Telescope: Finger on our lips

No matter what your views, you are in danger of being labelled

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Published: September 6, 2018 12:29:15 am
Elgaar parishad probe, elgaar parishad, Supreme court, SC elgaar parishad, activists arrest, supreme court on activists arrest, bhima koregaon violence, elgaar parishad event, Pune police arrested (Clockwise) Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad, Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, Gautam Navlakha in New Delhi, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai.

While watching television news, haven’t you often, very often, experienced an overwhelming and irresistible urge to smash the LED/TV screen to smithereens, silence the TV news anchors and strangulate all the “experts” whose views don’t agree with you or yours’?

Don’t you nurse a secret ambition to overthrow the entire republic of news and views (ahem!) for increasingly fake, malicious and oh so deafeningly loud content — to establish, instead, some good old-fashioned, objective journalism? C’mon, be honest: Don’t you, sometimes, just want to line up the right wing, the left wing and those who occupy centre stage — and shoot the lot of them?

And will that make you an “Urban Naxal”, a “Fascist” or a “#DeshDrohi” (Times Now) instead of the average, everyday person just venting their frustration in a bout of “Janta v/s Breaking News”?

You can’t be too careful these days. No matter what shade of opinion you reflect, you will be labelled — and it won’t be as Raymond Suitings’ “Perfect Man”, either.

Lessons from this week on TV? Don’t write letters (who writes them anyway?); in fact, don’t write, full stop. And never ever share your telephone number with anyone, else you may end up at a police press conference such as the one held, live, by the Maharashtra Police after the arrest of five “Urban Naxals”. Or you will become the speculation of much debate over your “sinister plot” to either “assassinate” the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh (India Today) or help Maoists overthrow the Indian state — as Congressman Digvijay Singh would have discovered, Tuesday afternoon, had he been watching television news, instead of plotting against the Indian state (News X, Times Now, Republic). And don’t be Gautam Navlakha, who is, apparently, the recipient of many incriminating “letters” from bad people.

“Letters” to him arrive with curious regularity in the mailbox of Times Now, News X and Republic. Think someone in the PMO or on the news channels, which don’t receive these “letters”, should question such leaks. Could be a threat to the nation’s security, right?

Best would be if you don’t speak at all — don’t air your views while flying 50,000 ft above sea level, either, to a politician, particularly. Otherwise, you could be arrested like Lois Sofia, who was very “irresponsible” in the words of BJP Tamil Nadu chief Tamilisai Soundararajan (India Today), to allegedly shout at her during a flight. Worse, we will all know your name and your face — both were splashed on TV news all of Tuesday — and your reputation will be in mud after the politicians have flung accusations and conspiracy theories at each other during TV debates, shooting from your shoulder (India Today, NDTV 24×7). Oh, and don’t use words like “shoot”.

Obviously, you should never speak in public. You never know when excerpts of your remarks will resurface to arrest you. Speeches delivered by Navlakha, for instance, are playing on some news channels to prove his culpability; meanwhile, NDTV 24×7 played extracts from speeches at the Elgaar Parishad event (December 2017), before the Bhima-Koregaon celebratory rally was marred by violence — speeches that have been at the core of the case against the 10 people arrested for Maoist links. These, the channel said, offer a “rebuttal” to such charges.

Basically, keep your lips sealed: Remember Kanhaiya Kumar & Co at a Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, meeting? Words were put in their mouths, reportedly, and repeatedly broadcast on channels like Zee News to expose them as “anti-national”.

Meanwhile, in a faraway more innocent world, Amitabh Bachchan is asking questions, which you can answer without fear. Yes, his 10th season of Kaun Banega Crorepati (Sony) has begun and it promises to be everything previous editions were — if anything the pace is even slower. The aim is to celebrate the contestants’ lives and enterprise more than their answers to the GK questions. And so the conversation between Sonia, a retired Air Force officer, and Big B in the first episode meandered through her life like a lazy river — not the ones in destructive spate in different parts of the country (India TV). Enjoy the soothing effect.

By the way, in simpler times, Bachchan would end an episode of KBC with the greeting, Good night, shubh raatri, shabba khair — not necessarily in that order. He now concludes with, “Shubh ratri, shubh ratri, shubh ratri”. Maybe, greetings are also a punishable offence?

Lastly, watching CB Strike (Star World Premiere) based on the detective novels by Robert Galbraith, better known as J K Rowling. Great fun following private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott — nothing like a good murder mystery to help you forget the many dangers facing us in the real world.

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

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