Ranjona Banerji: Man v/s Wild. Controversy v/s Controversy

30 Jul,2019

By Ranjona Banerji


People may have a hazy memory that on February 14 of this year, the then and current Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Uttarakhand. For an election rally which was affected by bad weather and a visit to the Corbett Tiger Reserve. On that day, 48 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force were killed by a suicide bomber in the Pulwama district between 3.10 and 3.15 pm, when a transport convoy was attacked. The CRPF has requested air transport, which was refused. Modi left Corbett around 7 pm. He addressed a BJP rally via mobile phone at around 5 pm. He did not mention the Pulwama attack in that speech.

Although there was speculation then about whether the PM was informed and what he was doing in Corbett, because Modi and the BJP won the general election with such a massive majority, all former transgressions were possibly forgiven. And so now we can watch with glory in the episode of the popular Discovery Channel show Man Vs Wild, hosted by the famous Bear Grylls. But the announcement by Grylls on Twitter has stirred up speculation again. What was Modi doing on that day? Why did he not rush back to deal with the attack? Why did he continue shooting in spite of knowing and so on.

The Economic Times rides to the rescue to quell all such speculation. It carries a story that tells us that Modi finished shooting for Discovery before 3 pm on February 14 and the shoot was for about 45 minutes. To be fair, it is not clear whether this is a PR job for Discovery, and/or Bear Grylls who has a huge international reputation for his fearless forays into wild areas, or whether it is a command performance for the PMO.

As this link from The Wire demonstrates, the questions only increase.


Undoubtedly, over the next few days more public relations efforts will emerge, unless we get a “distraction”.


While on that, various letters are still being talked about while the changes to the Right to Information Act have gone through and most of the media is not bothered. Even if it is the media which benefits. Is that the extent of our indoctrination, or stupidity or our constant endless search for the next sensation irrespective of the reality around us?


The family has very sadly said goodbye to The Indian Express after many years. Part of the reason was the edit page which ceased to be an instigator of thought or a curator of opinion and instead had become a government/BJP mouthpiece. And the North India edition that we received in Dehradun had almost no investigative journalism. Instead, we have re-subscribed to The Hindu. Local news coverage is much better than the Express and there is far more reading matter.

Also, without a doubt, the internet plays a role in this choice. You are bombarded with news from your browser account usually Google but could be whatever else you have chosen, via your phone or tablet or laptop. The curating algorithm is dangerous because it limits you to your last few searches, but it is everywhere. And not easy to combat if you are not aware of how your choices are being used.

Freedom of information or lack of it. Back to RTI and what it’s devaluation will do to us. If anyone cares, that is.


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


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