The revolution is not televised any more, but spy dramas are. Islamabad, which failed to make its case at the Hague in the matter of Kulbhushan Jadhav, has turned the visit by his wife and mother into a video opportunity, inviting appreciation for a country where the quality of mercy is not strained — well, not to snapping point, anyway. It is not the consular access which India had sought, but at least some room for humanitarian gesture has opened in a forbiddingly stonewalled situation.
But there appears to be a back story, which does not redound to the credit of Pakistani journalists covering the event — yes, it was an event, like a trade fair or a cross-border theatre performance. Taha Siddiqui, Pakistan bureau chief of WION, tweeted: “Some days we do a story which disgusts us. Today was one such day… because of how my fellow journos behaved with the mother and wife of Kulbhushan Jadhav (as they left the Foreign Office building). They shouted taunts. It was very shameful.” ANI has a lengthy video in which the taunting questions of the press are audible, while an official accompanying the two women throws up his hands in disgust.
The discussion that followed Siddiqui’s comment — quite general, though other Pakistani journalists did weigh in — suggests that the Partition was impartial in its distribution of morons and maniacs. While, thanks to the Arnab Goswami-era in Times Now, we have a long tradition in India of beaming down superannuated Pakistani generals into the studio in order to taunt them, would this sort happen in the great outdoors? Quite possibly. And of course there’s Subramanian Swamy, and there’s the press to illuminate us about his plans to invade Pakistan.
This side of the border, while the television cameras remain firmly focused on Union minister Anantkumar Hegde, who is merely his master’s voice, the Kannadigas are passing around a statement by writer and Dalit activist Devanur Mahadeva, in which the Sahitya Akademi awardee and Padma Shri winner has replied in kind: “Hatred is your father. Intolerance is your mother. Illusion marks your birth.” Sadly, a complete translation is unavailable. Addressing a meet of the already converted, Hegde had essentially called secular Indians bastards. Not with that specific word, but the circumlocutions he used amount to its dictionary definition.
While Bihar is inured to dons and politicians keeping their empires going from jail on the phone, Lalu Prasad Yadav has raised the bar by tweeting incessantly, apparently from jail. An outcry was raised by Delhi BJP spokesperson Tajinder Bagga, demanding that Twitter must block Yadav’s account, since it had blocked Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s when he was convicted, and parity must be maintained. Yadav has soothingly clarified that while he’s in the cooler, his handle is operated by his office. The BJP was needlessly excited. The prevalence of English tweets from Yadav’s account after the verdict in the second fodder scam case clearly indicated that the phone had changed hands.
The decision of UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein not to seek another term of office didn’t get much play in the Indian media. Not surprising, because our government rapped his knuckles when he rapped our knuckles for cow vigilantism, the murder of journalists and India’s stand on the Rohingyas. But then, he also compared the right-wingers in Europe to Islamic State, denounced President Trump’s refugee ban and ticked off Europe for helping the Libyans catch immigrant boats. And he’s walking away for a reason which should concern everyone. The Washington Post’s headline said it all: ‘2017: The year even the UN human rights commissioner gave up on human rights.’ Al-Hussein is convinced that he would not be able to perform his duties in a world where the traditional standard-bearers of human rights are devaluing it.
On Tuesday, a group of journalists challenged the gag order issued by a CBI court last month, preventing the media from covering the trial of the sensitive Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. The petition, holding the gag order “illegal and not tenable in law … since the case involves an element of public interest and our populace, therefore, has the right to know what transpires in the trial”, will be heard by the Bombay High Court on January 12.
And in Pakistan, the influential TV anchor Aamir Liaquat Hussain has been taken off both traditional and social media by a court order. News18 reports that this is a temporary ban, while the Islamabad High Court hears a petition asking for him to be banned for life for inciting hatred and violence. A former minister of state for religious affairs, Hussain will get to know his fate on January 10. A court ban is no better than a court’s gag order, and if a TV anchor is really fit to be tied, it should be the government tightening the knots, not a court.