Ranjona Banerji: Pakistan! Pakistan! Pakistan! Jharkhand? Where’s that?

23 May,2017

By Ranjona Banerji


The lynching of seven men accused of being kidnappers by an angry mob in Jharkhand has sent waves of shock and horror through India. Did I just say that? What a lie. Since the horrific story and the heart-rending images of a man’s blood-soaked hands begging for mercy went viral (they killed him anyway), what have our intrepid brave patriotic English news channels concentrated on?


What a question. Obviously, cricketer Mohammed Kaif’s Twitter take down of a Pakistani after India won first round at the International Court of Justice over the death sentence of Kulbhushan Jadhav. Duh.


Or perhaps, it was Pakistan in general or more particularly, get a whole lot of former generals and wannabe generals together and encourage them to carry out a proxy screaming match on television.


But the Jharkhand lynching? Tut tut. How anti-national to expect news channels to show India in a bad light, when they put up those where’s-the-war-with-Pakistan dramas, night after night.


Newspapers have carried the story, social media has made the photographs go viral but news channels have remained completely patriotic.


Luckily Nidhi Razdan picked up the subject on mob violence getting out of hand in India on NDTV’s Left, Right and Centre on Monday night. She held her own against the RSS’s Dr Rakesh Sinha and Syed Jaffar Islam of the BJP, who either tried to blame the media for naming communities or going back to some incident in 1968 or, as usual, making sure that the prime minister must not be tainted by anything that happens in BJP-ruled states. The old Sangh Parivar chestnut of “India’s federal structure” was trotted out. Of course, this argument at its logical end, leads one to assume that a national spokesperson for the BJP has no control over the BJP in the states. Jai ho!


Razdan did not buckle down to the two government spokespersons on her panel and to some extent the others – sociologist Shiv Vishwanathan, Congress member Sachin Pilot and columnist Sadanand Dhume (who has lately taken to criticising the BJP a bit, unlike his earlier stand) were allowed to speak.


This show will undoubtedly bolster the impression of all Modi Bhakts that NDTV is anti-BJP. However, there was always Vikram Chandra on The Big Fight the other night who told us that the economy is doing wonderfully well under Modi ji and agreed with BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli’s somewhat fantastical numbers. Jai ho! All kudos to Mohan Guruswamy who asked Modi Toady Sunil Alagh if they were both talking about the same country when Alagh toed the Kohli line.


But forget NDTV. Let’s look instead at the glorious and brave Bhupendra Chaubey on CNN-News18. Actor Paresh Rawal, now a BJP MP, demonstrated both his serious brain power and great sense of humour when he tweeted that instead of tying a stone pelter to a jeep, the army should have tied writer Arundhati Roy instead. Roy has long been a BJP critic, a government critic and stood up for the rights of anyone affected by state oppression. Obviously she is unpopular amongst nationalists especially nationalists who co-relate the nation with whoever is in power at the time.


On Monday, Chaubey tweeted the question around which his show would be based, with this soon-to-be a classic for TV brainiacs: “Is Paresh Rawal right in asking for author Arundhati Roy to be tied as a human shield?”


In a deeply philosophical sense, every question needs to be asked. Why not also ask, “Was the Jharkhand mob right in lynching people it suspected of a crime without any proof?” However, there is philosophy and there is stupidity and I leave you to figure out the difference. It is not that difficult.


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