Ranjona Banerji: No laughing matter

17 Jan,2020

By Ranjona Banerji


The Great And Wonderful Modi government’s idea of democracy and a free press is perfectly encapsulated in this story. Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon and The Washington Post arrived in India and tweeted: “Dynamism. Energy. Democracy. #IndianCentury”. In reply to this, the head of the BJP’s foreign affairs cell, Vijay Chauthaiwale tweeted, “Mr Bezos, please tell this to your employees in Washington DC. Otherwise your charm offensive is likely to be a waste of time and money.”

For those who live in BJP-built bunkers, the Washington Post has reported and commented extensively on the pro-democracy protests in India, the brutal crackdown by the police forces, the collapse of the Indian economy and so on. As any newspaper would.

But in Modi’s India, where most of the mainstream media has fallen over itself to obey and kowtow to the Master and his diktats, the behaviour of media houses like the Washington Post must be inexplicable and horrific. Because although some in the Indian media have been perverse and courageous in showing truth to power, the bulk has been pliable and amenable little lapdogs, eagerly waiting for treats like selfies with Modi and so on.

Now don’t give me a history lesson in which media houses in the past sucked up to which government in the past. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. And it has never been as wrong as it is now. That’s my history lesson for you.

Swarajya, a self-appointed mouthpiece for the BJP and its various governments, was thrilled by this tweet. As one would expect from a news site/ “magazine” which uses the trappings of the media but practises none of its precepts. Its headline read: https://swarajyamag.com/news-brief/pm-modi-snubs-jeff-bezos-over-amazon-ceo-owned-washington-post-misrepresenting-facts-to-attack-india-report

You can see the typical outrage. After all, what is the job of the media if not to follow government instructions? And even sillier is the “attack India”. You, I and maybe even someone who once had a brain at Swarajya knows that it is not India that is being attacked but the policies and actions of the Modi government. Unless of course, Swarajya believes that Modi is India and India is Modi? Though sadly, that massively sycophantic statement was made about Indira Gandhi whom Modi & Co claimed to have opposed during the Emergency but seem to secretly admire? Enough history for you?

Other newspapers covered the story somewhat differently:



One has to laugh at the arrogant stupidity of this party and this government. Yet, it is no laughing matter. To publicly threaten the media is an act of prime dysfunctional idiocy. To publicly threaten the international media demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of your own importance or lack of it. It is not past the Modi Government’s vindictive nature to set down limits on the international media but that will only be counterproductive.

No matter how you try and spin it, India’s current miserable condition is like a massive feast for hungry journalists. Real journalists I mean, not the Swarajya (I should not pick on them) or Zee “News” or Times Cow type. And all this is thanks to the Modi Government’s divisive and destructive political decisions and its incompetent governance or lack of governance. Not much is going right and that’s what the media thrives on.

Or, are we really in that “undeclared” emergency harking back to the earlier one which members of the BJP claim that they fought against?


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



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