last year during the height of coal gate and CWG mess, Mr. Goswami was severely pulled up by the Press Secretary of India in front of all his contemporaries and senior journalists for behaving in a rude manner with the PM. If Meenakshi Lekhi has responded the way she has then Arnab Goswami deserves it. The way he tried to shut her up by insinuating that the BJP is the stooge of the RSS with a contemptuous smile, anyone would have reacted the way she did. And as far as paid news goes, well its an open secret that the Times of India is one of the biggest beneficiaries of paid news.

  3. raji says:

    Arnab’s allegations are not allegations. RSS BP Singhal was the lead petitioner in this case in 2009..

    In any case RSS doesnot believe in women/minority rights and freemdom so forget about LGBT..

  4. Ron says:

    This article is stupid. Arnab was being an asshole on the show.

  5. Rags says:

    Dishonest review. Instead of just a screen grab, the author must post the video itself so that everyone can see the truth. It was a correct response by Mrs. Lekhi to the provocation of the channel stooge-in-charge.

  6. Robot says:

    Pathetic article. Could the author let the world know that Press Council of India in it’s report in 2010 named Benetton Coleman involved in paid news service. Does Arnab have the guts to question Sonia Maino in a live interview for falsely swearing in affidavit saying she has graduated from Oxford in 2004 ?

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