Ranjona Banerji: News18 proves me wrong on farmers; wish it happened more often

04 Dec,2018

By Ranjona Banerji

 

I have to start with an apology. While Indian farmers were marching into Delhi last week, I responded to a News18 tweet plugging the show, The Right Stand, and asked why they were ignoring the farmers. I got a response from Uday Singh Rana, a journalist with News18, who politely pointed out that I was being unfair. He and other News18 reporters had been with the farmers for hours and one of their star anchors, Zakka Jacob had done a show on the farmers as well.

I am happy to be corrected. I am even happier that I was wrong, and several news channels are paying significant attention to news. I have to qualify this with: I wish they would drop their nightly charades on religion and division and concentrate even more on the news. But, well.

Taking Uday Singh Rana’s comment on board, I flipped through a variety of news channels last night. The biggest news for most channels was, and rightly so, the murder of a policeman in Bulandshahr, UP, by a mob who claimed to be “cow protectors”. Many journalists and news anchors – notably Jacob of News18 and Faye D’Souza of Mirror Now – wanted to know why the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh was campaigning all over the country while his state was falling apart.

Times Now was interested in the National Herald case and whether Rahul Gandhi was the “thekedar” of Hinduism. Well, obviously. They would have been truer to journalism if they’d stuck to the Priyanka Chopra-Nick Jonas wedding in Jodhpur. NewsX was about Amit Shah. Republic TV was also on the BJP beat. Wion was abroad, which is its mandate. NDTV had Sonia Singh’s interview with retired Supreme Court justice Kurian Joseph, who spoke about some of the hard truths about the former chief justice Dipak Mishra, government interference in the Supreme Court, from his interview with The Times of India on Monday morning.

The Bulandshahr story about murderous cow vigilantes will remain news as long as the government’s PR machinery allows it to. On Twitter last night, several journalists felt that SHO Subodh Kumar Singh’s murder was not as simple as it appeared to be. Singh was pelted with stones by the violent mob (which also burnt a police station) and then shot in the head. Singh was part of the investigation into the lynching of Mohammed Akhlak in Dadri by cow “protectors” in 2015. Another bystander was also killed and another policeman is severely injured.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/up-police-officer-killed-by-villagers-protesting-cow-slaughter-near-delhi/story-DPJRJtO4bPVeyBihkEfNWO.html

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/bulandshahr-violence-subodh-kumar-singh-5477166/

Many reports have just called the mob, “villagers, “cow protectors” or members of “right-wing” groups. What needs to be made clear is that these were Hindu/Hindutva mobs. News agencies and outlets calling this “communal” clash are also wrong. It was a clash between Hindutva mobs of the Hindutva right-wing and the UP police. There was no other community involved.

Can you imagine if any other “community” was involved? How quickly would Times Now, NewsX and RepublicTV dropped all their anti-Congress propaganda and jumped on to an anti-“community: bandwagon?

And that is why, on the whole, I tarnished News18 with the same brush. Plus also, because of its show, The Right Stand. Mea maxima culpa.

**

The other big news on Monday night was a massive fire in Mumbai’s Aarey Milk Colony in the Goregoan Area, on the edge of the Borivli National Park.

Many news reports reiterated that there were “no casualties”. Such is our arrogance that we refer only to humans when it comes to “casualties”. In fact, there would have been massive tree and wild life damage.

https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/mumbai-fire-at-aarey-colony-tribals-evacuated-5477047/

This fire needs further exploration, and one can hope that Mumbai’s intrepid journalists will give us that, because the city’s green cover has long been under threat from developers and “infrastructure” enthusiasts, for want of a better word for those who want to destroy both forest and wild life.

 

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

 

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