Ranjona Banerji: Silence, outrage & much fawning over the PM

01 Jul,2014

By Ranjona Banerji


The international media, at least such as we see it in India, is not unnaturally obsessed with the new “Caliphate” of ISIS which has apportioned to itself parts of Iraq and Syria. Since it now claims to speak for all Muslims and is a group which is even further to the fundamentalist right of al-Qaeda, ISIS represents everything the West and some parts of the rest of the world fears the most about Islam, Islamism and Islamic terrorism.


Of course, while the anchors and reporters are all worked up with moral outrage, most experts and commentators point to the USA’s inescapable role in the collapse of Iraq plus the effects of constant Western interference in the Middle East. Oil, as many have pointed out, has been the curse of the Arab world.


Just as a passing thought, I would love just once for some non-white television journalist to walk through New York, London, Paris and say to the camera, “I have been picking up chatter on the Christian street”. No?


Of the Indian news channels, Newsx appears to have someone in Baghdad. The rest are relying on feeds. Surprisingly, given the normal hyper-jingoistic nature of Indian TV news, the fate of the Indians living in Iraq has been rather subdued. One wonders why…


But then when you watch the fawning over the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was at Sriharikota to attend the launch of India’s 27th PSLV, you have your reasons. The launch, as someone pointed out, was not the news: Modi’s presence was. The PM was suitably impressed by the launch, the media was even more impressed by the PM and all is right with such a world.


The best takeaway from this launch however came from the Twitter handle @PMOIndia. This informed us that the PM ended his speech with “Bharat Mata ki hai” and also, in another tweet, that the PM had indeed concluded his speech. Modi also felt that India’s space programme was a “perfect example of his vision of Speed, Scale and Skill” – a remarkable achievement on the part of India’s scientists, given that the election was won as recently as May 16.




On television, we found also found other things to concern ourselves with: Trinamool Congress MP Tapas Pal’s appalling speech about how he would get people beaten up and women raped, the continuing saga of Preity Zinta and Ness Wadia, the rising price of onions, building collapses and the failing monsoon. Railway accidents we do tend to forget about the week after they happen and we are at that stage now. What rail accident, you ask? Indeed.




The most chilling story of last Sunday’s papers was from the woman who has accused BJP MP and minister Nihalchand Meghwal and many politicians, including from the Congress, of rape: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/my-husband-wanted-power-thats-why-he-brought-men-from-both-congress-and-bjp-to-me/


There is an odd silence from the Central government on this case and an even odder reluctance from the media to do its usual hammer and tongs act…




Then there’s this, which is also ripe for outrage, Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar takes about rape in a lighter vein: http://gulfnews.com/news/world/india/parrikar-s-rape-remark-insensitive-say-women-s-group-1.1353761




While we’re looking at issues to outrage about, has there been a blackout of the suicide attempt by Tanu Sharma of India TV? Too many skeletons, allegations to close to the quick? http://news.oneindia.in/feature/suicide-attempt-when-media-insider-cries-foul-why-does-media-fall-silent-1473101.html




For those who rail against the control that big business has on the media, was one of the world’s most celebrated sports writers made to leave The Times London after 32 years because he was too expensive or because he upset the rich huntin’ fishin’ fu….’ crowd? Simon Barnes leaves The Times: http://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2014/jun/27/thetimes-national-newspapers




And finally, the most complete silence of the media on a subject which it talks about to itself. The Mumbai Press Club organised a chat about Paranjoy Guha Thakurta’s new book on Reliance and gas pricing. The media attended and a “lively discussion” took place. Kalpana Sharma writes about what happened after that!


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