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Antecedents of anti Muslim bias in media including Sudarshan TV

The Sudarshan TV’s “UPSC Jihad” is, in the words of Justice Chandrachud, a “rabid” vilification of Muslims. The channel felt encouraged to cross the red line because this particular line is considered Kosher in the current political atmosphere by mainstream channels as well as fly-by-night media operators.

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There have been many but let me cite just two reactions from the family to Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and K.M. Joseph’s utterances restraining Sudarshan TV from telecasting its ‘UPSC Jihad’ show. A relative mailed a couplet comprehensive in its simplicity:

‘Door insaan ke sar se yeh musibat kar do

Aag dozakh ki bujha do, use jannat kar do’

(Remove this menace hovering over our heads,

Douse the leaping flames of hell; make it a paradise)

“Leaping flames of hell”: that is how a majority of Indian TV shows register with petrified Muslims. TV news is daily mortification; lynchings happen outdoors. The Supreme Court’s quest for “some mechanism” for self regulation of the media brings her hope. “Cricket will be played within a well measured boundary?” Not too much to expect.

The other reaction, from a younger relative is more cynical: if the Supreme Court had sharp instincts, it would have taken suo motu note of the outrage, before Sudarshan TV was able to telecast even one episode.

Incipient communalism was part of the Republic from the very beginning. Contentious issues on that score, however, did not come up when the electronic media consisted only of Doordarshan. DD, launched in the mid-70s, faced roadblocks too — as in the screening of Tamas, based on a novel by Bhishm Sahni, directed by Govind Nihalani. Centered on Partition, the director pulls no punches on exposing communalism on all sides. Since Hindu communalism had never been placed under the scanner with such candour in independent India, there was a furore. Screening was stopped. Only when Justices Bakhtawar Lentin and Sujata Manohar of Bombay High Court cleared the serial was it screened.

The Sudarshan TV’s “UPSC Jihad” is, in the words of Justice Chandrachud, a “rabid” vilification of Muslims. The channel felt encouraged to cross the red line because this particular line is considered Kosher in the current political atmosphere by mainstream channels as well as fly-by-night media operators.

An anti Muslim edge is a perceived requirement of Modi’s march towards Hindu Rashtra. But an anti Muslim edge in the media has antecedents which predate Modi. Four apparently disparate events stirred the cauldron of communalism. In 1990, the Soviet Union collapsed. The disappearance of a column in the international system on which India had depended, plus an unprecedented economic crisis, caused Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and Finance Minister Manmohan Singh to lurch towards Washington and swiftly embark on liberal economic policies.

With the new market economy came consumerism and the need for multiple TV channels to accommodate the burgeoning advertising. Remember, when the Babri Masjid fell in December 1992, there was only Doordarshan to televise the news. About this time, Mandal versus Kamandal, caste versus communalism spiraled out of control. It is pointless speculating whether a mushroom growth of channels went some distance in amplifying the new, energetic, communal politics. Market and identity politics is a separate study. Internal politics, however communal, would have been amenable to management. The real problem arose when globalization, spurred on by unbridled capitalism caused even Barack Obama to ask in retrospect: “Did we mishandle globalization?” I have often wondered if Ghalib’s imagery is applicable:

‘Rau mein hai rakhsh e umr kahaan dekhiye thamey,

Nay haath bag par hain, na pa hai rakab mein.”

(The steed is in full flight; I know not where it will halt;

I have lost control of the reins and, feet are not in the stirrups.)

That was globalization.

All prime ministers of India, from 1947 to the mid-90s, depended on traditional forms of mass mobilization, prior to the TV era. A more media savvy Prime Minister than Narendra Modi there has not been. He played all the strings to arrange for himself a saturation coverage of the 2014 and 2019 elections with expert ease. Crony capitalism was essential and it was easily managed.

Having brought down the Soviet Union, the US put its imprimatur on a Unipolar World Order by embarking on operation Desert Storm in February 1992. In some ways, Desert Storm bared the plans the US had for the future. The most important of these, pertinent to our narrative, was the inauguration of the Global Electronic Media which the Pentagon planned with such stealth that even an arch ally like the UK found itself flat footed. BBC’s senior correspondent, John Simpson walked around Baghdad with a lowly satellite telephone while Peter Arnett of the CNN launched the New World Information order from the terrace of Baghdad’s Al Rasheed hotel. For the first time in history, a war was brought live into our drawing rooms.

The unprecedented fire power which I saw from the 14th floor of Al Mansour hotel, remained a nightmare for months. This frightful exhibition, let it always be remembered, divided the world in perpetuity into two hostile sets of audience — the triumphant West and the defeated Muslim world, humiliated yet again. Had multiple channels been operational in India (they were not in 1991-92), would they have been cheering Western victory or Muslim defeat? It would have been bad form to pose this query then? Please note how times have changed and why the Supreme Court’s intervention is timely.

The Post 9/11 war on terror transformed itself into a crusade against Islam. Journalistic restraint became a casualty. Geraldo Rivera of Fox News flourished a revolver in front of a TV camera in October 2001 in Afghanistan. “Should I see Osama bin Laden anywhere, I shall finish him off with this,” said he, his finger on the trigger. The copycat Indian media, now in a phase of rapid expansion, picked up every inflection.

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MP bypolls: Kamal Nath’s ‘item’ remark raises political heat

Political observers feel that issues which have nothing to do with the general masses are given a political colour to influence voters, in the absence of discussion on real issues affecting them.

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Kamal Nath

It comes in the wake of “coming from a hungry and ill-clad family” remarks used by another Congress leader Dinesh Gurjar for Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

While campaigning in Dabra segment in Gwalior district on Sunday, Kamal Nath had allegedly called Imarti Devi an ‘item’, making the BJP turn aggressive and trying to derive political mileage from the situation even as the Congress accused BJP of trying to misinterpret certain words.

The process of filing of nominations for the Assembly seats, which will go to polls on November 3, has since been completed and both parties are now in full campaigning mode.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said that Kamal Nath’s remark against the Minister was symptomatic of “petty mentality”.

“Imarti Devi is a daughter of a farmer who began doing labour in her village and has since emerged as a public representative in building the nation. First, the Congress called me ‘hungry and ill-clad’ and now she has been called an ‘item’. This shows the feudal mindset of Kamal Nath,” the Chief Minister said.

BJP MP and former Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said that “calling a woman coming from a poor labourer family an item and ‘jalebi’ by another Congress leader Ajay Singh was both condemnable and objectionable.

“Kamal Nath’s comments reflect his thinking towards Dalits and women. Similarly, Digvijay Singh had used such remarks against party leader Meenakshi Natarajan.”

BJP state unit President Vishnudatt Sharma too flayed the remarks as “shameful”, particularly against a woman when the country was celebrating Navratras.

“Kamal Nath has insulted the womanhood by calling the Minister an item,” Sharma alleged.

In Lucknow, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati too jumped into the controversy and demanded on Monday that the Congress leadership should issue a public apology for the remark against a Dalit woman.

She said the remark was “objectionable”. “The remarks made by a former Chief Minister against a Dalit woman candidate in Dabra (Reserve) Assembly segment is highly shameful and needs to be condemned. The Congress leadership should take note and issue a public apology,” the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister tweeted.

She appealed to the Dalit voters to teach a lesson to the Congress in the by-elections in Madhya Pradesh and vote for her BSP to ensure that such incidents don’t occur in future.

On the other hand, Kamal Nath said the BJP was indulging in a “false propaganda” regarding his remarks.

“I did use the word ‘item’, but it is not an insulting word. I am also an item, you are also an item. In this sense, we all are items. During legislative proceedings, we use words like ‘item numbers’. When the state’s people are in a pathetic condition, the BJP instead of wiping their tears is making an issue out of consumption of a beverage by me. Is it a public issue? Are the people’s lives connected with this?” the Congress leader and former Chief Minister remarked.

Political observers feel that issues which have nothing to do with the general masses are given a political colour to influence voters, in the absence of discussion on real issues affecting them.

The BJP will not let go of the chance to use the ‘hungry and ill-clad’ and ‘item’ remarks to its advantage by making these as ‘rich vs poor’ and ‘Dalit’ and ‘women’ issues ahead of the by-elections.

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Old hand, trusted by both Rahul, Ahmed Patel, is Congress choice for Bihar

Shaktisinh Gohil has his task cut out as party in-charge for state, but there are many reasons he may be the man for the job.

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Shaktisinh Gohil may seem an odd choice as the Congress in-charge of Bihar, particularly given the uphill battle the party faces in a state where it has been now out of power since 1990. However, there are two things that make the 60-year-old uniquely placed for the job: the fact that he is a veteran of many political battles against Narendra Modi-led BJP in native Gujarat; and that he is among the few Congress leaders considered close to both Ahmed Patel and Rahul Gandhi.

In his over three-decade political career, it is the first time Gohil will be overseeing a state election as an AICC pointsman. His hand is seen in the hard bargaining by the Congress to secure 70 seats in the Mahagathbandhan, a huge jump from the 41 the party had contested in Bihar in 2015.

A veteran in Gujarat politics, Gohil first entered the national stage in 2014, when he was made a Congress spokesperson. He was elevated as in-charge of Bihar in 2018, given additional charge of Delhi earlier this year, and made a Rajya Sabha MP in June this year.

Often described as Ahmed Patel’s “right-hand man”, Gohil was the Congress veteran’s poll agent in the closely fought 2017 Rajya Sabha election that Patel had won, outmanoeuvring the BJP.

Gohil started his political career in the early 1980s while still in college. In the mid-1980s, as Youth Congress office-bearer, he had been spotted by then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi at a national function.

He won the Bhavnagar South Assembly seat in Gujarat at the age of 30 in 1990, and became the minister of state for health at the age of 32 under Chief Minister Chimanbhai Patel. He was then the youngest minister in Gujarat’s history.

Two years later though, Gohil took everyone by surprise by resigning over the demand for a medical college for Bhavnagar. The medical college was allocated eventually and Gohil won the seat again in 1995.

Gohil did not contest the 1998 election and lost the one in 2002 that marked Modi’s first electoral win. In the next election in 2007, he returned to the Assembly from Bhavnagar and was made the Leader of the Opposition, emerging as one of the most vocal critics of Modi. However, Gohil lost the 2012 Assembly elections, and while he eventually returned to the Assembly in a by-election from the Abdasa constituency, in the 2017 polls too he couldn’t win. Since then, Gohil has been focusing on national politics.

The Congress veteran had wanted the Grand Alliance in Bihar to be broad-based, involving parties like Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), Mukesh Sahani’s Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) and the Left, but could not convince RJD chief Tejashwi Yadav about the utility of the RLSP and VIP.

However, he managed to bring the CPI, CPM and CPI (M-L) into the fold.

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Meet the ‘Hero of Baramulla’ who conned Pakistan

While Sherwani had to pay with his life after his bluff was caught; he had refused to say, ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ till the very end.

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Maqbool Sherwani

New Delhi, Oct 18 : An event of patriotism from erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 has been given a fresh lease of life. The Union Ministry of Culture has thrown its weight behind the story of October 22, 1947 in its pursuit to mainstream the events of that day that could have altered Kashmir, as we know today.

The Ministry has decided to hold a National Symposium and virtual exhibition on Maqbool Sherwani, a fellow Kashmiri who halted the marching Pakistan-backed tribal militia towards Srinagar.

While Sherwani might have given the Indian Army adequate time to send reinforcements, he had to pay with his own life.

Now, the Narendra Modi-led Central government wants to publicise and mainstream this tale of selfless sacrifice and utter heroism that is starkly opposite to the attempted narrative by Pakistan and certain elements within the valley that Kashmiris want freedom.

The ministry is hailing him as the ‘Hero of Baramulla’.

Prof Amitabh Mattoo will virtually join the symposium themed on “Martyr Maqbool Sherwani: Memory, myth and Imagination”. The Centre organised symposium is also scheduled to take place the same day, Sherwani flaunted his passion for the country- 22nd October. The event is likely to be beamed live on all social media handles of the ministry — Twitter, Youtube, Facebook and Instagram.

“The bravery and subsequent martyrdom of Maqbool Sherwani in 1947 and the story of his role during the Pakistan-backed invasion of Kashmir needs to be mainstreamed throughout India,” says Mattoo.

Sherwani, then a 19-year-old National Conference worker, has been credited with single-handedly stalling the advance of the tribal invaders to Srinagar.

“He managed the feat by telling the invaders that Indian Army was camping outside Baramulla and that a move towards Srinagar would be their undoing. The enemy froze in its tracks before the Indian reinforcement had reached Srinagar. Many say that the outcome of the war would have been different had invaders reached Srinagar before the Indian Army,” reads an e-poster by the Union Ministry of Culture created for the event that will be used to generate interest, in the coming few days over social media.

While Sherwani had to pay with his life after his bluff was caught; he had refused to say, ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ till the very end.

His body was nailed on a wooden plank and left. Now, this heroic story will be disseminated to today’s generation of India and more so to those in the valley, many of whom may not be aware of such an event that could have altered history.

The Culture Ministry has also prepared a 53 second long audio video clip that will be teased over social media to create a buzz and generate interest in him and the significance of the date.

(Anindya Banerjee can be contacted at [email protected])

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