Upset, very upset!

30 Apr,2021

By Ranjona Banerji

Ranjona BanerjiThe Government of India is really upset. Really really upset. O, you might think. Because the Covid situation in India is so desperate, you might think. Because the pain and suffering of the people is unbearable, you might think.

But of course, you are wrong. Very, very wrong.


The Government of India is very, very upset because the international media is just not dancing to its tune. It cracks the whip, which has the Indian media cowering, but nothing happens with this evil international media. They are remarkably disobedient.


Unlike its sweet social media counterparts like Facebook and Twitter which are ever helpful when it comes to amplifying fascist propaganda. Facebook took down posts which said “Resign Modi” because how dare the citizens of a democracy criticize an elected leader? Facebook understands that democracy is dangerous and needs to be controlled and curtailed.


Twitter also obediently complied in India. Twitter is a roaring lion in the United States of America. But it can be a timorous beastie in India. The whip cracked and a number of tweets which highlighted distress and dead bodies immediately vanished from Indian Twitter.


But just look at The Australian. A completely evil publication which accused Narendra Modi of leading India into a “viral apocalypse”. Now this newspaper clearly did not get the toolkit which much of the Indian media so assiduously follows: never blame Modi for anything. State governments. Bureaucrats. The System. Long dead prime ministers. The Mughals. Alexander the Great. But never Modi.


The Indian High Commission in Canberra quivered in rage. And promptly composed a badly written childish Letter of Outrage. It was also a Letter of Outright Lies. Like the Modi government’s covid response has been “universally acclaimed”. If you are not tuned into BJP science, you are unaware of an exoplanet called Cowardice going round a massive gas giant called Modiamus Monstroamus Swaha some 12 billion miles away, which was full of Modi acclaim.

Evidently, The Australian had not heard of it either.


Le Monde, the French newspaper, in an editorial blamed Modi for his “arrogance and demagoguery”: “The spectacle of lines of ambulances at the gates of overwhelmed hospitals, of sick people’s relatives begging in vain to obtain oxygen and of mass cremations does not lie.”

Of course, if you a patriotic Indian, everything that is not Modi praise is a lie.


“This is a catastrophe” said a dispatch by The New York Times’s South Asia bureau chief Jeffrey Gettleman. The NYT however is a wellknown offender and was also very mean to Narendra Modi’s best friend Donald Trump.


The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has gone a step further and accused Modi of being guilty of “negligent manslaughter”.


From Canada, Geoffrey Johnston has this indepth report with interviews (including me) for the Kingston Whig Standard, on India’s humanitarian crisis:


Only a fool would think that the Modi government’s response to this would be to work harder. Okay, I lie. The Modi government is working harder but not at alleviating suffering. Instead, as External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar (the great hope of middle-class Indians because he’s an “educated” middle class Indian, no other qualification necessary) has told Indian diplomats to “counter ‘one sided’ media narrative” on the Modi government’s failures. This is according to The Indian Express.


Jaishankar could have spent more time reworking international trade deals, organising vaccine raw materials, negotiating with international vaccine manufacturers. Instead, apart from trying to swing the “narrative”, he petulantly turned down offers of help from the United Nations claiming India had a “robust” system in place. (The System by the way is also responsible for what’s happened, according to the Modi government and its pet journalists because you know, Modi can never be blamed.)


Across India, as the Indian media itself has shown, fires are burning 24 hours in mass cremations of people who have died of Covid-19. Hospitals across the country have run out of oxygen, beds, medicines. Vaccines are in short supply. The states are scrambling. The Centre does not care.


But the narrative, it switches and twitches. The Modi government pulled out its favourite authors and “journalists” to inform us that it’s very un-Hindu and a desecration of Hindu principles to show images of mass cremations because these are “holy places”. When in doubt, pull out the Hindu card and flog it.


Sadly, it didn’t work. The dead still burn across India. In an unholy, heartless, inhuman mess.


The last hope for the Modi government is with our prominent TV anchors who find it hard to remember if they ever were journalists. I am sure they will come through and shine bright for their Indian idol.


As for real journalists, don’t shoot the messenger, but we know about the immense horror we are living and dying in, because of many of them.


The Network of Women in Media, India has this beautiful tribute to those we have lost to Covid19 in India:

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

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