Ranjona Banerji: Commiserations to the Guard Dogs

23 Nov,2021

Ranjona BanerjiBy Ranjona Banerji

 

On November 19, Narendra Modi in a speech declared that he was going to revoke his three controversial farm laws, which led to India’s farmers to hit the streets in protest for almost a year.

 

The media has gone into meltdown since then, as we wrote last week. The meltdown continues. Several TV anchors who had made their name as Modi guard dogs, viciously attacking anyone who questioned Modi, are now snarling in distress and discontent. At how their master has let them down.

 

In a roundabout way, one can sympathise. Modi is a hard taskmaster. He demands all, he gives little. But these anchors were happy with crumbs. A “follow” on Twitter here by some puppeteer in Modi’s media team, a selfie there. A smile from the Great Man himself. They were happy with these, happy to sacrifice all last vestiges of journalism, happy to spread social hatred, disaffection, Islamophobia, caste prejudice, anything which would keep their owner happy.

 

And now the owner has gone back on his word. Done the one thing that they were assured he would never: show signs of public weakness.

 

O dear.

Our commiserations to them.

That’s the anchors, actors, clowns and melodrama actors many of them.

 

And then we have our serious commentators, editors, senior journalists. They have discovered nefarious dealings within the farmers’ movement which forced Modi’s hand.

 

They would have us believe that the farmers’ protest had been infiltrated by terrorists and insurgents and that is why Modi made his repeal announcement. Before you explode is nationalistic fervour, think about this for a moment.

 

For one, this so-called intelligence report is just one more way of accusing protesting farmers of being terrorists and traitors, the theme which has dominated the BJP and Modi government reaction to the protests.

 

And more dangerously perhaps, the official reaction to this report of massive infiltration is to take back a controversial law? Where is the reaction to secure the nation? Deal with these infiltrations if indeed they exist? Indeed, their very existence is cast into doubt by this absurd reaction. Similar to banning the video-sharing site TikTok to deal with China’s constant infiltrations into Indian territory and its attacks on our soldiers.

 

Just reflect for a moment on this: that India’s most respected editors believe that the best way to deal with terrorist activity is to announce a repeal of three laws. Are these terrorists going to now vanish happy that their job is done? Their job apparently being a better deal for India’s farmers? The protests sit across North India. The farmers are far from satisfied, they want assurance, they want minimum support prices and electricity rates sorted out. They want fraudulent cases against protesting farmers dropped. They want all their dues on sugarcane and fertiliser? If Modi gives in on these, do we have to thank further infiltration?

 

Maybe we need such infiltration in every aspect of Indian life to actually get some governance out of this Modi government?

 

The other little hogwash bait being thrown into the mix is that of an opinion poll which tells us that the farm laws were actually popular.

 

What does this mean?

 

That “more than 50 percent” a few people spoken to said that the farm laws were the correct thing to do but the “messaging” was wrong.

 

Media outlets have carried this poll unquestioningly.

 

Here are my questions then.

 

How popular were the laws amongst farmers?

 

How many farmers did the pollsters speak to?

 

How informed were those questioned about agriculture?

 

Actually, forget it.

 

This is one more attempt by the Modi media to push the other old argument it has thrown at farmers from Day One: that they are idiots who did not understand the laws.

 

That is what is hidden in the phrase “but messaging was wrong”.

 

This allows Modi to coyly continue with his line: I meant well. The idiots did not understand. And o yes, there was a terrorist threat.

 

Frankly, if this is the best the “intelligent” media can do, I am sorely disappointed.

 

The weeping anchors were at least honest: they accused Modi of going back on his word in order to win a couple of elections.

 

You know that. The farmers know that. Even Modi knows that.

 

Right? Right.

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She writes on MxMIndia every Tuesday and Friday. Her views here are personal

 

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