It could be called The Judge and the Jury, now playing on the small screen in drawing rooms and running houseful for over a week ever since the JNU row broke out. In this hyper-nationalist blockbuster, the overworked and overwrought anchor doubles as both prosecution and judge — scolding, smirking, shouting, pronouncing verdicts.
The debates on TV often set the tone of the national discourse and so they have in the JNU case. There have been reports that the tapes that ostensibly showed student leader Kanhaiya Kumar shouting slogans of azaadi, on the basis of which he has been charged with sedition, could have been doctored. But channels rushed to air them, stitching together a dark story of a campus that runs on taxpayers’ money and “squanders” its subisidised education in “unpatriotic” acts. It’s a story that has found resonance in many sections, resulting in the hashtag ‘CloseJNU’.
As the JNU row enters Round Two with five of the students police were looking for returning to campus, a look back at some of TV’s big debates and shows that set the tone for the discourse.
Zee News, DNA with Sudhir Chaudhary
He framed the debate on JNU early, declaring “Bharat ka apmaan kisi keemat par saha nahi ja sakta, aur desh drohiyon ko kisi bhi tarah baksha nahi ja sakta (we won’t tolerate any insults towards India; traitors will not be spared)” and gave himself a pat on the back too: “desh ke khilaf agenda chalane walon ko Zee News ne hamesha karara jawab diya hai.
“This is the time when they should have been praying for Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad and… can this happen in any other country?” he asked before launching on the economic argument. “The government spends Rs 244 crore every year as aid and subsidies on JNU. There is one teacher for every 16 students in JNU as opposed to other universities where the ratio is usually 1 to 26. Despite all the aid and support, JNU doesn’t figure in the top 200 universities of the world.”
Zee News, Taal Thok Ke with Rohit Sardana
“Main is desh ka taxpayer hoon, aap meri jeb se paise le kar vahan subsidy le kar padhai kar rahe hain. Toh main aapki fees ke paise islye deta hoon taaki aap padhein aur desh ko acchi soch dene wale academican ban ke nikle….Kyun un laakhon karodon taxpayers ko aap choona laga rahe hain.(I am a taxpaying citizen, you use my money to get a subsidised education. why are you fooling taxpayers)?” he said.
Times Now: The Newshour with Arnab Goswami
This time the nation did not even want to know because it already knew. Addressing Umar Khalid, Arnab thundered, “You are more dangerous to this country than Maoist terrorists. I wonder who is funding you to destroy the rich heritage of the Left movement in this country… I am calling them out name by name — Lenin [Lenin Kumar, former JNU students’ union president], Ishan [Ishan Anand, secretary, Democratic Students Federation, JNU], Umar [Umar Khalid, one of the organisers of the JNU protest] on what you are doing is anti-national… In this this country there is a bunch of people, which includes secessionists, anti-nationals, champagne-sipping cocktail glitterati, five-star has-been authors… and some out-of-work lawyers, who say they are the free spirits of this country and come out with illiterate arguments.” Arnab turned on the students again. “Your agenda has been called out… I am only speaking to this misguided youth… These are not Leftists, they are a motley combination of anti-nationals, they have no ideology, they are opportunists of the highest level and they know they have been called out on Newshour tonight.”
India News: Tonight with Deepak Chaurasia
He squares off with Kanahiya Kumar. From daring Kanhaiya and CPI leader Prof Dinesh Varshney to chanting Bharat Mata ki jai – “Aap Bharat Mata ki jai boliye… dikkat kya hai (what’s the problem?)’’ to “Main patrakar baad mein hoon, desh ka nagrik aur desh bhakt pehlein hoon. Main pseudo desh bhakt nahin hoon …aap jaise log subsidy ki roti tod rahrein hain [addressing JNU student Anirban Bhattacharya]. Charausia then turns adviser, urging BJP’s Sambit Patra to file a case against JNU students for being anti-national. “Dr Sambit Patra, aapne anti-national slogans sune… BJP ki taraf se ki inke khilaf kanooni karyavahi ki jiye, rashtrdroh ki” (Shouldn’t you ask for legal action against them?)
News X: The Nation at 9 with Rahul Shivshankar
It begins with him berating JNU for condoning anti-national activities in the name of democracy and free speech. This is followed by a report that stated “naturally ABVP students refused to let such treachery take place on campus… Nothing deterred this Afzal gang who fired the democracy bullet.” Later NewsX even claimed that Umar Khalid was an alleged JeM sympathiser and had visited Pakistan as proof of his being in contact with JeM top brass.
Khalid ki Khoj, ZEE
On a programme Saturday, before Umar Khalid returned to JNU, Zee turned its spotlight on Umar’s father, shining a light on his SIMI background-he left the organisation in 1985 before it was banned and before Umar was born. “My son was one of the ten organisers of the protest so why is he being singled out, why is he being called the mastermind?” Syed Qasim Ilyas asked. When he spoke about the media communalising the issue, the anchor said, “Yeh kaise pita hain jo dharm ko hathyar banakar deshdroh ke aaropi bete ki tarafdaari kar rahein hain (what kind of a father is he who is using religion to defend his traitor son)?”
His father said that while the sloganeering in JNU was wrong and Umar should come out of hiding, the home minister should assure him of his security and that he will get justice. Considering how a section of the lawyers have worn their pariotism on their lathi, it seemed a valid concern, but to the anchor, it reflected the same “lack of faith” his son had displayed in the law of the land.