Ranjona Banerji: Should Rajdeep Sardesai have got provoked?

14 Oct,2014

By Ranjona Banerji


Rajdeep Sardesai, former editor-in-chief  of CNN-IBN and now a consulting editor with the India Today group, got involved in what appeared to be an unseemly fracas with fans (of Indian origin) of Narendra Modi outside New York’s Madison Square Garden during the Indian prime minister’s recent visit to the US.


To recap, the videos made available online showed Sardesai calling a member of the public a body part that is considered a vulgar insult. The member of the public retaliated in kind. There was some pushing and shoving.


As usual, hysteria erupted over social media and on some news channels, especially Zee News which questioned Sardesai’s rise in journalism, targeting his wife and his father-in-law’s credentials. Social media and some journalists and many former journalists (possibly wondering why they’d switched to other professions when they could have been inside all this fun) decided to play judge, jury, executioner and sentenced Sardesai to the guillotine.


Others – especially journalists who were present at the scene, working for rival organisations as it were – jumped to Sardesai’s defence and provided their own eyewitness accounts. Such is the level of hatred on social media, particularly from fans of Narendra Modi, that the people who came up with their version were also excoriated. Bhupendra Chaubey of CNN-IBN tweeted that the man who had called Sardesai names had since apologised.


Trying to be objective on the issue was impossible. The videos available did not show what happened before Sardesai insulted the man. Reports suggested that Sardesai was jostled, hit in the back, told to take his family to Pakistan and his children were threatened. Then we were told that industrialist Gautam Adani, known to be close to Modi, apologised on behalf of the PM. Then Adani said he did apologise but of his own accord. Sardesai however was largely silent.


The journalists who had taken the anti-Sardesai position came up with even more bizarre suggestions on the incident, claiming that Sardesai should not have asked the questions he did, what was he doing there and so on, which only served to question their own journalistic credentials. It only takes four years out of a newsroom to get a good perspective on how many incompetents have risen to the top recently.


Now Sardesai has come out with his version of the incident. Oddly, the same journalists who ditched objectivity for senseless sensation are silent…



My view: Sardesai should have tried to avoid calling the man what he did. We are often provoked while doing our jobs and need to be able to use the appropriate language when that happens.


Any ideas from my fellow know-it-all journalists, former colleagues and others, on how to react when someone tells you that you and your family should move to Pakistan, implying that you are not a true Indian and that is because you are sympathetic to the cause of no discrimination to Muslims in India? The further implication is that you are not a patriot because you do not hate Muslims?




Of course, where the silence of the non-objective Muslim-hating journalist really stands out is with the “love jihad” story. Before the by-elections in September, which included Uttar Pradesh, the BJP under the aegis of Yogi Adiyanand had launched a massive campaign on the dangers of “love jihad”. Quite simply, Muslim men were romancing Hindu women in marrying them for the sole purpose of converting them to Islam to increase numbers.


A story emerged from Meerut of a young woman who managed to escape from a madarsa where she said she been kept captive, gang-raped and then converted to Islam. She claimed that 30 to 40 young women were also being held in the madarsa. The police made arrests and started inquiries. However, corroboration was not easily found. Journalists on social media had no such qualms about evidence or proof. They went ballistic against this conversion-to-Islam racket, falling in with the BJP’s election plans.


The results in UP were not quite what the BJP expected, senior Central BJP leaders attempted to distance themselves from the concept of  “love jihad” and the matter quietened down. Before this, another “love jihad” story had fallen apart when the woman involved denied it. I myself was scolded by journalists I know on twitter and Facebook for putting the story up and thus reducing the impact of the dangers of “love jihad” and also accused of purposely confusing this with the Meerut story. Now the woman in the Meerut story has also retracted her accusations, blaming her parents for interfering in her love life. So it was less “love jihad” and more “Khap panchayats in the way of true love”. But catch any “objective” journalist walking down that road!



“Hindu” outfits naturally see a further conspiracy in the women’s statement and I am certain that my “concerned” journalist friends are muttering about this in private. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/love-jihad-row-takes-new-turn-meerut-girl-retracts-statement/#sthash.73WxwyhP.uxfs



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3 responses to “Ranjona Banerji: Should Rajdeep Sardesai have got provoked?”

  1. Abdul Aziz says:

    Notorious theme of “Love Jihad” by BJP, Amit shah & Yogi Adityanath is based on pack of lies. Hindu vote bank is the sole audience & target.

  2. Guest says:

    The author does not seem to have an open mind on issues.Neither does she present facts.I have high regard and respect for Rajdeep.But he did not acquit himself well on that day.He berated the people assembled there.I will not blame only Rajdeep for such attitude.The media men always exhibit ‘holier than all’ attitude.They have every right to put questions,but can’t get disturbed if they don’t get the expected response.Media men may be clever but have no right to bully others.There is nothing to defend Rajdeep on the issue.The author could have called on the media fraternity to introspect .Press freedom and the rights of media men are not without responsibility and accountability.

  3. AnalyseAbhishek says:

    Everyone wants to believe in their preferred story, just like Ms Banerjee here. She is happy the girl did a volte face. Some others are are hoping there is another twist in the tail.
    But one thing is certain- people on the ground do not understand the fascination of our exalted upper middle class intellectuals, often living in tony city areas, for ‘saving Muslims from discrimination’. They feel Muslims are discriminated because, say, they are uneducated. Reality is more complex- often Muslim families do not like sending their children to secular schools.
    To cut a long story short, according to these people, all Indians should convert to Islam. This will solve a lot of problems.

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