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The headlines that were not – how The Hindu is consumed by agenda peddling

It is no secret that the Indian political landscape has gone through an immense transformation in the past three years. The 2014 elections changed the landscape of Indian polity with Congress being reduced to 44 seats and the BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi coming to power with a swooping, brute majority.

While a majority government works well for administration, one drawback could be the shrinking space of political opposition with no credible party or leader posing an immediate opposition to not only the BJP, but also Narendra Modi.

In the event of a political landscape with fragmented opposition, it is widely believed that the Media, which is inherently meant to be anti-establishment, plays the role of the principal opposition, with factual rebuttals and piercing questions, every time the Government tries to hoodwink the citizenry.

For the Media to be truly anti-establishment, it must have a flavor of brutal honesty and an indomitable commitment to not only intellectual and editorial integrity but also an unwavering sense of commitment to the interests of the nation and her people.

However, the travesty of Indian Media is that their sense of commitment lies largely in advocating a particular ideology, or rather, in hating a particular ideology. Over decades, their revulsion to this particular ideology — of Hindu nationalism — has morphed into revulsion for everything Hindu, including the people.

The media in India is more anti-Hindutva than anti-establishment. In fact, the Indian media is a part of the deep establishment — shaped by decades of Congress governments — which is equally allergic to everything Hindu.

With a Prime Minister who unapologetically calls himself a Hindu Nationalist, this hatred for Hindutva can be nicely camouflaged as being anti-establishment, for the government in office is generally considered to be defining the establishment of the day. However, this hatred is so strong that it is now attacking the ‘nationalism’ itself and not just ‘Hindu nationalism’. Being pro-India itself is now an anathema for many in the establishment media.

The most recent example of this was seen after the speeches of First Secretary in the permanent mission of India to the UN, Enaam Gambhir and Minister of External Affairs (EMA) Sushma Swaraj ripped every shed of lie peddled by the Pakistani Prime Minister and their ambassador. India made her stand against Pakistan amply clear stating how Pakistan had become a geography synonymous with terror and how the quest for the land of pure has actually produced a land of pure terror — Terroristan. MEA Sushma Swaraj went as far as to compare how the two nations had different growth trajectories. India, an IT superpower, and Pakistan, a terror hub.

While the citizenry celebrated India’s remarkably stronger stand against Pakistan, a section of the media fraternity got caught up in furthering Pakistan’s agenda. One of the glaring examples was how the left-leaning newspaper The Hindu chose to handle the subject.

Their first article on the matter got published on the 23rd of September 2017, on the front page no less. The day when India christened Pakistan as ‘Terroristan’, The Hindu front page headline read “Strident Pakistan presses for UN envoy to Kashmir”. This while Enaam Gambhir made some excellent points in response to the rambling of the Pakistani Prime Minister, the most important being the ‘leader’ of the UN designated terror organization, Hafiz Saeed, was sought to be legitimized by Pakistan as a leader of a political party.

While the contents of the article covered the speeches of Pakistan Prime Minister, Abbasi, and Indian Diplomat, it was striking that the headline focused on Pakistan’s response, specifically, with its age old muttering about the UN envoy into Kashmir. It was also interesting that perhaps the most important part of Enaam Gambhir’s speech about Hafiz Saeed leading a political party, was conspicuously absent. An inadvertent error, perhaps? But a little difficult to believe considering Pakistan’s side of the argument was covered in great detail.

Here are some Headlines that The Hindu could have gone with:

  • “India slams Terroristan”
  • “India calls out Terroristan for legitimizing Hafiz Saeed”
  • “Pakistan red faced after India questions Hafiz Saeed leading a political party”
  • “Pakistan has become a geography synonymous with terror” : Enaam Gambhir slams Pakistan

Now let us see what happened on 24th September 2017. On this day, EAM Sushma Swaraj delivered a crippling blow to every argument peddled by Pakistan.

In her 22 minutes long speech, Swaraj not only elucidated the stellar work of development India had undertaken over the decades, but also spoke about how the Indian hand of friendship had rejected by Pakistan and how, while India progressed, Pakistan became a hub of terrorism.

The Hindu wrapped up the Minister’s 22 minutes speech in a 165 words article.

The piece was discarded to the bottom corner of the front page and some obscure story about the longest saree in Sri Lanka was given more space than India’s official stand at the UNGA.

Again, here are some Headlines that The Hindu could have gone with (on the front page)

  • “Sushma Swaraj delivers a crippling blow to Pakistan at the UNGA”
  • “India’s decisively stronger stand against Pakistan at the UNGA”
  • “We made IITs and IIMs, Pakistan made terror camps”

That’s not all. Now let’s move to 25th September 2017.

While the entire country was busy calling out the Pakistan UN envoys gaffe of holding up a Gazan woman’s pellet ridden face to pass it off as “Atrocity in Kashmir”, The Hindu had different plans. On the front page, a glaring headline read “UN must call upon India to halt provocations, says Pakistan”, with an accompanying photograph of Maleeha Lodhi holding up the Gazan woman’s photograph.

In a 350 something worded article, The Hindu carried every lie peddled by Pakistan against India. From the “Muslims under attack” narrative to the blatant war mongering by Pakistan to their hollow claims about Jammu and Kashmir.

Right next to the main article, I tiny sidebar read “Pak envoy commits a gaffe”. Editorial decisions pertaining to which Headline should be the main headline, prominently displayed, as a main story, and which headline should appear as a sidebar, are generally based on the order of priority, which in turn depends on the importance of the story. It is then logical to assume that ‘The Hindu perhaps felt that the Pakistani lies would contribute more to the national discourse than the fact that they had wrongly accused India and committed a serious gaffe for which they may face consequences.

The fact that “Pakistan envoy commits gaffe” wasn’t the main headline, accompanied by a comparative graphic that placed the source of the Gazan woman’s picture and Ms. Lodhi holding up the same picture as “atrocities in Kashmir”, goes to show the subtle tools deployed by ‘The Hindu’ to peddle their agenda.

Here are some headline options that The Hindu could have gone with :

  • “Pakistan lies. Again”
  • “Pakistan shenanigans in response to India’s facts”

Story is still not over. Let us check what happened on 26th September 2017 i.e. today’s newspaper.

One would imagine, that when India exercised its right to respond and called out Lodhi’s atrocious lies, The Hindu would, equally fervently, carry that article on its front page. To my chagrin, the tiny article titled “India counters Pakistan narrative”, appeared on the 10th page.

While the fact that Pakistan’s lie made it to the front page, and India’s truth made it to the 10th is atrocious in itself, that The Hindu called misrepresentation by Lodhi at the UNGA mere ‘narrative’ is a travesty of mammoth proportions. Lodhi held up a victim of the Palestinian conflict and tried to pass it off as the atrocities committed by the Indian state in Kashmir. Calling it a ‘narrative’ and not ‘blatant misrepresentation and lies’ was perhaps an editorial decision that was questionable to say the least.

Remember, The Hindu has carried articles, such as this, blasting people when someone from the government of India has ended up using a wrong representational image (and which was deleted after officials realized the mistake), but it didn’t think there was any need to blast Pakistan.

What did find space on the front page, apart from the articles about Saubhagya scheme launched by the Prime Minister and acquittal of Mahmood Farooqui, was an article titled “Human shield was wrongful confinement”.

Here are some Headlines that The Hindu should could have gone with (in the front page):

  • “India calls out Pakistan’s blatant lie”
  • “Pakistan ambassador caught on the wrong foot”
  • “India tears into Pakistani lies, yet again”

It is at times like these one questions not only the integrity of the media, but also their skewed priorities. In an environment where India is flexing its muscles against a state sponsor of terror that regularly sends Kalashnikov wielding terrorists to compromise our sovereignty, it wont be far from the truth if I say that The Hindu’s editorial decisions have been questionable.

It would be unbelievable if this is written off as an oversight. Editorial decisions are far more thought out. It would be unfathomable if it is said that the Editors of The Hindu didn’t understand the ramifications of the placement of articles specially when it concerns national discourse.

Once we eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be considered the truth. In this case, what remains, is writing off this editorial stand of The Hindu, as a shameful attempt at being anti-establishment by incontrovertibly, being anti-India.

(h/t to S Sudhir Kumar for spotting this chicanery of The Hindu. You can read his article on the same issue on MyIndMakers)

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Nupur J Sharma
Editor, OpIndia.com since October 2017

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