Ranjona Banerji: Does Swarjya live up to the liberal views of Rajaji & Masani?

25 Oct,2016

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Swarajya is a rightwing magazine and website started to provide a platform to the conservative and rightwing point of view in India. There’s nothing to disagree with so far. The guiding light behind Swarajya (“Read India Right” is its motto) is apparently the Swatantra Party, started by giants of the Indian firmament, C Rajagopalachari and Minoo Masani. Rajaji played a key role in India’s freedom movement and Masani remained, until he died in 1998, an outspoken liberal voice.

 

I had interviewed Masani a number of times when I worked with Mid-Day. Not only was he a charming raconteur, he was also a sharp and consistent thinker. The best story he told me about him and Rajaji was this. Rajaji asked him once, “Are you a believer in mumbo-jumbo?” Masani answered he wasn’t. “Then you will find it very difficult to survive in Indian politics.” Masani laughed uproariously because he could not and did not survive as a politician in India.

 

How does a magazine which claims to have its ethos in the thinking of Rajaji and Masani veer so clearly towards the BJP and RSS in its writing? Mumbo-jumbo anyone?

 

However, this column is not about that. It’s about two reasons why Swarajya was in the news recently. The first was for buying the website Opindia and including it in its “portfolio”. This from Swarajya’s announcement: “Swarajya Group, which currently operates influential media brand Swarajya Magazine, is delighted to announce that OpIndia will be the newest addition to its portfolio.

 

“OpIndia.com is a trailblazing, digital-only publication founded by @bwoyblunder and Rahul Raj (@bhak_sala). Within a short span of time, it has created a huge social media footprint and commands a fiercely loyal band of young audience through its witty, provocative and passionate brand of writing and reporting.”

 

“Witty” I assume is a synonym for “abusive” and “reporting” I am guessing is assumptions and accusations made by people who are not reporters, not journalists even in fact. That this should come from a magazine which has on its staff a former editor of Outlook and a former editor of DNA and firstpost.com is questionable. Opindia’s only agenda so far has been to “expose” the media for being pro-Congress, pro-Left and not pro-BJP, which Opindia clearly believes is the only “pro” to be. Perhaps that is what passes for “provocative” in Swarajya-Land?

 

There is no doubt that Indian media needs a better definition of Left, Right and Centre. Most Indian media houses position themselves as all things to all people. Or, like Bennett Coleman, you have the flagship Times of India, the Mirrors and Times Now speaking to different constituencies under one banner. Why not just come out and say what you are?

 

The “liberal” idea though is lost in Swarajya and never existed in Opindia and yet Liberal is what Masani was. Today, there is no political party in India which is an open supporter of capitalism or the free market. Every party agree with it a little bit and carries on with protectionism of some sort. Social and religious conservatism are also helped by most political parties, covertly or overly. And the word “liberal” itself is used an insult by sites like Opindia.

 

And so on to the second point. Swarajya has a strong “code of conduct” and plagiarism policies. Unfortunately as Twitter revealed this week, some of these have been lifted from Livemint’s website, both verbatim and with some minimal tweaking.

 

Here’s Swarajya:

http://swarajyamag.com/code-of-conduct

And here’s Livement:

http://www.livemint.com/Object/oY1eoxhTWFNTebOv7Pmg3M/mintcode.html

Not on, Swarajya. Surely, you can do better? For the sake of Rajaji and Masani at least?

 

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