Ranjona Banerji: Right and Wrong!

04 Aug,2020

By Ranjona Banerji


CNN-News 18 carried a series of tweets advertising its show The Right Stand on Twitter on Monday. These are quotes:

Why this pathological aversion to Ram?

In secular garb, anti-Hindus cling to straws.

Old anti-Hindu rhetoric in secularism garb.

History in the making, Ayodhya magic resounds.


In case you missed the context, CNN-News 18 claims to be a “news” channel which one presumes means there are journalists somewhere within.

Which of these four statements corresponds to journalism?

Is an anti-Hindu a thing? Is criticism of religions or religious customs banned in India? Is “magic” now an accepted reality which “resounds”?

One understands that this particular show and its anchor represents a “Hindutva” perspective, that mangled version of Hinduism invented by the Sangh Parivar. The same version that assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. How would The Right Stand have interpreted that? “Magic resounds at Birla House as Gandhi is shot dead”? “Why this aversion to bullets”? “In secularism garb, India clings to anti-murderer straws”? “Old anti-Hindutva rhetoric in anti-murderer garb”?

The same version of Hindutva also murdered rationalist and anti-superstition crusader Narendra Dabholkar in 2013.

“Why this aversion to Hindutva bullets?” would have been an apt teaser for The Right Stand had it existed at the time.

The story of the demolition of the Babri Masjid starts in colonial India in the 1800s. It is complicated and it is entangled. But the responses of colonial India and that of Constitutional India are not the same and cannot be. India is not a religious state. The BJP and its partners want exactly that. They want to destroy the Constitution and create a theocratic state. Any journalist would see that.

But not of course most Indian journalists.

CNN-News18 is only one example. It may be, in its show The Right Stand, a vile example of the rise and triumph of religious intolerance and majoritarian pride. But it is one of many. This does not mean that journalists cannot be religious. But your personal life is not your professional life. And the impact of this temple for the Hindu God Rama, at Ayodhya is political. Not religious. If you feel that “magic resounds” then at least have the courage to quit as a journalist and return as a Hindutva publicity agent. (I joke, I know.)

Is it remarkable that any journalist today does not know about the impact of the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the scars that India still bears? Indian newsrooms have worked hard over the past 12 or 13 years to demolish institutional memory, to remove anyone who carries the scars of covering India by asking questions. I do not know what they teach in those journalism schools which are now mandatory for jobs in media outlets. Judging from the results, either they do not teach our history of coverage or young journalists are not allowed to practice what they have learnt once they get jobs.

The history is out there for anyone to find out about. It needs little extra work, because 1992 was before we had this plethora of TV channels (which is why many of us watched the BBC in horror at what was unfolding), before Google, before internet archiving. It’s how some of us did our research before it was all available at our fingertips.

Meanwhile, let me remind you, the virus still rages, the economy is still in a state of collapse, China’s still in threatening mode, and if it’s not Ayodhya, it’s one death that TV channels are obsessed with.

There is news everywhere. But not if you’re a star struck propagandist for destructive forces.

Incidentally, the most common meaning for the term “ground zero”, used by CNN-News18 to describe Ayodhya, is that spot in the ground directly above or below an exploding nuclear bomb.

I’ll leave you with that thought.


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

Post a Comment 

Comments are closed.