This is the India we voted for…

19 Apr,2022



By Ranjona Banerji


Ranjona BanerjiThere are a number of connected but confused narratives running around the Indian media at the moment. Some newsrooms and TV channels try to cover the sectarian violence breaking out in various parts of the country by looking at “both sides”. Others focus on one side or the other. And even others present the violence and hatred as a distraction from other things happening, like for instance, the economy. Actually, scratch that “happening” and replace it with “not happening”.


I was genuinely shocked to read a 50-word edit in The Print which actually named Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and the BJP while commenting on the sectarian violence. This is a new one for Shekhar Gupta’s Print which is usually careful at the way it butters its bread. Mild, mild, criticism of the Emperor and his court is the best it can usually manage:


“Religious processions aimed to provoke, angry slogans, stone-hurling and communal riots – this was the pattern of the old India we thought we had left behind. Obviously not. It’s back with a vengeance under Modi-Shah BJP. An immediate course correction is needed. This isn’t the new India people voted for.”


You may legitimately argue that this isn’t any sort of criticism at all. But you need to see it in context. So far, The Print, like so many others, has ducked from even naming “Modi-Shah BJP” for any problems created by a government over the past eight years. Almost everyone else has been to blame, especially any policies set down by Jawaharlal Nehru before he died in 1964. You may think I’m being facetious but you would be wrong. The pusillanimity of the Indian public intellectual and Indian journalist and commentator is truly award-winning stuff.


Hindu mobs have been on a bigger rampage this year than over the past eight years cumulatively. And they have been ably assisted by the police, governments and dare I say it, the judiciary. It is evident that a new directive has been sent out from the RSS HQ at Nagpur that targeting Muslims is the goal for 2022.


But for the media, it is all about “both sides”. Let’s compare then. The Uttar Pradesh police arrested two Muslim boys – minors – for listening to Pakistani songs. Listening to music is not a crime but it is a crime when the police have been instructed that Muslims have to be tortured at any cost. Compare the severity of this action by the UP police to the soft, gentle reaction of the Delhi Police after an open threat from the RSS accessory, the VHP:


We know that the Delhi Police will now do practically nothing to the VHP, just some lip service because as The Print said: “Modi-Shah BJP”.


If I was a half-baked public intellectual, I would interpret The Print’s edit as a possible shift within the RSS from “Modi-Shah BJP” to another version of the BJP. Do not get fooled by this. The RSS is the RSS. The names will change. But the ideology will not. Nitin Gadkari may well be pulled out once again as a man who makes things happen (cuts down forests to build roads) and not quite a rioter in spite of being a core RSS person. This is all smoke and mirrors.


The “both sides” media takes its cue from former PM AB Vajpayee’s “who threw the first stone” justification for the Gujarat 2002 riots under Modi’s watch as CM. That is, “Hindus should not have shouted provocative slogans but don’t forget that Muslims then threw stones and that’s why the MP government had no option but to demolish the home of an armless Muslim man for throwing stones”. Chuck in a few “allegedlys” and “reportedlys” and you’ve covered your bases by which I mean backside.


The “distraction” media also hangs from a zipwire. It tries to acknowledge that Muslims are being targeted but does not want to upset “Modi-Shah BJP” too much either. It tells us that murdering a few people here and there is bad for India because it stops us all from getting rich. Something like that.


I have completely ignored that section of the media – and it is enormous – which tells its customers that Muslims are entirely to blame and Hindus are only doing what they should have centuries ago. To me, these are criminals and not journalists, and in another world, they would have been shut down. In this world, armless Muslims have their homes demolished on trumped up charges of throwing stones, young Muslim women have scarves torn from their faces and Muslim boys are arrested for listening to music.


The upshot is, and this is what the media as whole fails miserably, that “Modi-Shah BJP” plus their puppet-masters the RSS will not be acknowledged as the architects of our destruction.


No point being disingenuous with “this is not the India we voted for”.

We all know that this is precisely the India every bigot voted for.


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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