Posts Tagged ‘Rajdeep Sardesai’


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.


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.

 


In defence of Rajdeep Sardesai, if some American Indian starts to question me on my patriotism or my right as a journalist to ask uncomfortable questions, my answer would have been pretty much the same. Pretty much, because while I would not have got into a fistfight, I might have said a lot more in lot less polite language. I don’t need anyone living outside my country pushing me around, questioning my patriotism or telling me how I should do my job.

But, I agree that it was foolish of Rajdeep to have reacted the way he did to even the most extreme provocation and more so when there were TV cameras around. I also believe one doesn’t get into a fist fight with people when you’re in their country. It’s very easy for those guys to press charges and for you to land in jail. However, if you tell an Indian, and one whose father represented India at the highest level in cricket, that he is not patriotic and to take his wife and kids to move to Pakistan, you can’t really blame the guy for his reaction. And all this just because he questioned their beloved leader’s past!

So, while I may poke fun at Rajdeep or others on twitter or Facebook because I agree, even they can get a little tiresome at times, I understand where they come from. It’s the most natural thing for a journalist to be anti-establishment because if you aren’t then you’re not being true to the profession. In fact, I am happy, unlike some of the others, he has not quietly switched sides. I know there is an editorial policy in all media houses that decides their views on every new government for the next few years. But I am appalled to see senior journalists, no doubt after some persuasion from their managements, coolly sucking up to a new government – whether this one or any other. I have a very low opinion of such people.

A good example is a well known newspaper which made its name during the Emergency for standing up to the Indira government and rode on that sentiment ever since. A couple of years ago it carried an absurd story about a certain event which looked a plant. I remember reading some very stinging rebukes against the newspaper for the ‘plant’. How quickly the mood changed!

Before some of you protest and think I am a Modi-hater, let me say that I believe, unlike a lot of my friends who can’t stand the man, that unless and until proven in a court of law, Modi is innocent. I am also one of those who believe in giving someone the benefit of doubt. I was as happy as the next guy to hear Modi speaking at the MSG. It was a brilliant speech to the Indian population there.

I also understand that every government has a honeymoon period and after 10 years of UPA rule, it will take time for the new government to undo the mess left behind. Even I was delighted that, finally, we had a non-UPA government in power. So now that Modi is here, let’s give him the chance to govern, but that does not mean we stop asking questions. Then we might as well turn PR professionals.

Post Script

Never mind how the American Gujjus and the bhakts fawn over Narendrabhai in the US, or do the garba at Madison Square Garden, or on the White House lawns, let’s be honest, this was not a State visit by an Indian prime minister. For all the talk about the ‘red carpet’, I did not see a ceremonial guard that is normally given to a visiting head of state either at the airport or at the White House. Normally the prime minister would have been given a ceremonial welcome at the White House by the President. Nothing of that sort happened. Modi fans might not want to see it that way but that’s ok, they anyway only want to see what they want to see.

Please note what the news channels are calling it – summit level talks, not summit talks. This wasn’t even like the “accidental” meeting between George Bush and Manmohan Singh at the White House. So take a reality check, people. Something tells me the Madison Square Garden event was organised by friends of Modi in the US to send a message to the US administration that they can’t afford to ignore or snub Modi anymore. His officials must have realised by now that the Americans have very subtly put them in their place. When, where and how Modi decides to return that favour to the Americans would be interesting to see. He also needs to understand he is dealing with the USA not Nepal. You don’t thumb your nose at the most powerful man in the world and expect him to forget that easily.


I just finished four days of GDPIs at a well-known media school and it was an eye-opener – some of the moments for their sheer inanity, others for their intelligence and yet others for their brazenness and refreshing honesty.

I’ve been a part of the panel for the past couple of years and each year some of the kids I meet reinforce my faith in the profession while others make me wonder why they even bother to show up.

Out of the thousands who apply to such institutes only a hundred plus actually make it. It’s only those who seem really interested and passionate about the profession they intend to embark upon who make that impression – at least on me. I am okay with thinking out of the box.

I love it actually when a candidate says “I can sing well, can I sing you a song?” or “I do the Bharat Natyam, would you like me to show you?”. It shows that work is not all they care about. Last year one of the kids walked in with his guitar and played and sang for the faculty! Today he’s playing at the city’s hot spots making money on the side while he goes through his classes during the day.

These are the kids who leave a lasting impression. Every year there are those special ones who make you sit up for their sheer talent, honesty or audacity. This year too there were a few.

Some kids stood out for all the right reasons from the 50-odd students we encountered in the four days I was there.

The first was an 18-year-old from Jaipur, who walked in, supremely confident about her abilities and her talent. She placed her portfolio on the desk in front of us and showed us what she had written for some of the national newspapers. With a journalist mother, writing was obviously in her genes. But she was firm – NO print for her, even though she had the talent. She was more interested in broadcast and was even more determined to make a success of it.

Whether she gets in or not will depend on how she fares in everything else the college had lined up for her. But, wherever she goes she’s sure to make a success of her career – if she follows her heart.

The other was a young lady with a passion for photography. Here was a talent that made my colleague and I sit up. Still only 18, her pictures were amazing. She was focused. She was firm that she would study all the subjects but at the end of the day, all she ever wanted to do was photography. A lot of the kids who came in, said that as well, but it’s the way this girl put it across that was different and refreshing.

Then there was this young man who chucked up an academic career at Delhi’s most prestigious college and wanted to enter the world of media because he loved writing and music – and as he said, “Didn’t know what the hell was going in Economics class, and couldn’t take it anymore. And it wasn’t because of the girls here, there were plenty of those where I come from.”

These are the kids, you hope, who will make it someday in their profession.

Another good looking young man stood out for all the wrong reasons. He walked in today, smug in the belief that his looks and charm would win the day, even if his dismal academic record didn’t. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way always. I asked him if he knew who Rajdeep Sardesai or Barkha Dutt were and he looked completely zapped — “Nope.” I stood up and shook hands with him for his sheer audacity and honesty!

And I am okay with that too, because as a friend commented on my Facebook page, not even adults know who these media personalities are. But when the guy believes his father’s loaded and he isn’t too keen on doing anything except “making out” with the girls and generally splurging on his father’s wealth, it rubs me the wrong way.

I just think that an average kid who comes in through a student loan deserves a chance rather than some rich spoilt brat with spiked hair and low waist trousers, even if he is refreshingly honest. Even if he or she doesn’t know who Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai are.