Ranjona Banerji: The New Yorker on Narendra Modi’s India

03 Dec,2019

By Ranjona Banerji


The New Yorker has done a detailed article on the rise of Hindutva in India, including the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, the Gujarat riots and the current crackdown on civil liberties in Kashmir, tied around journalist Rana Ayyub’s life and more significantly her book, The Gujarat Files. Which was a sting operation into the Gujarat riots of 2002 commissioned by Tehelka and subsequently not used. Ayyub could not find neither a media outlet nor a publisher who was willing to put their necks out. She had to self-publish. “Blood and Soil in Narendra Modi’s India” by Dexter Filkins is a worthwhile read for every Indian journalist who obfuscates about the reality of Hindutva and Mr Modi and for those who may have forgotten the horrendous details.


But this article also says a lot more. It underlines how many Indian journalists – although many did not and also made forays into Kashmir to see for themselves – just bought the government line that everyone was happy and left it at that. It’s an ugly reminder of the price of culpability.


And then there’s the horrific rape case in Hyderabad. As news percolated, there were just too many reminders of how many times we have been through the same thing since the “Nirbhaya” gangrape. The same questions, the same anger, the same call for vigilante justice, the same helplessness. Whether from the general public or the media. It is disheartening because since 2012 and now, nothing seems to have changed at all.

Well, since hatred for Muslims is the top priority for the pro-BJP, pro-government media outlets, here’s the headline from Swarajya, which picks on one Muslim suspect and ignores the other three Hindu suspects in the gangrape, picked up by the police. I didn’t want to write “Hindu” but have done it to put the Swarajya headline in context. This is how hatred is given a boost by the media. It’s like the lies put out by Gujarati language newspapers in 2002 about Hindu women’s breasts being cut off, in an attempt to enrage “Hindu” rioters and provide them with a justification for their actions. Despicable is too kind a word. And this Swarajya spin is another version of the same mentality.


No surprises, just a reminder of where we are.


At the annual Economic Times Awards held on November 30, industrialist Rahul Bajaj spoke about a government unwilling to take criticism, about BJP MP and terror accused Pragya Thakur praising MK Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse, about an atmosphere of fear in India. The reactions from the government were ballistic. There were also accusations that Economic Times itself did not cover Bajaj’s remarks although the video went viral on social media.

However, the ET website now carries the link to the video and a story on Bajaj’s remarks.



The only space where the Indian media has started to show some spine is when it comes to the collapsed economy. More and more, it is becoming impossible to ignore. Whether it is fudged data or failing companies or falling demand, even the pink papers are now forced to report that the government doesn’t seem to have a clue about what to do.

About time, but hardly enough. Go back to my first segment.


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

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