Ranjona Banerji: Is the Indian media anti-Hindu?

06 Oct,2015

By Ranjona Banerji


Bashing the media is a wonderful pastime, isn’t it? Even I do it, you can argue, twice a week on MxM. But blaming the media when society behaves in a despicable manner or beating up the media… well, that’s another story altogether. Fashionable (if a little old and idiotic) in some circles as it is to accuse the media in India of running some agenda set by the Vatican, the media is the messenger. It may be intrusive, annoying, inconvenient, but that is what it is.


In Dadri in Uttar Pradesh, after a man was lynched and killed by a mob ostensibly for eating beef, the media faced some of the flak. People on social media told me that the media never responds when a Hindu is attacked (never, please note) and only responded to Dadri because the victim was a Muslim. Others, some journalists even, accused the media of “never” responding in case someone’s hands are cut off (the implication being that the perpetrator would be a Muslim following Sharia law). The media (this from journalists too) also did not condemn the Charlie Hedbo killers since they were Muslim and approved of the ban on Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses since the book upset Muslims.


You can see therefore that media bashing, even within the media, can take on ludicrous and nonsensical proportions. I do recall a case of a teacher’s hands being chopped off in Kerala being extensively covered and condemned. As it happens, we do not have Sharia law in India. As for Charlie Hebdo, what can one say? To my obviously biased mind, there seemed to be global shock and opprobrium. If those Indian journalists who blame the media for “appeasing Muslims” feel so strongly about this, they should carry the Charlie Hebdo cartoons in their own publications rather than bleat on about liberals in the media. So also when it comes to Salman Rushdie and the fatwa against him, although India banned Satanic Verses, there was plenty of support for him. Also, it is unclear to me why exactly the Vatican would want the media companies it owns to be nice to Muslims. Or perhaps these are those media organisations which are owned by Saudi Arabia.


(I have a complaint here though. Where was the total condemnation of the cruel and inhuman punishment meted out by Saudi Arabia to blogger Rauf Badawi by these same sanctimonious journalists? Instead, we had breathless coverage of the prime minister’s meeting with the Saudis… I rest my case.)


It’s easy thought to turn the tables on such brainless and frankly tainted media criticism, even when it is from within the media. What happened in Dadri? A temple priest says he was forced into announcing that Mohammed Akhlak’s family had stored beef in their house and the family was eating it. An angry mob stormed into the house, beat Akhlak to death and injured his son, who is now in hospital. The UP government in some odd wisdom sent the meat in the house to a forensic lab (it turned out not to be beef).


Politicians of all hues descended on Dadri. First they made the right noises of sympathy, blah blah. Then they took off on their set paths of finger-pointing and defensiveness. Members of the media, which also arrived in Dadri, were beaten up and blamed for only focusing on the victims and not on those who had been falsely accused, according to their families. So are we to look for media solidarity from these genius in-media critics? Or do they perhaps toe the Central government line and approve of this sort of media bashing?


I’m not holding my breath on this one.


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