Ranjona Banerji: Masthead of India!

26 Nov,2021

Ranjona BanerjiBy Ranjona Banerji


Despite the best efforts of India’s Modi cheerleading media, the farmers’ protest is not going away and not giving in. Is it unfair to speculate that the meeting between the anchors and managers of Modi cheerleading TV channels and Mohan Bhagwat, RSS boss, the foundation stone for a new airport in Uttar Pradesh got somewhat over enthusiastic coverage by these channels?


Anyway. We all know what they’re like.


And there are their comrades in arms. The BJP IT cell which has left no avenue unexplored to destroy both the protests as well as the reputations of farmers and the Sikh community.


This investigation by the Centre for Information Resilience and shared first with the BBC, shows how a coordinated campaign to promote the Modi government’s line on farm reforms and to discredit protesting farmers was carried out by thousands of accounts on social media.


Benjamin Strick, author of the report said, “Our research shows a coordinated effort to distort perceptions and discredit the push for Sikh independence, label Sikh political interests as extremist, stoke cultural tensions within India and international communities, and promote Indian Government content”.





Subsequently, some media outlets carried this report but obviously not with the same enthusiasm as the foundation stone of an airport in the poll-bound state of Uttar Pradesh. Indeed, the front page of The Times of India’s Nov 25 edition called itself “The Airport of India”.


Aside: that is an interesting choice of masthead. Is TOI the launchpad to feel India for instance? Or a travel agency?


Does anyone remember the massive outrage by the Indian Modi Media when a “toolkit” was mentioned by environmental activist Greta Thunberg about how to amplify news about the farmers’ protest against the Modi government’s controversial farm laws? How Disha Ravi, an environmental activist in Bengaluru was arrested for some vague reasoning around her being involved in this “toolkit”?


How outraged our “patriotic” media was when international celebrities tweeted in support of India’s farmers?


Well, none of that outrage and definitely no apologies when it turned out that Ravi was arrested for no reason.


And definitely no outrage when it turns out that fake, manufactured social media accounts had a toolkit with which to defame and vilify India’s farmers and the Sikh community. One of the targets of this campaign is British Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, who has been an active supporter of the farmers.


That Narendra Modi declared his intent in an election speech to repeal the farm laws – blaming farmers for being stupid and obstinate – did create some pain within his media fanbase. But the rest quickly picked up on the “stupid and obstinate” narrative and ran with it. This section remains furious that farmers do not believe Modi and still continue with their demands and protest.


Anyway, since the short-term memory of media people and the consumers of their content is tiny, the move to the celebration of the foundation stone was tidy and instant.




In other news, amusingly, the Modi government celebrates Constitution Day today. You must admit that there is a great sense of humour at work here: to celebrate something which you have spent seven years trying to destroy and even succeeding along the way!


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She writes on MxMIndia on Tuesdays and Fridays. Her views here are personal.


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