Monday, November 22, 2010

Politics Vs. Media

It was in 2001 January when an earthquake of magnitute 7.6 to 8.1 on richter scale hit Gujarat. It was on the Republic Day, and my first thoughts were Pakistan fired some underground missile. What followed was a frenzy of sorts. I've never seen people around so frightened about their lives. People spent their nights on the roads, literally. Everyone was afraid of getting inside a multi-storied building. And why not? We Gujaratis were used to facing other calamities like riots and floods. But the feeling of land shaking beneath your feet was very scary. I was 15, then. I cried for 2 hours to get out of the shock.

Keshubhai Patel was the chief minister of Gujarat at that time. Now, I dont know much, but I once heard someone say that keshubhai is the most corrupt CM to ever come to power in Gujarat. He soon lost power and came Narendra Modi.

So with this Barkha Dutt/Niira Radia scandal that has recently errupted, I am now wondering the real motives behind media and their strong views against Modi.

Modi was in the first few months as a Chief Minister when the Godhra carnage took place. A train coming from Ayodhya was set to fire in Godhra, and people were burnt alive inside two compartments. By the time the train reached ahmedabad, the news of the incident spread very quickly. People were enraged. What followed was perhaps one of the worst riots in the history of Gujarat.

Also, at that time, Aaj Tak was recently launched. It was in its initial years and NDTV was its main competitior. If I remember correctly, NDTV had some agreement with Star news and they had just parted ways. So, NDTV, Star News and Aaj Tak were the all vying for attention.

They all got their main breakthrough with Godhra Riots. You see, it was much easier to get eyeballs when you show a burning bus, or a live coverage of mobs. The fearless reporters jump right in the middle of a crazy group of violent people and report live on how some men just gangraped a woman or set fire to a bakery. I wont be too surprised if they would have asked some of the mobsters their views, and 'aap kaisa mehsus kar rahe hain?'

So, who is responsible for this? The chief minister. Of course, even if the dog dies of rabies, the CM is personally liable for his death. So when hundreds of people (please understand, I am not saying Hindus or Muslims, loss of life is loss of life. period.) died, it is the chief minister who should be held responsible. For someone who lived in the city during its worst riots, I knew and felt that the riots were about 80 percent under control. The remaining 20 percent felt in the communially sensitive zone, where riots break out even on trivial issues like kite flying in Uttarayan.

Most non gujaratis I know hate Narendra Modi and call him modern day Hitler. Or as a certain Ms Gandhi called him Maut Ka Saudagar. Really?

So, no one had heard much about him before the riots, but suddenly, he was the muslim hater of teh world. Not just him, every other gujarati in the world was a muslim hater. They thought that there are two things us gujaratis can do instantaneously - break into a garba or break into a riot.

Javed Akhtar, I wonder if he knows about the muslim architecture and beautiful mosques in gujarat, at least knows something called Naroda Patia, and he never forgets to mention them in debates involving gujarat/Modi.

All this while, nobody realises that people know about it because the news channel kept showing it repeatedly. Whether the carnage or the aftermath of riots was politically motivated or not, is a different question, but it did get aggravated because of constant reruns on the news channel.

I have always been quite defensive about Modi and Gujarat, not because Modi is my personal hero, but he has been a good administrator, and the state has developed under his leadership. I can see the difference between pre modi gujarat and post modi gujarat. I just wish people would look beyond the riots and look at gujarat objectively.

These Barkha Dutt tapes have kind of shocked me. Not that I held her in high place, especially after the shabby way in which she has handled sensitive issues, but the fact that the sensational news htey show on tv is perhaps not just for the ratings. There is much more to it that what meets the eye.

News are not unbiased anymore. It's a sad state of Indian Politics and Indian media. I hope there is a brighter future to this madness. I hope people in power do not misuse it.

1 comment:

Ketan said...


I am a resident of Mumbai (as you must have learned from my previous comment), and initially I too had believed all that the media, especially, the newspapers like the ToI (which I used to trust till then) had portrayed.

Everyone outside Gujarat used to think that Narendra Modi had given a "free run" to the rioteers. There were also rumors that he had deliberately kept the army units at the railway station for 24 hours, not allowing them to take control of the situation. I had been also very angry at Narendra Modi.

Then, one of my cousins living in Gujarat had told me that in fact the police had tried their best to control the riots, as they did not want to be labeled "anti-Muslim". I could not ascertain, but he also told me that at some places mob was so violent that at one place even a police station was burned. By that time, because of what my cousin told and many other reasons I had become quite skeptical of the Indian media, so I started having my doubts about the Gujarat riots theories.

All throughout the news had been that over 2,000 Muslims had been killed. Then, the official statistics came. It was around 250 Hindus (including those killed in Sabarmati Express) and 800 Muslims. That 200 Hindus had also died was a total surprise to me. Seventy of them had been killed by police itself. This was something that was never reported by the media. The theory that police was passive or actively conniving with the Hindu groups became largely untenable. It made me all the more suspicious of media reports.

Then, as I did some internet "research", I came to know that on the first day itself, over 40 people had been killed in police firing (it was an article from 'The Hindu'). Then, I was absolutely convinced that the national media had been fooling us right from the first day.

Also, none of the major media houses have reported as to how many policemen were injured/killed in the process.

Lastly, I believe that it is possible that policemen/armymen also got carried away and might have acted in a biased manner, but how does Narendra Modi become personally involved in all that? It is stupid to think that for the police to act in a biased manner some kind of "central command" is needed.

Lastly, if I put into perspective the fact that over 30,000 Hindus were arrested/put in preventive detention, I arrive at the conclusion that perhaps, these riots were much better controlled than could have been controlled elsewhere, given the unprecedented nature of provocation.

I hope the ordinary citizens wisen up and start using some more logic.

It was good to get a perspective from someone who had been through and does not have ulterior motives.