A country in black and white, silently skewing in favour of the louder narrative

It's no secret that during Indian elections, political parties (including Congress and the BJP) rely heavily on cash expenditure. A considerable portion of this money is black, or unaccounted.

Written by Radhika Iyengar | New Delhi | Updated: November 30, 2016 7:50 pm
demonetisation, demonetisation effects, black money, india black money, black money eradication, national anthem, narendra Modi, Modi, PM Modi,Supreme court, media, Media in india, media freedom, india news, indian express news Anyone opposing the note ban is immediately labeled as unpatriotic, anti-national and potential hoarders of black money.

Indians are not known to suffer quietly. When a government introduces a drastic measure, if it’s not entirely pragmatic and causes major inconveniences, we are known to walk out on the streets and protest. But the anger against black money runs so deep that this time, a large portion of the population seems to be more accepting in bearing the brunt.

Whether this step, that has caused inconveniences of colossal proportions, will obliterate black money entirely is debatable. It is an answer we can only learn in the future. However, what we do know is this: on November 8, 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushed the reset button and asked everyone to come clean. He asked all Indians to disclose any additional funds which had remained unaccounted. However, is this a blanket decision that includes the members of political parties, including the BJP?

WATCH VIDEO: Supreme court Makes Playing National Anthem At Theaters Mandatory

It’s no secret that during Indian elections, political parties (including Congress and the BJP) rely heavily on cash expenditure. A considerable portion of this money is black, or unaccounted. On a panel discussion this week, senior journalist and news anchor Rajdeep Sardesai asked a BJP spokesperson whether the Prime Minister was willing to go on record and tell the country how much money his party had spent on the 2014 election campaign in Varanasi alone. The BJP spokesperson, who unflinchingly skirted the question, looked affronted and responded by saying that Sardesai was questioning the “integrity” of his “Honourable Prime Minister”. A startled Yogendra Yadav (a leader of the Swaraj Abhiyan), who was also part of the panel, reacted by asking what world we were living in, where we could not even ask questions anymore.

Asking questions, challenging the government or expressing dissent against its decisions are increasingly being characterised as “unpatriotic” to say the least. A country where journalists can no longer ask questions, where questioning a Prime Minister’s party’s monetary exploits for a campaign are deemed as “overstepping”, is a country that terrifyingly begins to resemble a dictatorship.

Anyone who opposes the government or tries to defame it can face serious charges, even imprisonment. In 2014, seven people including four students were arrested in Kerala, when they published Narendra Modi’s photograph alongside Adolf Hitler and George W. Bush, in Government Polytechnic College’s student magazine. This week Abhishek Mishra, a 19-year-old who was posting anti-BJP and anti-demonetisation statements on Twitter was arrested. To consider a 19-year-old with reportedly only 16,000 followers a threat, seems a bit far-fetched. But what’s more disturbing is the government’s inability to face any degree of ridicule – it tellingly describes how thin-skinned it is.

Anyone opposing the note ban is immediately labeled as unpatriotic, anti-national and as potential hoarders of black money. The narrative of patriotism and its shining characteristics have been meticulously sculpted by the central government and it’s intelligently being ingrained into our subconscious. For instance, within the first week of demonetisation, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting promptly released a radio message where a reporter floats from one bank to another to understand the mood of the crowd. He interviews a handful of people supposedly standing in queues outside these banks. Those he speaks to (all actors) convey that while they are facing inconvenience, they are satisfied with the government’s decision and are behind Modi. Not a single voice of dissent is featured. The radio piece conveniently forgets to feature those who oppose the ruling. At the end, the host wraps up saying, “I’ll soon make you meet another honest man like them,” suggesting that those who are with the government are “honest” citizens and those who aren’t are dishonest.

But the country is increasingly skewing towards a more intolerant, nationalistic and a more Hindu nation. Today, the Supreme Court declared that all cinema halls must have the national anthem playing before the screening of a movie. In the ruling, the SC bench stated that the time had “come when people must respect the national anthem which is part of constitutional patriotism. People must feel that it is their country. It is because of the country that they are enjoying freedom and liberty.” That is ironic, because the moment you force someone to do something – in this case, sing the national anthem – you are taking away their right to freedom.

There have also been issues raised regarding the fact that the numerical on the new rupee notes are in Devanagari, which therefore sidelines regional communities that are not familiar with the script. Weeks after this was flagged as a concern, the central government dismissed the charges of marginalising other regional scripts and reasoned that the Devanagari script on the new notes existed only for “design” purposes.

In 2014, reports began to emerge that conveyed that the Gujarat government was introducing new textbooks to academic institutions which were steeped in nationalist ideology and religious bias. Circulated across 42,000 schools in Gujarat, these books were available to children for free. The books narrated an altered history, which informed students that the first airplane – a chariot that resembled a swan – was conceptualised and invented during the mythological time of Lord Ram. Many of these books carried a foreword written by Narendra Modi.

These are a handful of instances, but they are enough to paint a portrait an India we are slowly moving towards.

For all the latest Opinion News, download Indian Express App

  1. I
    indian
    Nov 30, 2016 at 3:31 pm
    Back to intolerance. Come on pseudosecularists. Come up with something new
    Reply
    1. A
      Ajay G
      Nov 30, 2016 at 3:44 pm
      There's always been difference of opinion. Seems one side has completely lost relevance.
      Reply
      1. A
        a kumar
        Dec 1, 2016 at 8:37 pm
        Yes, and the article does it by diminishing and ridiculing what author "perceive about people who have have shown a difference of opinion" with likes of her. I bet the author and her colleagues have never seen a mirror in their life.
        Reply
        1. A
          a kumar
          Nov 30, 2016 at 9:28 pm
          Lol.. "Not a single voice of dissent is featured." That is exactly what most of India was saying about the p-secs. They, with their vast network of communists and leftists have constantly sidelined any other views (right or centrist) than their own. How delusional does one have to be to complain about "bias" and display arrogance and bias in the same article?lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;I am a south indian and I don't care about devanagari script on notes. The TamBrams elite destro us with their bigotry and castism for centuries, now their progeny, the anglecized TamBram intellectuals continues bigotry towards the rest of us in a different form. Can you please stop with the "white man's burden"?
          Reply
          1. G
            Goyal Anandilal
            Nov 30, 2016 at 2:20 pm
            I agree in full with the author.
            Reply
            1. V
              Vikas Untunri
              Nov 30, 2016 at 2:01 pm
              Wow! With so much bigotry and malice in her heart, does the lady even breathe?
              Reply
              1. A
                Arpit
                Nov 30, 2016 at 3:02 pm
                I have said this again and again, the more these kind of articles are published , the better it is for common indian to judge..How good BJP is..it seems to me..that Rajdeep..the perenial stooge of congress..learned reporting only to ask BJP..but meekly stands on two feets with tongue out ...now comes the pseudo liberals..to whose credit is the achievement..why children are reading " Aurangzeb " as great leader..tipu the killer..as great..well your true face is being uncovered bit by bit..the more you write against the nation..the more people will resolutely stand for common values of India.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;I don't think you will learn.
                Reply
                1. G
                  Guru
                  Nov 30, 2016 at 3:53 pm
                  And you want the country to be skewed towards your thinking? How is that good.lt;br/gt;Nobody has stopped journalists from asking questions. But do journalists as questions? They opine not inquire. Let that change and you will see that the world has already changed.
                  Reply
                  1. H
                    h
                    Nov 30, 2016 at 1:57 pm
                    lol the islamic express is talking about dissent.
                    Reply
                    1. I
                      Indian_Mind
                      Nov 30, 2016 at 3:39 pm
                      how conveniently...mamama banerjee jailing professor for cartoon was missed...lt;br/gt;can we say west bengal has turned for worse with left and pseudo left..
                      Reply
                      1. O
                        ONeeyeOpen
                        Nov 30, 2016 at 2:02 pm
                        H is the biggest bhaktard troll
                        Reply
                        1. P
                          Pankaj
                          Nov 30, 2016 at 2:27 pm
                          The Bleaters and Squealers:lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;[19:50, 11/30/2016] Pankaj Dubey: In George Orwell's Animal Farm, what does the sheep's chant (Four legs good, two legs bad), as well as the sheep's new song taught by Squealer (Four legs good, two legs better) correlate to :lt;br/gt;[19:52, 11/30/2016] Pankaj Dubey: Orwell's construction of the sheep correlates to the government control of the media-lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Orwell uses the sheep to display how important it was for those in the position of power to ensure that their message would consolidate their own power. The sheep do not have any individuality. They lack names and simply bleat in unison. They are heard on cue from Squealer. Agreement is not necessary in this setting where adherence is the most important element. In repeating the chant of "Two Legs Good, Four Legs Bad," the sheep operate as reminders of Animalism, the philosophy that put the pigs in power. They bleat as a way to emphasize that the leadership of the pigs is in the best interest of all the farm animals. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Over time, the power of the pigs grows. They eventually learn to walk on two legs, mirroring the humans that used to control the farm before the revolution. Teaching the sheep the new chant of "Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better" is another reminder of how the sheep are used to consolidate the pig power over the farm. Once again, the sheep do not question anything they are taught. Their chanting drowns out any other voices. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;The sheep are taught by Squealer, a master manitor who "could turn black into white." Squealer is able to control the messages that the farm animals hear. Squealer compares to this ability to control the message that the public hears in order to ensure blind acceptance. In both settings, state sponsored media is the primary means to control the public and bolster governmental authority.
                          Reply
                          1. S
                            shiravanthe sridhar
                            Nov 30, 2016 at 2:45 pm
                            Physician heal thyself,intolerant pressutes calling names just about everybody including supreme Court,why not move out with your icon amir khan ,kiran Rao to some tolerant country like stan,soudiarabia,syrialt;br/gt;etc ,even Kashmir will welcome all the burkha datta , shagufta those,rajuddin Sardesai huriyat 's Germany will be happy to accommodate all the sickular pressutes.
                            Reply
                            1. R
                              Rasikan
                              Nov 30, 2016 at 2:15 pm
                              Why IE is against BJP? CPM leader Sitaram Yechuri's wife Seema Chisti is Resident Editor of IE. Managing editor Rajkamal Jha is the cousin of Sanjay Jha of congress. Same way NDTV has many Congi and left leaders' relatives and the list is very big therelt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Modi is here to stay..Deal with it..
                              Reply
                              1. R
                                R Ramaswamy
                                Nov 30, 2016 at 6:09 pm
                                The fault is on either sides.Journalists also ask certain questions under the name of Free Speech and Democracy only to selected few and to others treat them with kid gloves.Today all professionals are taking positions and it has become very difficult to distingish between truth and lies.
                                Reply
                                1. K
                                  Krishnan
                                  Nov 30, 2016 at 10:10 pm
                                  After reading the first few lines, I thought that IE for once has decided to give a balanced opinion. But after 2 or 3 paras you have again shown your true colors. If only you had raised similar questions during the past 60 years rule the country would have been a better place to live.
                                  Reply
                                  1. S
                                    sadda
                                    Nov 30, 2016 at 3:39 pm
                                    "But the country is increasingly skewing towards a more intolerant, nationalistic and a more Hindu nation." - Broken record of deracinated communist pseudo-secular dishonest rabble rousers. They have no clue what "INTOLERANCE" is for they are afraid to look around honestly. They are just petrified at the spectacle of the resultant wrath.
                                    Reply
                                    1. S
                                      Smart
                                      Nov 30, 2016 at 2:41 pm
                                      Get a life dude. Use your time more productively. You are stuck in your own labyrinthine.
                                      Reply
                                      1. Load More Comments