Ranjona Banerji: And now the Economist writes on the PM

24 Jan,2020

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The much-respected journal Economist has come out with a strong cover and related articles on India. ‘Intolerant India” reads the cover with a lotus emerging out of concertinaed barbed wire. It could not be a stronger indictment of the terrible precipice that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party, its ideological parent the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and its larger family have brought us to.

The lead article reads, “Alas, what has been electoral nectar for the BJP is political poison for India. By undermining the secular principles of the constitution, Mr Modi’s latest initiatives threaten to do damage to India’s democracy that could last for decades. They are also likely to lead to bloodshed.”

It goes on to say: “This (the inherent discrimination in acts like CAA, NRC, NPR, brackets mine) imperils the inspiring idea of India as the world’s largest democracy. Mr Modi’s policies blatantly discriminate against his Muslim compatriots. Why should a secular government shelter persecuted Hindus from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, but explicitly vow not to take a single downtrodden Muslim? The citizenship row is only the latest in a series of affronts, from the BJP’s lionising of vigilantes thought to have killed Muslims to the collective punishment of the people of the Kashmir valley, who have suffered arbitrary arrests, smothering curfews and an internet blackout for five months.”

The Economist is only the latest in a long line of international publications which have started to look at India aghast. Several of these publications had chosen to “forget” about Modi’s sectarian past and concentrate on the “greater good” of the economy in 2014. Now the shambles that the BJP and Modi have created cannot be hidden any more.

It is unfair to load any culpability for Modi’s current unquestioned, uncontested rise on the international media. That crown belongs to the Indian media and its shameless deviation from any known form of journalism just to please the BJP and Modi. Even today, as Delhi gets ready for assembly elections, efforts are on to demonise Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party even by the same channels which contributed to Kejriwal’s popularity from 2011 onwards. No one, not even a former protégé, is allowed to challenge the BJP remains the mantra for some media houses and journalists.

As far as India is concerned, except for the few journalists still doing their jobs – truth to power, that job – large tracts of the media continue with their othering and enabling. Students, women, Muslims, Dalits, citizens that is, remain at the forefront.

The initial reporting of the Mangalore bomb blast case ESPECIALLY BY THE LOCAL TV MEDIA and the reactions of the BJP on social media are good examples of how tone is used to create suspicions in the minds of people. When the bomb was found, no one knew where it came from or who put it there. But it was all down to communal “tensions” and the obvious implications. Perhaps this is also one of the problems of source journalism and relying solely on the police for information:

https://www.livemint.com/news/india/republic-day-karnataka-on-high-alert-after-bomb-found-in-mangaluru-airport-11579596403543.html

When it turned out that it wasn’t what everyone had implied, or in the case of the BJP, openly said, one did not see either the expected outrage or the roasting of BJP leaders by the national mainstream media.

Here’s an exception:

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/mangalore-bomb-suspect-slap-in-bjp-face/cid/1738885

Thanks to some sections of the media, some people somewhere know what’s going on, the extent to which we are being divided and destroyed. This story about migrant workers being rounded up in Karnataka comes on the heels of homes destroyed in Bengaluru on the suspicion they were “illegal Bangladeshis”. They all turned out to be Kannadiga.

https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/karnataka/2020/jan/24/migrant-workers-herded-to-three-centres-in-kodagu-for-id-check-2093678.html

These are the stories which should be constantly highlighted and discussed, because this is the ground reality of this Central government’s divisive policies.

But…

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

 

 

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