What the nation wants and what it gets are two very different things. Who represents the nation and who decides on behalf of over a billion people are entirely separate issues.
However, who is an “anti-national” became quite clear in the last five days on Times Now, NewsX and Zee News on the question of the #JNUTraitorTapes, as NewsX called them.
Whatever the truth and lies of the videotapes that allegedly show JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar and others indulging in seditious “anti-national” activity, coverage of the events on these channels is disturbing because it defined everything within the generalised tag of “anti-national”. That means, if you disagree or even question this narrative, you are also unpatriotic. TV news has become an accessory, wittingly or unwittingly, to the “patriot games”, now playing out in the country.
NewsX, Times Now and Zee News repeatedly telecast the #TraitorTapes, which they claim show protests in favour of Afzal Guru at JNU. On NewsX, there were at least six such tapes. You hear slogans — many about J&K — but often the tapes are “inaudible” at critical moments, which NewsX pointed out. Most of the footage is at night, it’s often difficult to identify anyone or actually hear them speak or chant slogans — there is no lip synchronisation of words with individual mouths. For all we know, the soundtrack could be superimposed on the footage. Or it could be authentic. We don’t know.
So you shouldn’t jump to conclusions.
However, NewsX, Times Now and Zee News (first to report on the JNU protests that led the police to its campus) used the videos as proof of “anti-national” behaviour by Kanhaiya Kumar and others. The videos played out repeatedly under banner headlines of “treason, anti-national”, red circles identifying Kumar as the “traitor” and “anti-national”. On the basis of questionable evidence, the viewer is most likely to believe the evidence of her or his eyes, without questioning that evidence.
Especially since, the JNU “anti-national” incident occurred when patriotic feeling was running high after the rescue and then death of Lance Naik Hanamanthappa and the other soldiers buried under the avalanche at Siachen — all broadcast live on television last week. The mere suggestion of anything unpatriotic at such a time is enough to outrage people: Watching the JNU tapes, listening to incessant talk about the “anti-national” would strike an emotive chord.
In such an atmosphere, came the attacks on students and journalists at Delhi’s Patiala House court premises on Monday by lawyers and their supporters who wanted to get their hands on the “anti-nationals”. This attack received live coverage and condemnation on most news channels, but if NewsX and Times Now showed the Patiala House violence on Monday, no one saw it. Why?
On Wednesday, “patriotic” lawyers once again attacked journalists, at least one student and even Kanhaiya Kumar at the same venue. Vikramjit Chauhan, one of the lawyers involved in Monday’s attacks, was there too. “People who said ‘Pakistan zindabad’ have been made heroes and we are being called ‘goondas’,” he said to the news agency ANI. Chauhan and others know they are on live TV and use the opportunity to portray themselves as the standard bearers of Indian nationalism.
Times Now, however, had changed tack. It had live, carpet coverage of “the second shameful attack” at Patiala House. #LawyerOrGoons, “brazen disrespect of the top court” it proclaimed.
“Disgusting.” The Times Now reporter from the court premises said “the media is being throttled” as “Goondaism in the guise of patriotism” takes centrestage. Till Wednesday, Kumar was the “anti-national”. On Wednesday, the lawyers’ actions were “goondaism in the guise of patriotism”. Who is the patriot now, who the anti-national?
Anything and everything can be mistakenly viewed through the rose-tinted prism of patriotism — and, therefore, condoned by the average, uncritical viewer.