Ranjona Banerji: Is Rahul Shivshankar’s apology for real?

05 Sep,2017

​By Ranjona Banerji​


Regular readers of this column will know that I am usually kinder to print journalists than I am to their TV counterparts. But sometimes, print journalists decide to teach me a lesson by displaying even worse symptoms of extreme sycophancy to the Modi government than their friends in the broadcast media.

On the day of the “Great Cabinet Reshuffle”, a few political reporters from India’s best known newspapers were over themselves with excitement on Twitter. As they got bits of information from their “sources” in the BJP, they tweeted with crazy love and joy about the ​P​rime ​Minister’s “commitment” to good governance, about his decision to induct bureaucrats into his Cabinet to ensure “delivery” and all this without a single query about where all this delivery has been for the past three odd years.

Indeed, one political correspondent tweeting from an official account then told us how Modi was fulfilling some promise of “Four Ps” (should not someone who advises the PM stop him?), to which I can add a fifth: (anodyne) Pap. She was faster than the usual PR machinery on the day and now interestingly appears to have deleted all those breathless tweets. Like Donald Trump, it is wise to occasionally think before you tweet.

In all the excitement, they also got it wrong when Nirmala Sitharaman was presented as India’s first ever woman defence minister. Even Wikipedia has the right answer on that so if your knowledge is suspect, why not do a little research. In fact, most Twitter journalists got phenomenally excited about the women who had been moved around the Cabinet. Because women have never held any positions of power before May 2014, didn’t you know?

TV meanwhile also remained full of excitement and also peddled some of the same false claims but what expectation does one have there anyway?


Meanwhile, Rahul Shivshankar of Times Now has obviously managed to get himself and his channel into a bit of a sinkhole. As the apology that he issued on Twitter demonstrates:

“Dear Viewers, It has been brought to my notice that during a particularly heated debate on an expose by Times Now one panellist went on to insult the Prophet (PBUH). I condemn the sentiments expressed by Col RSN Singh. I have always been a strict votary of unity. Any attempt to undermine the unity of our society is abhorrent to me. I must take this opportunity therefore to express regret and disassociate myself from such commentary.”

Well, well. Of course, Col Singh has been represented to TV viewers as a “RAW agent” which he is not, having been seconded to RAW for a short duration. He is also aggressive, bellicose, offensive and unchecked. He is a media creation – how would a low-level officer of no known achievement become so famous otherwise? And he is specifically a creation of Shivshankar’s predecessor on Times Now, Arnab Goswami.

Shivshanker, since he took over, has spent most of his tenure Muslim-baiting, on some pretext or the other. Every time the Centre and/or the BJP in the states they rule face a bit of bother, Times Now and Republic deflect attention usually by picking on something to stoke sectarian fever. This is done in the name of “nationalism”.

It seems a bit rich therefore for Shivshanker to tell us he is a “votary of unity”. A little knowledge of television tells you that there are producers whispering in the anchor’s ears. And yet Shivshankar picked up nothing during the show so that he could correct or stop Singh? Clearly there is some legal threat at work here or else there is no need for the apology, no need to add the “PBUH” after the word “Prophet” and no need to “disassociate” himself from “commentary” that he and his fellow anchors on Times Now actively encourage.

If Times Now means what it says, Colonel RSN Singh should no longer be invited as a guest. If that happens, you will know they mean it. Otherwise, in BJP president Amit Shah’s historic word, this is yet another “jumla”.


​Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and columnist. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. The views expressed here are her own


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2 responses to “Ranjona Banerji: Is Rahul Shivshankar’s apology for real?”

  1. Pinaki Chatterjee says:

    Madam Bhootni ! Raat ko dekh lo to dar lag jaye.

  2. Suman Grewal says:

    RSN Singh is the most brilliant officer of army and raw, officers of his caliber are born once in 200 years. He is author of five highly acclaimed books on strategy i.e. Asian Strategic and Military Perspective, Military Factor in Pakistan, and Unmaking of Nepal etc. Google and see it for yourself. He was Associate Editor of Indian Defence Review for six years. But you look like anything but a serious journalist. Go to Indian Defence Review Facebook and see Rsn Singh’s book being released by Marshal of The Airforce.Arjan Singh.