Ranjona Banerji: When Evil will not be Seen nor Heard nor Spoken

07 Oct,2014

By Ranjona Banerji


Rahul Shrivastava of NDTV has written a blog about covering prime minister Narendra Modi, especially his recent visit to the US. Modi, often seen as India’s most media-savvy politician, does not in fact interact with the media. You ask him a question, he walks away. Well, surprise, surprise. Think back to Karan Thapar all those years ago. In fact, think a little about why he is India’s most media savvy politician. It’s because he plays hard to get and keeps you hoping and waiting.


Think about the long line of senior journalists who sucked up to Modi like mad before the 2014 general elections hoping to get some government post or the other. Now think about how many actually got them. Er, none. Modi went with an old familiar from Gujarat to handle his press office. The once great journalist and editor MJ Akbar has been reduced to a cipher after joining the BJP. He is just one more in a list of mandatory Muslims to prove that the BJP is not opposed to all Muslims, just those who do not kowtow to Hindutva thinking.


When it came to choosing which TV channel to speak to and which journalist to give his first big interview to, did Modi choose from any of those senior TV anchors who tried so hard to get his attention? No, he decided on Fareed Zakaria. Of Indian origin but US-based, works for a foreign media group but the parent company of its Indian alliance is owned by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance which is alleged to have been one of Modi’s main campaign financiers and what a coup, a Muslim. Once more Modi trumped all his chamchas – there is no way to translate this superb Hindi word for what Americans somewhat more graphically call “brown nosers”.


Should one be surprised that all these high-powered Indian journalists have not cottoned on yet? Shrivastava of NDTV has raised some pertinent points in his blog about covering VVIPs and especially prime ministers. http://www.ndtv.com/article/blog/the-challenges-of-covering-pm-narendra-modi-in-us-602779?pfrom=home-topstories


And there was his boss pretending as if Modi was doing to America what the Beatles had done half a century ago.


As long as India’s most senior TV anchors and columnists behave as if Modi is the best invention since the wheel, he will continue to treat them like dirt. After all, they are working as his personal PR service without him even handing out breadcrumbs. If they ever start behaving like objective (I’m not even going as far as to say sceptical) journalists, then the whole story may change completely.


However, my little crystal ball tells me this is not going to happen any time soon. For the foreseeable future, India’s best-known journalists are going to behave like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s three monkeys. Evil will not be seen nor heard nor spoken. Not even when their beloved prime minister gets the father of the nation’s name wrong. No, dear colleagues, Mahatma Gandhi’s first name was not “Mohanlal”, even if Modi said so.


One has to give a shout out to India’s cartoonists though, who remain as brave and funny and caustic and on the ball as ever.




Talking about cartoons, the New York Times has been forced to “apologise” for a cartoon it carried about India’s Mars Mission. This is both remarkable and needless. Personally, I found the cartoon clichéd. But I find the apology appalling and the need to apologise even worse. In fact, it is downright patronising, telling us we don’t have a sense of humour. Oh. Maybe some of us don’t?




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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: When Evil will not be Seen nor Heard nor Spoken”

  1. Brighita says:

    very interesting and astute but then with all the means in the world they hardly did a *Watergate* on the Gandhis……still remember how journalists with far less means grilled Indira but they seem mesmerized by both Sonia Maino Gandhi and Narendra Damodardas Modi.