India is burning!

12 Apr,2022




By Ranjona Banerji


Ranjona BanerjiIndia is burning. No, not just from the intense heat waves across large parts of the country. But from relentless attacks on freedom and democracy from our ruling regime’s stable of thugs. From the fires set on homes and businesses and religious establishments that belong to Muslims. From the force of the blows on the heads of students eating in their college canteens. From the spreading wave of toxic Hindu majoritarianism that now devours our nation-state.

From their Twitter feeds, the most prominent Prime Minister-related news on the morning of April 12, 2022 from some English TV channels:

Times Now tells us that the Prime Minister is busy with the Deoghar rope accident in Jharkhand.

India Today tells us that the Prime Minister is busy with the “Ukraine war”.

News18 tells that the Prime Minister has congratulated the new prime minister of Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif.

The Prime Minister was not visible on NDTV’s Twitter feed, not even exercising on a rock or sitting in a cave or waving at no one.

The biggest news was by-elections, the wedding of Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor, US President Joe Biden’s meeting with PM Narendra Modi on Ukraine, summer vacation dates in Maharashtra.

What have our newspapers tell us about what’s going on in India? How about the violence against Muslim fruit-sellers in Dharwad, one more in a list of attacks on Muslims in Karnataka?

The wording here is delicate: “members of a Hindu rightwing group Sri Ram Sene”. The criminal behaviour of Sri Ram Sene has long been known. Its founder Pramod Muthalik has been in and of the Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and the BJP. His rabid toxicity was apparently too much for all of them. But here he is, untouched and free to carry on with his violence and targeting of Muslims and women.

What’s the bet that the word “members” would have been replaced with words like “terrorists” if a Muslim organisation had been charged with these attacks. At least, you may argue, the thugs were not called “activists”. Those usually belong to the Bajrang Dal or ABVP.

The “incident” at Jawaharwal Nehru University over non-vegetarian food in the canteen on Ram Navami?

This story from The Hindu is very careful to just lay out all the accusations and counter-accusations so that the reader imagines that there was no bloodshed and that everyone involved – ABVP and Left unions – was equally responsible.

So also from The Telegraph:

Tippy-toe, tippy-toe. Baba, we must pick our battles carefully. These students are like this, all aggressive, lefties especially and this ABVP. Let us just do a bland report and move on.

How about the many attacks on Muslim-owned meat sellers across India over the issue of Ram Navami, the spring Navratri or nine days of some form of fasting by some Hindus, particularly in North India?

Here are two digital platforms on the issue, The Print and Article 14. Both go further than the mainstream media.

The Print tells us that the attacks on Muslims are “brutal”, but also decided to describe these violent criminals as “vigilantes”.

Article 14 looks at the larger picture of consistent assaults on Muslim traders and workers:–6250e3f04ceeb

There are Youtube videos and individual accounts of a Ram Navami procession in Madhya Pradesh attacking a mosque. The Madhya Pradesh government reacted by blaming Muslims, arresting them and then bulldozing their homes. Here, from the Hindustan Times:

This is standard practice, to blame the victim and then use loopholes in the law to destroy their property based on accusations. What law, life and individual liberties mean in India I have no idea. Does the bulk of the media?

Indeed, what exactly the Indian media does in its newsrooms, even those who do not only comply with orders from the Modi government, it’s hard to understand or imagine. Those of you who can remember, look back at the 2011 India Against Corruption movement where the same media amplified tiny crowds as national unrest and what we now know are absolute lies about corruption in 2G spectrum auctions.

India is burning. The media is too scared to tell you that.


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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