Telescope: Maoist, by media

You would think determining whether individuals are plotting against India is a matter for the police.

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Updated: August 30, 2018 12:21:13 am
Outside the house of writer and activist P Varavara Rao in Hyderabad

Beware. There’s an “Urban Naxal” “#PMAssassinationPlot” (News X) out there and a battle for the nation’s soul: It’s “India v/s Maoists” (Republic) — and don’t say you weren’t warned.

Maoist “apologists” (Times Now), plotting, we were told by certain news channels, the downfall of the Indian state, were rounded up across the country on Tuesday, even as some news channels like Republic looked on — phew! Thank God, we can now sleep peacefully at night

You would think that whether or not the five individuals arrested are involved in a dastardly conspiracy against Narendra Modi and the country must be left to the courts to decide. Nah. Trial by media fast tracks the process and isn’t the legal system weighed down by far too many cases, anyway? TV news is lending a helping hand: So “the Maoist plot line” (News X) is exposed on Republic and Zee News is dire with warnings from Sudhir Chaudhary about plans of a revolution to overturn Bharat that is India.

Times Now is worried by police leaks that one of the arrested Gautam Navlakha, is “stoking extremism in Kashmir”. All by himself? Well, now that he’s under house arrest, the job of newly-appointed Governor Satya Pal Malik will be that much easier.

Tuesday evening and into Wednesday, such news channels did their patriotic duty to warn us about the impending dangers. Others are unpatriotic enough to downplay the perceived threats: “Activists” arrested: Is it a crackdown or a contradiction? (CNN News 18) ; “Centre v/s Rights Activists” said NDTV 24×7 with a straight face; “Urban Naxals” popped up on India First at 8.30 pm on India Today and “Human rights activists” appeared on the News at 9 — that is really playing it safe or confused.

You should decide for yourself. Same goes for the Sanatan Sanstha case allegedly involving a right wing “terror module” (People’s Court, India Today). Unfortunately, chances are you will allow yourself to be guided by TV and social media, instead.

Rahul Gandhi made the headlines, needlessly, by saying that the Congress was not involved in the anti-Sikh riots, in London. He must have known that clips from his interaction would be played and replayed back home on TV news, but he went ahead, regardless. Does he know something we don’t? The subsequent outcry from the media — #RahulSikhLie (Republic) —and by the Sikh community, not to mention the BJP, isn’t the kind of publicity the Congress and he need going into election year.

Perhaps the newly appointed Congress media team needs to develop a media handbook, “What never to admit in private or say in public”.

Meanwhile, at the Asian Games in Thailand, it was raining bronze, silver and even gold for India led by “poster boy, the heartthrob” Neeraj Chopra (Sony Ten 2). In the commentators favourite word, “Wow”. “He roared, he soared.!” The commentator’s decibel levels rose with each javelin throw by Chopra, Monday evening. “Ladies and gentleman, there it is… absolutely brilliant… wonderful.” His evil genius with words was then inspired by the 20-year-old sportsman’s long mane: It’s not about his hair, he revealed to viewers, it’s about how he hares in…

(By the way, hair was set on fire by a most unusual barber in the contest India Ke Mast Kalandar, Sony Sab.)

The commentary team was equally inspired by the exploits of our athletes — Saina Nehwal entering the semi-final (“what a moment”), Sarjubala Devi winning her boxing bout (“this is wonderful!”), the 56 goals scored by the men’s hockey team, especially, a one-touch scoop into the goalmouth (“not seen better”) or indeed Dutee Chand’s 100m silver run in the final. The Hindi commentary team was strangulated in an agony of ecstasy — “Oooh! Dutee Chand! Medal! Oho ho ho.. . Vande Mataram!”

Unfortunately, missed seeing Tajinderpal Singh Toor’s tour de force (sorry, couldn’t resist the poor pun) for gold shot put but going by these superlative histrionics, the commentators must have soared and roared just like Chopra’s javelin did.

If you have nothing better to do on the weekend than watch news TV, you could do worse. There are programmes worth watching/listening to: Interviews (Seedhi Baat, No Holds Barred, Frankly Speaking, India Today Tomorrow (really enjoy this one where a celebrity parent and child interview together); news features like “Inside a farcical referendum” on calls for Khalistan (Times Now) or India Today’s “Anti-Rational Plot” about the murders of rationalists; the public forum discussions, Aap Ki Adalat (India TV), We The People, The Big Fight, Hum Log (NDTV). Also, variety of shows on topics other than politics: The Tech and Auto Show (CNN News 18) which, by the way, seemed to be promoting Nike shoes this Sunday.

Shah Rukh Khan was promoting Santro, a car he has been the brand ambassador for in the last two decades (NDTV 24×7 ). Odd — of him and the channel.

Pretty 24 facial cream — it’s not a fairness cream, says its TV commercial because you “can’t change colour”. Pretty 24 apparently lends you “brightness”. As the Asian Games commentary team might exclaim, “Wow!”

The writer is vice dean, School of Journalism and Communication, Jindal Global University

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