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Rs 5 crore 'demand' for India Today anchor: What about 52 lesser souls who died in April?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat* 

A well known Hindutva protagonist masquerading as journalist passed away recently resulting in messages of condolences and tribute right from the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to progressive liberals expressing grief of his untimely death. It is said that he passed away due to cardiac arrest, though the fact is, he was also Covid infected. The Prime Minister and the Home Minister termed him a ‘brave’ journalist, insisting, his passing away has left a big ‘vacuum’.
A ‘secular liberal’ champion, who has been constantly being abused by the Sanghi trolls, asked the Prime Minister to compensate the journalist’s family with Rs 5 crore. The champion suggested that he was ‘worried’ about the ‘daughters’ of the anchor and hence the government must support his family.
On social media, many people started celebrating his death. I don’t know whether there was any trend on twitter like this, but it is a fact that many people expressed happiness, though many of those who were his victims showed sympathy, too. A ‘philosopher’ condemned those ‘celebrating’ the death of the journalist an other backward class (OBC) mindset, though one does not know where have OBCs come into picture here.
It is said that death of anyone is not celebrated and our ‘culture’ is ‘respectful’ to all those who pass away, and we do not speak ill of the deceased. However, let us not befool ourselves: The fact is, there has been a culture of demonising people and celebrating their deaths.
To recall, the largest number of abuses which Indian ‘savarnas’ (dominant castes) reserved was for former Prime Minister late VP Singh for his ‘misdeed’ of accepting the Mandal Commission Report. VP Singh still gets the abuses. The other minister who got similar abuses was Arjun Singh for implementing reservation in higher education and institutions of ‘merit’.
Over the last few decades, we appear to have lost our sense of sanity and reason, celebrating lynchings and murders, and the biggest contributor for this has been that of RSS and its various offshoots. In 1984, after Indira Gandhi's death, there were rumours stating that Sikhs were celebrating her murder. So, 'Hindus' retaliated.
Every massacre has had a story and a justification. Earlier, media would not give credence to a massacre, but these days it has turned into becoming a tool to spread hatred and division. Worse, our prime time heroes have done this without any shame or guilt.
The demand by the liberal ‘champion’ in his blog that the family of the journalist who died of Covid should get compensation of Rs 5 crore from the government appeared especially shocking to me. I wonder why the blogger did not ask the India Today Group, for whom the deceased journalist worked, to compensate. Why protect the business interest of the ‘private’ vampires? Why should the government compensate those who are working in private companies or big media houses offering hefty pay packages?
A recent report said that between April 1 and April 28, 2021, a total of 52 journalists died due to Covid while doing their ground work. The report also suggested that 101 journalists passed away between April 1, 2020 to April 28, 2021, while doing their duty because of Covid. The largest share of these deaths came from UP 19, Telangana 17, Maharashtra 13, Odisha 9, Delhi 8, Andhra Pradesh 6, Tamil Nadu and Assam 4 each, and so on.
Most of these journalists are with local papers or channels, and some are stingers too. I have not heard a single sentence from even from well-known media bodies about compensation to their families. Will the established media give a full programme asking the government to pay them as per frontline workers? Of course, there are other people too who laid down their lives on the line of duty, but what is surprising is that we have not heard stories about the families of these working journalists.
It is high time when we seek an international commission on media, its roles, responsibilities and accountability. I am sure, if anyone who is following or observing Indian media, particularly the ‘mahanayaks’ of prime times, would vouch that most of them need to be prosecuted for promoting hatred and animosities against minorities and marginalised.
The hashtags, the timelines and the way they do ‘lynchings’ in their own created ‘kangaroo courts’ at the prime time around 9 pm IST deserve an international public trial involving known jurists as well as media personalities. Media houses, both explicitly and implicitly, have encouraged war mongers. Most of these heroes are actually the biggest threat to our democracy as they seek accountability from dissenters and opposition parties while playing the role of the ruling party’s spokespersons.
Government strategy has been clear enough: Create problems, build a narrative and promote it through established media houses
In search of imagined conspiracy, during elections they look for a Pakistan or a jihadi angle to blame all the Muslims of India and seek their ‘response’. During the entire Covid journey of India since March 2020, one can see how these media houses gave space to rogues, thugs and mischief mongers. In the beginning, they found a ‘conspiracy’ in the Tablighi Jamaat conference in Delhi, and every Muslim was converted into a Tablighi, and then accused them of spreading the ‘virus’.
Meanwhile, all through, the Prime Minister and his ministers have not spoken a single word about a large number of deaths due to Coronavirus. They have remained silent. Instead, they would give ‘gyan’ about drinking hot water, wearing masks and social distancing, even as campaigning in elections amidst huge crowds. The only agenda is to fight elections and win them by hook or by crook.
All this has continued even as cases were filed against anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)-National Register of Citizens (NRC) campaigners, turning them into conspirators. Many intellectuals and activists are currently behind bars for quite some time without trial.
The government’s strategy has been clear enough: Create problems, build a narrative and promote it through established media houses and social media, act on the basis of ‘people’s perceptions’, leak specific stories sourced on intelligence agencies about opponents, discuss only about opposition and dissenters all the time, and vilify them. Isn’t it anything but massacre? It doesn’t care about people who are facing trials are made to suffer, when media declares them criminals and seeks to derail the entire judicial process.
It is the same media who never questioned about Kumbh Mela or other fairs that have been allowed amidst the pandemic. It is the same media which supported people’s demand for opening up of temples. It is the same media which for the whole three four months made Sushant Singh Rajput an international issue as if all other issues are dead.
Who is responsible for this criminality? Definitely, nobody could do all this without the blessings of the top leadership which tweets as if nothing has happened. When Arnab Goswami was arrested, he behaved like a king as if nothing could happen to him. He abused a Chief Minister. He abused Sonia Gandhi. Indeed, nothing happened to him.
Indian media will have to respond to accountability questions. It cannot evade it. We would not have faced the current crisis if the media had spoken its words in advance. It is shamelessly showing IPL matches. True, “The New Indian Express” has been an exception. A little-known Bharat Samachar TV channel from Lucknow, too, decided that it would not broadcast any election results and continue to focus on people’s issues related to Covid. But these are exceptions.
India has proved that its capitalist media looks for nothing but profits, as people and their sufferings are beyond them. They continue with their task of promoting superstition, Brahmanical values of irrationality and hatred. Most of them have no keen interest in having a reasonable debate or discussion.
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*Human rights defender. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vbrawat, Twitter: @freetohumanity

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