Telescope: A yatra, a blind alley

After Amarnath attack, a question: Is it only politicians who play politics?

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Published:July 13, 2017 12:00 am
amarnath yatra, amarnath yatra attack, amarnath yatra politics, rajnath singh, mehbooba mufti, indian express news, indian express opinion Anantnag: Security personnel keep vigil at the site of the yesterday’s militant attack on Amarnath Yatris in which seven pilgrims were killed and 19 others injured, at Batango in Anantnag district of South Kashmir on Tuesday. PTI Photo 

“There are two Indias,” said the anchor on Tuesday evening — one that stands in “solidarity” against terrorism; the other which spreads “fear” and “mistrust” (Republic). Which India do you choose?

On the one hand, there was the India represented by a composed Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh who, on Tuesday, lauded Kashmiris for condemning the terrorist attack on a bus of Amarnath yatris with a “salute” and said he believed in “Kashmiriyat”. On the other hand, there was Major General G. D. Bakshi, red-faced and swollen with anger and outrage over alleged inaction: “Kaam keejiye… (those responsible for the attack) should be hunted down in two or three days”.

On the one hand, leaders across the political spectrum, on TV news, denounced the terrorist attack and offered condolences to the families of the bereaved — Rajnath Singh, other Union ministers, J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, NC leader Omar Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Azad (Congress), Lalu Prasad (RJD), etc. In the headlines, condemnations and sympathy from President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee
(TMC) indicated that “India stands united” (Republic).

On the other hand, News X, Zee News, Times Now and Republic went after what the latter in its promo called, “bleeding hearts”, “Pak terror proxies”. Times Now claimed, “The Opposition won’t take a stand. Even now RaGa and Co appease…” In the evening, it flashed photos of Omar Abdullah and Ghulam Nabi Azad, suggesting their condemnations were mere lip service. News X derided “Netas (who) bicker”, asked them to “Put India First. Show maturity” and proclaimed, “What a time for politics!”.

But who was playing politics here — the politicians or the news channels? Why did there seem to be a determination to divide even when everyone across the board united against terror?

Zee News and Zee Hindustan talked of the blame game and wanted immediate retaliation: “Desh maange jawab”, “Badla lo” — something that was echoed by families of those bereaved. But they also had questions. In Mumbai, Nirmala’s family was in tears. Her husband wondered why no one was there to help the people in the bus; a female relative wailed — what kind of security was in place? (Zee Hindustan).

India Today said that there were “serious deviations” by the bus from the norms set out for yatri buses. News 9 wondered if there had been a security lapse while News X asked BJP’s Ram Madhav, in charge of party affairs in Kashmir how, in spite of intelligence alerts, could such an attack take place? Legitimate questions. And the same questions were raised by some opposition leaders who were promptly accused of playing politics by the channels mentioned above. Do you think that perhaps some news channels suffer from selective hearing? Whether or not they do, some certainly appear to practise selective questioning. It is by no means anyone’s case that politicians should not be cross-questioned; by all means ask questions but ask them of all politicians. And should questions be put to those who govern and are therefore, in a position to take decisions or should questions be asked of politicians out of power? What is more in the public interest?

If there was one thing all news channels agreed upon, however, it was Salim Sheikh, the driver of the ill-fated bus who continued to drive through the welter of bullet shots — he was hailed as a hero, or in the words of CNN News 18, “India salutes Salim”.

There couldn’t have been a channel which didn’t interview him and herald his courage under fire.

For the rest, the coverage was more sober than it was when the Uri attack took place last autumn or even during the recent lynching of police officer Mohammed Ayub Pandit. Monday night, the terrorist attack took precedence over the bickering on channel debates and through Tuesday morning, the coverage was about developments on the ground — news more than views.

Lastly, a word about DD Sports coverage of the 22nd Asian Athletics Championships. Poor. The commentary was often not professional: Commentators didn’t always know who had won, got the names of the winners wrong — Lili Das instead of Archana Adhav in the 800 metres (she was disqualified later), for instance. The cameras could not capture all angles of the track so you could only follow the leaders and the studio chit chat was idle: “As you see people are pouring into the stadium,” said one presenter when you could clearly see the almost completely empty stands behind him.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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  1. R
    Reclaim kapali
    Jul 13, 2017 at 9:43 pm
    The columnist as well plays politics, she juxtapositions - the call to stand in solidarity with the victims and the call to hunt down/punish the terrorists - as though they are mutually exclusive and contradictory. The calls of commiseration, kashmiriyat etc sound false, since that eco-system practiced for decades, did not stop a single act of violence. Do I need to say "Kashmiri Pandits". So no we will putting down these vermin first and once there not any of that kind, we will show solidarity etc.
    Reply
    1. R
      ramesh patil
      Jul 13, 2017 at 10:51 am
      You start the article by dividing India into two: “There are two Indias,” you say. And then go on to ask : Why did there seem to be a determination to divide even when everyone across the board united against terror? So you could traduction yourself. The methodology is clear: If a Hindu is killed by a Muslim hand, you want Hindus Muslims be one and condemn the incident.Abd say terrorism has no religion. If a Muslim is killed by a Hindu, all breaks loose. It's the whole of Hindu community, saffron terrorism, intolerance yada yada. Go take a walk you sick of a writer.
      Reply
      1. R
        rddy
        Jul 13, 2017 at 10:08 am
        Now media and pros utes will down play this incident as the victims are hindus and perpetrators are Muslims, but when one Muslim is killed in a petty quarrel, media will goes on for weeks demonising Hindus , what a strategy sir, first lunch these media people , the nation will become prosperous
        Reply
        1. R
          RR
          Jul 13, 2017 at 9:32 am
          Seems IE has opened one desk at Pakistan! Their repeated sympathy for pakistan is clear. Public here r not fools that u try to make us feel respected for most acchi chora and opportunistic politicians like yechuri and mamta. V can never believe them doing anything for nation. U r playing politics in fact..And that 2 of shamelessly shrewd level.
          Reply
          1. M
            mohan
            Jul 13, 2017 at 8:59 am
            If some channels are showing their national fervour echoing national sentiments why these muslim parast journalist are shedding tears.The soft ped ng on terrorist to not to speak the truth that all most all the terrorist are muslims they are on a mission to kill hindus convert India into an islamic state,has brought us to a state where hindus cannot go on a pilgrimage in their own country.Is it not something dangerous for our survival.If the TV channels cited are enlightening the viewers of the dangers of psuedosecularism liberalism,what is wrong with it.Tell is there any country in the world which is secular.This nehru injected the virus of secularism to loot the country to be in power to see the extinction of hindu race.Hindus see Pl the reality before your eyes are gouged out you groope in the dark.Hindus shake your head throw away this fatal ideology of secularism before it gulps you down.Mr Modi is the last hope of this country.Help him to maintain the unity of the country.
            Reply
            1. G
              Gandhi
              Jul 13, 2017 at 8:51 am
              The only thing this article truly conveys is Shailaja Bajpai's own politics. What a waste of space and time.
              Reply
              1. Z
                zubeen
                Jul 13, 2017 at 8:16 am
                very good article. well balanced.
                Reply
                1. H
                  Haridas Rao
                  Jul 13, 2017 at 7:53 am
                  Why does Ms.Bajpai tax everyone's intelligence by reporting on the antics of our politicians and news channels ? Everyone but everyone knows that they are bufoons , corrupt ,nepotist etc. etc. The only channels worth watching are the educational channels - at least the animals in NatGeo have more brains and are more polite and decorous than those masquerading as rational human beings on TV News and this goes for politicians too.
                  Reply
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