Ranjona Banerji: Extreme Nationalism: the Climate of the Times

11 May,2018

​By Ranjona Banerji​


Times Now, which as we all know is in a head-on battle with its bitter rival Republic TV over which is the most patriotic and least journalistic channel, has come up with an incredible story to help the BJP win Karnataka. Am I being unfair? Well.

Times Now pulled out a chargesheet on the arrest of two suspects with “ISIS” links who allegedly plotted to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The arrests by the way were in October 2017. The chargesheet itself, according to the Times Now website, was filed last month. The angle for the “news” channel is that it has just accessed the chargesheet and discovered Whatsapp chats between the suspects discussing whether to use sniper rifles or not.

The link between ISIS has not yet been established (is the organisation not called IS or Islamic State, now?). The story is old considering that the arrests were made last year and the chats are from two years ago. The only new detail is Whatsapp, the veritable font of information that the whole of India cannot do without.

Whatever Vineet Jain of Bennett Coleman may say on Twitter, whatever form of journalism Mirror Now or the Times of India may practise, nothing has any bearing on the course which Times Now has set for itself – to support the government, to create communal tension and to up the ante re: animosity with Pakistan. One cannot be sure whether all this is company policy or a news channel gone rogue.

But why blame Times Now alone for its extreme nationalism? This is after all the climate of the times. The popular news agency ANI did some neat editing the other day to make Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fun with facts on the campaign trail in Karnataka seem less erroneous. Modi announced that no Congress leader had ever visited Bhagat Singh or Batukeshwar Dutt or Veer Savarkar when they were jailed while fighting for India’s Independence.

ANI, for some extremely loyal reasons, removed Savarkar’s name and replaced him with an “etc”. Was this removal of a great Hindutva icon’s name to save Modi embarrassment because of Savarkar’s pleas for mercy from the British while he was in jail? Or because even ANI knows that it is unfair to tag Savarkar in the same breath as Singh and Dutt?

Whatever its reasons what ANI could not do is rewrite Modi’s entire sentence and the falsehoods inherent in it. Because Bhagat Singh was visited by Jawaharlal Nehru and in fact it was Mohammed Ali Jinnah who defended him in the Central Assembly. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing for us mere mortals. But for

​Prime ​M​inisters on the campaign trail, these lies are apparently throwaway “jumlas”, in the immortal words of BJP president Amit Shah.
All the fact-checkers jumped into action immediately and corrected the

​Prime ​Minister:

And scroll.in put together all the tweets that corrected the prime minister, including mine. I thank scroll.in for calling me a “Twitter user”, but seeing as how I have contributed to it now and then, I would prefer to be identified as a journalist. But that’s a small beef, if you will excuse my anti-national language.



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

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