Ranjona Banerji: Vile. Vicious, Vindictive. Venal. Venomous. Virulent. Vendetta

18 Jun,2021

Ranjona BanerjiBy Ranjona Banerji

 

First the joke:

On June 13, Prime Minister Narendra Modi informed the G7 Summit that India was a “natural ally” to defend democracy, freedom of thought and liberty” and that these were apparently part of India’s “civilisational ethos”.

 

One thing you have to admit about the Hindutva right wing is that they have learnt a lot of big words.

 

After the joke, the reality:

On June 16, the Ghaziabad police booked journalists Rana Ayyub, Saba Naqvi, Mohammed Zubair, Congress Party members Shama Mohammed, Salman Nizami, Maskoor Usmani, news website The Wire and social media giant Twitter for a “bid to incite communal unrest”.

 

The video was of an old man, a Muslim, who claimed that he was beaten up and forced to chant Jai Shri Ram by a bunch of young men. It was widely shared and condemned on social media by a number of people. But the Ghaziabad Police carefully targeted a few Muslim names, a news website which does not kowtow to the BJP Code of Worship and the social media platform it is currently at war with.

 

Thus, the BJP, the Modi government and the UP government demonstrate to the world India’s civilisational ethos when it comes to democracy and freedom of speech.

 

Rana Ayyub is a constant thorn in their side. Mohammed Zubair is co-founder of the fact checker and fake news buster Alt News and Saba Naqvi is of many journalists who has recently become more critical of the Modi government and its various policies and shortcomings. What they have in common is that they are all Muslims. As are the targeted Congress politicians.

 

The Press Club of India issued a statement which said, “The PCI appeals to the Government of UP to intervene in the matter at the earliest to ensure that journalists are not made easy targets of police highhandedness”.

 

Digitpub News India Foundation, the recently formed platform for all online news portals and online journalists, has said, “The list of individuals and organisations in the police case makes it clear that the authorities are targeting journalists and publications perceived to be critical of the ruling party…

 

“The implications of this case go beyond those who have been accused here: the Uttar Pradesh Police is holding out a threat to those who report the voices of victims of crimes. It is attempting to create an atmosphere in which all journalists and news organisations will be dissuaded from reporting anything but the official version.”

 

Official accusations of promoting communal disharmony, as we have seen over the last few years, rarely apply to mobs who lynch Muslims and Dalits and the various pro-BJP voices which spew hatred against religious minorities all day.

 

Then, there is the case of the video itself. The victim said one thing. The police promptly claimed that the assault on the victim had no communal angle, that the people who beat him up were angry because he had given them an amulet that did not work and then promptly arrested several young Muslim men. The police just barely accepted that the man had been assaulted.

 

The victim’s family on the other hand have insisted that he was assaulted and that they are not in the amulet business and that the police have concocted a false case. The link below is from The Times of India.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/meerut/we-are-carpenters-not-amulet-makers-cops-making-false-case-son-of-man-attacked-in-ghaziabad/articleshow/83552057.cms

 

Thus, any journalist who does her or his job, will factor in accounts from the victim and the police. There is no rule anywhere which says journalists can only report on what the police or the government say.

 

Or is there? We know that’s the rule that the BJP and Modi administration would prefer to implement: The propaganda rule. The end of democracy rule. The rule that is the antithesis to our great “civilisational ethos” claimed by Modi. In plain words, the fascism rule: you only say what I tell you too. Many media houses and former journalists have already toed this line. It is probably very irksome for the BJP that a few journalists, and that too Muslims in this instance, do not constantly genuflect at the altar.

 

To try and compete with the intellectual prowess of the Hindutva right wing propagandists and speechwriters, I consulted a thesaurus for children (one must acknowledge one’s “aukat” or limitations or place in society) and came up with these to describe the actions of the Ghaziabad police. I childishly threw in some alliteration as well. Once a sub-editor, always a subeditor.

 

Vile. Vicious, Vindictive. Venal. Venomous. Virulent. Vendetta.

 

Please feel free to add some more. You could mourn a bit for our “civilisational ethos” after that.

 

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

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