Posts Tagged ‘Emergency’


Picture1I’ve been reading with avid interest the incident of well-known journalist Rajdeep Sardesai becoming the target of vicious trolls especially after the Agusta Westland scam re-emerged from hiding where it had been conveniently placed by the UPA government for the past so many years. And then, his latest foul-mouthed outburst against trolls and then the revelation that his Twitter account had been hacked, after which he went off Twitter, has been the cause of much angst among his followers and sections of the media, who believe he is being targeted by Modi Bhakts.

Rajdeep is one of the few journalists I have admired in the Indian media right through the years, when he was a part of the print media. I always thought of him as a journalist who retained objectivity in his writings even if he was criticising someone, even though his biases have become more prominent in the past few years. It’s unfortunate that he has become the target of Modi Bhakts and trolls who have taken a dislike for him. He’s been pleading with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to control his bhakts and I’m pretty sure the PM is having a quiet chuckle at the irony of it all – that those who  propagate and staunchly defend the right to free speech are the ones asking for control on it!

But this blog isn’t about Rajdeep, but more about this whole issue of exercising free speech and complete freedom of expression.

The thing is when you call the prime minister ‘feku’ in public and believe you have the right to do so because it’s free speech, be prepared to accept the criticism when someone retaliates in any form they think right. They are also just exercising their right to free speech. Don’t complain.

I am really surprised that journalists flog this nonsense about free speech. Frankly, I think there is too much of it around. That is why on Twitter one can say whatever one wants and get away with it. Swearing and abusing is also free speech. While I understand that some journalists cannot stoop to such levels and are rightfully objecting to the foul language being directed against them, what they need to understand is that they can’t demand free speech and yet demand that some elements be censored just because they have been made the target. Simply, put, you can’t have it both ways.

Look at what is happening in the United States and the United Kingdom where a talk show host can call Trump or Cameron an asshole and continue happily without being dragged to court. A respected newspaper such as the Financial Times of London can publish a lead story headline that says boldly “ACTUALLY, GO FUCK YOUR SELF”. That is absolute free speech. Can we take it?

And when we can’t, we start comparing things to the emergency and fascism! I would have liked to see how many journalists would have written the nonsensical open letters to Indira Gandhi during the Emergency and continued to walk free an hour after it was published – if it ever got that far. It would have been ripped to shreds by a censor sitting in the very office of the media house before it could see the light of day. Or for that matter I would like to know how far prominent journalists who pens satirical pieces would have progressed if there had been no free speech today.

Journalists may be getting back at Modi for the contemptuous way he has been treating them after the elections and one may hold him responsible for his past misdeeds, but don’t expect him to act against his followers who have been viciously targeting all those who dare to take on their hero. If I was him, I would say “You wanted free speech, well, you’ve got it, SO DON’T COMPLAIN”

The proponents of free speech need to understand one thing about it –  it is a bit like bisexuality, it’s perfectly normal for it to swing both ways.

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I have been reading with great interest the rants and the self-righteous indignation and anger at what has been transpiring in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and the Patiala Courts lately. And these people, some of whom are my ex-students, former colleagues, and some well-known journalists with an axe to grind with the present dispensation in Delhi, comparing the events to the Emergency, and calling India a fascist state, dictatorship etc. etc. Do they even know what happened during the Emergency?

What finally got me riled up enough to pen this blog were the comments I read in a newspaper from Noam Chomsky and Orhan Pamuk comparing the events and the mood to (again) the Emergency. That they’re comparing the present time to those dark days when one crazy old woman, her equally psychotic son along with their sycophants ran their own evil empire, where no laws existed except those that they decided, and no courts and no judges had the courage to speak their minds, unlike today, is indeed laughable. It is ironic that the same people who had no qualms about imposing the Emergency and supporting it and justifying it through its entire tenure, are today talking about free speech and freedom of expression and blaming the present government for the lack of it! And worse a blinkered media is printing every word with great relish. Ladies and gentlemen, had there been an Emergency, you would have been behind bars. And the communists who talk about dictatorship seem to forget that most of the dictators around the world have been Communists.

Some over-zealous morons in khakhi or others in black robes taking law into their hands, or a paranoid and amateurish government that responds to the darts the opposition throws at it with a bazooka, or at other times behaves like a herd of deer caught in the headlights of a car, does not make this country a fascist state nor this the Emergency. Do most young Indians even know what a fascist state is? No one disappeared, there was no midnight knock on your door because of what you wrote or what you did. That you can rant about it on social networking sites without having the likes of Kapil Sibal throw Section 66A at you, should make you realise where you are. Have you already forgotten Aseem Trivedi?

It is also ironic that the same people who are every night broadcasting to the nation everything without a line being censored about students protesting and raising anti-India slogans etc. are the same people who are calling it a dictatorial regime. The fact that the press is still free to report the incidents at the JNU and the Patiala Court as they have been unfolding should tell you a lot. That they were even able to report live how some of them were manhandled in the courts should tell you how much these people know about what transpired during those dark days in the mid-1970s when news was blanked out, and people who protested just disappeared. Had these incidents happened during the Emergency you would not even have heard or read about it. The kids involved in raising anti-India slogans or anti-government slogans would have vanished without a trace and not even their remains would have been discovered.

I do wish the 20- and 30-year-olds sitting in their air conditioned offices in front of their Macs ranting about fascism and dictatorship would get a reality check and stop hyperventilating about things they know very little about. And most importantly, stop believing a bunch of assholes pretending to be politicians. Go to Kerala and ask the family of student leader P. Rajan of the erstwhile Regional Engineering College, Kozhikode. He was tortured in local police custody in Kerala during the Emergency in 1976. His remains are yet to be recovered. Talk to journalists such as Coomi Kapoor whose husband Virender was arrested and tortured during that time for publishing stuff against Indira Gandhi. In 1975, my father buckled under threats from the police because of his close association with Jayaprakash Narayan and was forced to praise Indira Gandhi. It helped him stay out of jail. The cops and JP told him he was old and may not be able to take the rigours of a jail cell. So I should know what I am talking about.

Oh and just by the way, had this been the Emergency you would not have been around if you had called the prime minister of the country a ‘feku’ and posted morphed pictures of him day in and day out, or for that matter abused or insulted him the way we see today on the social networking sites. You would never have been seen or heard of again and your bones would have been discovered 20 years from now buried in some field a few thousand miles from where you lived.

What pains me is that these comments come from journalists. I always thought journalists were supposed to be anti-establishment and not communists, centrists, leftists or rightists. At least, we were always told to be that way. Or have the lines been blurred now? Or is it just a case of sour grapes? It is no secret that numerous Journalists in the mainstream media have been smarting ever since Narendra Modi came to power and decided to shun them? Now that they have got the opportunity to get even they are going after him and his government with a vengeance? What saddens me is some journalists who I respect immensely talking about dictatorship and the Emergency without thinking even once about the repercussions.

So, I do wish people with very little understanding of the realities of the Emergency, dictatorship, fascism, Nazism and all the fucking isms for which all right-minded people share an inherent dislike would SHUT THE FUCK UP about comparing this to those dark days of the mid-1970s. And, Messrs Chomsky and Pamuk, that you are alive and kicking to air your views about whatever you wish from whichever country you live in and whatever time, and to have what you said published in an alleged dictatorial regime, should give you some food for thought. Had this been the Emergency and had you aired those comments in India, you would have disappeared without a trace never to be found again.

 


They say you can take a man out of journalism, but can’t take journalism out of the man – however hard some people might try! How cynical we are about everything we see or hear has a lot to do with the way we are conditioned in our job.  And the longer we have been in journalism the more cynical we become. The funny thing is when we actually say something with all honesty, people refuse to believe us.

This thought came to me again the other day as I watched a show on a news channel about a young man who had been a victim of police excesses. I was visibly moved by his story. It is the tale of hundreds of young men who are allegedly picked up in the dead of night from their homes and put in solitary confinement. They are allegedly tortured, beaten and whipped until they ‘confess’.  It started during the Emergency and it has continued till date. Well, it started during the days of the British rule, but let’s not go that far back.

So anyway, my wife and I I watched the show with growing dismay at the way the man had been treated. After the show ended I thought about the manner in which the law enforcement authorities behaved all around the country. Look at the way they have been behaving in Uttar Pradesh and knowing their history nothing surprises me anymore. I sat brooding for a while and then my scepticism and cynicism got the better of me. There are always two sides to a story, I said to myself.

I called a very senior reporter I knew and asked him about this case, since they were both from the same state. What he said to me for over an hour in very minute detail left me quite shaken. Having worked with him and having known him to be a thorough professional I have no reason to doubt his word. After he had explained the entire case to me, since he had covered it, he went on a tangent.

He said something I have been hearing rather frequently in recent times, “I am getting tired of journalism. All we do is public relations.” He then launched into a diatribe of what journalism had become today.

“Leave alone investigative journalism, journalism itself is dead,” he said.

“Editors don’t want a story, all they want is PR couched as news,” was his next line. For a guy who prided himself on his journalistic skills and who I considered a crack reporter, it was a pretty astounding statement.

Just thought it was worth sharing, because we tend to carried away by what we see on the Idiot Box. Is that why it’s called that?

Of course, now everyone is agog about some industry veterans shown the door, and how corporate India is taking over the media.

But after what I saw about the chap who was ‘wrongly accused’, I really don’t know whether it really matters who owns the airwaves!