Ranjona Banerji: Tell a lie, say ‘Jai Hind’, be a national hero

05 Mar,2019

By Ranjona Banerji


It is of course anti-national to question the BJP and its government at the Centre led by Narendra Modi; we know that well by now. It is at the same time very nationalistic to spread fake news, to make false claims and to harass and terrorise anyone who questions you, like journalist Barkha Dutt (to name just the most prominent one in recent times). This form of nationalism comes straight from the BJP’s internet manual. And as long as you add a “Jai Hind” or a “Bharat Mata ki Jai” at the end of every lie or every abuse, then you are a national hero.

Ever since the attack on the CRPF convoy in Pulwama on February 14, both mainstream media and social media have been a whirl of lies, hyper-nationalism and more abuse tied together in a maelstrom of conflicting information. Many of these lies and half-truths have come from the government and its large set of embedded “journalists”.

There are still any number of questions swirling around. Are our various newsrooms providing answers? Did the IAF kill any jihadis on February 26 or not? Was it 300? 400? 200? Or was the damage just trees and a crow? Depends on who you ask. Any amount according to Indian Embedded Media. Trees if you ask Foreign Media (who actually visited the site). Did the IAF enter Pakistani territory or shoot from our side of the border? Depends on who you ask. First it was entry (BJP, Modi, Shah, External Affairs Ministry, BJP’s IT Cell, Troll Brigade and Embedded Media), then it was no entry (IAF).

India’s Air Chief Marshal says the IAF doesn’t count casualties, the government does. So no clarity here either:



Did we lose one pilot as well as get one captured in the sortie or was Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman the only capture by Pakistan? No one is willing to tell us.

Did we shoot down a Pakistan F-16 or not? Depends on who you ask. It could be we did, it could be we didn’t.

This article by Saikat Datta tells us we didn’t, but also tells us who says we did:


The narrative of course is very clever. If you question the Armed Forces you are a traitor. As India Today TV editor Rahul Kanwal found out when he asked Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal about the various contradictory information swirling about India’s air strike on Pakistan, at a recent India Today Conclave. Goyal went on to the “how dare you shame the Armed Forces” route. You cannot but help feeling bad for Kanwal having to face Goyal’s shameless arrogance. But it is also true that both Kanwal and his news channel have most often been openly sycophantic admirers of the Modi government and the BJP and have stringently questioned those who questioned them. Luckily, if you practice journalism only infrequently, this humiliation is unlikely to happen very often.


Incidentally, the BJP has not stopped its relentless campaigning for the upcoming general elections nor has it stopped trying to destabilise opposition-state governments. Massive promises are being made by Modi and the BJP. Since election dates have not been announced at the time of writing this, the model code of conduct allows these grand announcements. With large portions of the media stuck in either acting as BJP PR machines or trying to sort out fact from fiction post-Pulwama, the mess that the rest of the nation is in remains the same.

In keeping with the current zeitgeist, all I have to say is “Jai Hind”. Now I can get away with anything!

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



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