Ranjona Banerji: Did HT play down story on RSS leader’s ‘fatwa’?

03 Mar,2017

By Ranjona Banerji

 

An RSS officebearer in Madhya Pradesh puts a Rs one crore bounty on the Kerala chief minister’s head, while speaking at an event. He also mentions that in Gujarat, after Godhra, “we” put 2000 people into the ground.

I have two physical newspapers in front of me, here in Gurugram, the capital of Haryana. The Indian Express carries the report under the fold: “RSS Ujjain leader announces Rs 1-cr bounty for Kerala CM, threatens mass killing as in Gujarat.”

The Hindustan Times does not mention the story on the front page but for a small mention on the bolero jacket that HT has made part of its “design” and after you put on your magnifying glasses, you have to turn to Page 15 to read the rest.

I fully accept, concede, reiterate and any other such word you might like to use that the design of the front page is the sole decision of the editorial team and often of the person in charge on the day. This is seen as a judgment call and different people can and do and must have different ideas on what the front page should represent to the reader on any given day.

So is it fair to me to ask whether this particular decision of demoting this story to little more than a blurb on a “half jacket” that is an annoyance to many readers, represents intent, oversight or leaning?

My answer is yes.

The story had been on television all day and night, yesterday. It speaks to an ongoing bloody, murderous tussle for turf in Kerala. The RSS has been careful to call itself a “cultural” and “social “organisation, in public at least. It does not usually openly call for murder. Also, given that it is the 15th anniversary of the terrible riots in Gujarat, for an RSS leader to claim that “we” had killed 2000 people is intriguing to say nothing else. If he is right, where does that leave the Prime Minister of India and everyone else in the BJP?

For these reasons alone, I would argue that this report needed more prominence. But that’s just me.

 

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Meanwhile in TV land, the world spins on a different axis. The whole argument over Gurmehar Kaur and the harassment she faced for saying that war killed her father has shifted for our patriotic TV channels to their own definitions of patriotism which only revolves around the Armed Forces. It was quite a sight to watch Times Now’s Navika Kumar shout down retired chief of army staff General Shankar Roychowdhury about how soldiers must conduct themselves – clearly for one, she knows more about this than him. No matter that he headed the Indian Army or fought in a few wars. It was even more amusing to watch her quickly check his name. I am assuming, based on no evidence, that General Handlebar Bakshi was not available yesterday evening?

 

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One must also greatly admire the BJP’s spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao. He has been on every TV channel every night discussing everything, for a few days now. SambitPatra was also in evidence but the main burden appears to have fallen on Rao for now. A few more experts may help perhaps?!

 

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