Ranjona Banerji: Price of Riding a Tiger: Bloody and Harsh

07 Jan,2020

By Ranjona Banerji

 

What does it take for a country to wake up? Actually, scratch that. The country seems to be waking up. The country’s media, well, that may take some time because apparently the effects of mass hypnosis are not easy to dispel. As images and news of brutal attacks on students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University spread on Sunday night, even some media enablers of the Modi-Shah led BJP government seemed a bit shaken. TV doyen Rajdeep Sardesai had to get of his proverbial fence and surprise, surprise both Bhupendra Chaubey and Marya Shakil of CNNNews18 was “shocked”. Rahul Kanwal of India Today TV got into pompous mode to lecture the government he has supported for so long.

How sweet of them to apply their minds. How long this lasted for I have no idea. I feel that deep Modi-induced slumber is bound to affect them again, sooner rather than later. The Times of India, PTI, Prasar Bharati in their ongoing tweets on Sunday night referred to the attack on students by ABVP activists as “clashes”, in keeping with the government line. Some of these were subsequently removed.

The violent mob was from the BJP’s student wing, the ABVP as was originally alleged and later borne out by video, eyewitness and whatsapp evidence.

Here’s AltNews helping the media by doing its work and correcting media lies:

https://www.altnews.in/video-of-abvp-member-assaulting-aisa-student-shared-by-journalists-as-left-parties-attacking-abvp/

News website newslaundry.com has also done considerable work on what happened in JNU on Sunday night:

https://www.newslaundry.com/2020/01/06/they-wanted-to-teach-a-lesson-in-terror-an-account-of-sunday-night-at-jnu

Am I jumping about a bit? It’s quite simple, really. One, JNU has long been a target of this Central government because it represents intellectual heft. Two, ever since people started their protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the Centre has resorted to doublespeak and brutal crackdowns on protestors. We’ve been through all this before.

The media has remained, largely, an enabler of the BJP and its governments, in spite of evidence that citizens of India have been killed, tortured and terrorised. Yes, we have heard of the actions of the government from the media itself, but those news reports have usually been qualified by senior members of news organisations looking for justifications from the past or coming up with various innovative false equivalences. This dilutes the work done by reporters on the ground. In fact, staff of Aaj Tak and Times Now both got beaten up by ABVP “activists” while covering the attacks on JNU.

The tragic irony is that both these news channels have been massive supporters of the Modi government and the BJP and have gone out of their way to destroy the credibility of their profession. They have had no qualms about spreading social hatred, fomenting religious tension and lying on air. The price of riding a tiger can be both bloody and harsh.

The JNU attacks are being framed around fee hike protests. To highlight that is to fall for a diversionary tactic. This is all part of the larger anger within the RSS that its plans for a Hindu nation are not being welcomed wholesale. If the media sleeps, then the people of India awaken and shamefully for the media, that is what is happening now.

The JNU attack was one more Sunday attack on an educational institution. The police stood by and allowed the attacks. They did not enter, they did not let medical help enter. If it’s the nitty-gritty that the media wants, they have enough of all that. If they want to be “objective”, then be properly objective and report on what happened. What is the “other side” of a mob entering a hostel with sticks and hitting students while the police stand by? What is the “other side” of attacking an ambulance?

Already we have seen prominent people in India equating the deaths of 20 protestors, at the hands of the police, with the burning of a bus. This is the shame that India will carry and the media has been party to this. Now how many times have you heard me say this before. When the media wakes up, I’ll stop.

 

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

 

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