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December 6 is a day many remember as the day 25 years ago when the Babri Masjid was flattened by kar sevaks. There was no social media then, no 24×7 in-your-ears-and-face private news channels beaming “exclusive”, literally “breaking news”, of the kar sevaks scampering up the mosque. So many of us first learned about its demolition from BBC World News Service on the radio. Mark Tully’s voice rose above the din of chants: “Jai Shri Ram”. You could almost taste the dust in his voice.
If you were watching Aaj Tak this Wednesday afternoon, you would have witnessed some of what happened that day in Ayodhya, and you should have still been shocked: Kar sevaks acrobat onto the domes and pound them to the ground, security personnel stand at ease, observing the “tamasha”, BJP leaders look on. It was a very sorry sight.
However, if you watched Zee News, Tuesday night, you’d have thought the kar sevaks were not really responsible for their actions on December 6, 1992; Mughal emperor Babur was wholly and possibly solely responsible for the events of that Sunday. Dismissing accounts of what he called “designer” writers and journalists, anchor Sudhir Chaudhary presented a completely new and revised edition of history with the “golden” Mughal era his primary target.
And as you listened to members of the BJP and the VHP recall December 6 on India TV’s special “Secret Formula” for Ayodhya, they spoke of the demolition of the “structure” like it was any old dilapidated building that had to be torn down once past its prime.
Actually, wait on, the man who’s really to blame for every villainy is Congressman Mani Shankar Aiyar — he first introduced the Mughals into the political narrative of the week. On Monday, as the Congress vice president cemented “#RahulRaj”, at precisely “10.43 am” when India Today found him hugging Sheila Dikshit after filing his nomination papers for the post of Congress president, Aiyar was asked about “dynastic politics” (ABP). He recalled that, historically, one leader succeeded another without elections, just as Shah Jahan had succeeded Jahangir and Aurangzeb had succeeded him.
He added that “in a democracy, however, there are elections”, and invited the disaffected Shehzad Poonawalla to file his papers — but that crucial clip was conveniently clipped to suit the needs of viral news. It reached Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ears while he was campaigning in Gujarat and not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, he went after RG with the entire might of the Mughal empire in his barbs. Where Modi goes the media toes the line: “Modi’s ‘Aurangzeb’ bomb: biggest attack of dynasty raj” said India Today; “for PM Mughals=Gandhis” (or vice versa) added CNN News 18.
Fake news? If not, what else would you call an abbreviated and revised version of what Aiyar said?
The “Aurangzeb” clip is a perfect case study for one of the more convincing TV news shows on the air, Viral Sach (ABP). Each week day evening, the programme investigates the authenticity of items that go “viral” and pronounces them “True or False”. On Tuesday, it faulted Rahul Gandhi’s mathematics in a tweet on prices of essential commodities during the 21 years of BJP rule in Gujarat and then revealed how Mahatma Gandhi was morphed into Aurangzeb in a viral photo of Rahul signing his application papers.
RG is currently, in Sheila D’s word, the “darling” of Indian news TV and the BJP’s favourite topic of conversation. We hear about what he did (visit another temple?), said/tweeted or what the BJP/Modi said/tweeted about him; in the evening, we listen to what TV anchors think of him, which, for the most, is not much but still they can’t get enough of him. On Times Now most recently: “Ra Ga rigged poll debate”, “Crown without Credibility”, “Rahul No Hindu: Fact of faux pas?” and “Rahul: A king without a citadel?”
And we haven’t even started on Republic TV’s Rahul-nama.
His “selection not election” as Congress president, was indeed a “farce” of internal party democracy since he was the sole candidate. And TV news was rightly incensed by “#RahulRise” (India Today). But in January 2016, Amit Shah was also selected BJP president, for a second term, unopposed and India Today had simply announced: “Amit Shah president, again”. Different standards? Ah, but RG is a “dynast”. Like Ivanka Trump?
Yes, Rahul is the man of the moment. So much so that in a recent interview, Amit Shah spent one third of the time talking about him (Frankly Speaking, Times Now).
Lastly, Shashi Kapoor was given a heartfelt farewell by TV news but why did neither DD National or the film channels change schedules and telecast one of his films in remembrance?