In an editorial titled “Bid To Silence”, The Times of India, alleged that the defamation case filed by the BJP against Ramachandra Guha will defame India’s image of a free press society. Not just the Times of India, but many other journalists and columnists too have openly opposed the legal notice.
This was anyway expected from certain quarters of the media as the move challenged the very style of “Shoot & Scoot” reporting on which they thrive and survive. After examining the contents of the TOI editorial, a few things become absolutely clear:
One – While batting for the free speech, the writer conveniently forgets that free speech is an all pervasive right guaranteed by the Constitution and that it does not provide any special privilege to those who behold a contrarian view to the Hindu Nationalist ideology. The self-proclaimed elite of the left thinks otherwise and there precisely lies the problem.
The left is perhaps caught in an uncomfortable position where, what they are seeking to object (the defamation case), is no different in nature from what they are seeking to assert, i.e. one’s freedom to express. The right to legal recourse, this elite believes, is reserved only to the brethren of their own class and castigates anyone who claims to have the same. It is simply ironic that the same left positions itself as a guardian of equality, but presents ridiculous standards while practising it.
The public too is waking up to see the contours of the left’s brazen hypocrisy. Take for instance the defamation case filed by the left’s demigod Shashi Tharoor against Arnab Goswami or even the string of notices served by the Times Group against the same man. Tharoor dragged Arnab to the courts just because he “linked” Sunanda’s Murder with him. But what the Guha supporters refuse to see is that Guha went one step ahead and declared that murderers of three rationalists were from Sangh Parivar.
Coming back to the Times Group and legal notices, they did not even spare a 22-year old law student Aparajita Lath for a simple blog post. It alleged that the blog had caused “an irreparable injury and loss of reputation” to the group.
In another example, the left has maintained an impeccable silence on the defamation case and the non-bailable warrant issued in a case filed by a ‘journalist’ against Madhu Kishwar. Thus, to selectively profess equality reveals a deeply rooted belief of the left – that anyone who disagrees with their ideology, has to be treated as a second class citizen and must not claim any right to constitutional remedy.
Two – Selective reading of Guha’s remarks. As pointed out by the author, our public discourse is a chaotic melee of polemical arguments and personal attacks. But none of it directly implicates someone of a wrong doing as blatantly and explicitly done by Guha. Although he doesn’t pin the blame of Gauri Lankesh’s Murder on Sangh Pariwar and the BJP, he only suggests the likelihood of murderers coming from the same Sangh Pariwar from which the murderers of Kalburgi, Dhabolkar and Pansare “came” (no ‘likelihood’ here, he makes an assertion).
Guha does not have an iota of hesistance in directly implicating the Sangh Pariwar in the murders of Kalburgi, Dhabolkar and Pansare, the cases in which the agencies are yet to file a charge sheet. Being a Historian, if one starts asserting his own fancies, does it not raise fundamental questions on the authenticity of his research and viability of his ‘international’ repute?
Three – If the damage to India’s international image of a free press society was really the concern, why was the same media silent when journalists Rajdev Ranjan of Bihar or Devendra Chaturvedi of UP were murdered. Another journalist Jagendra Singh based out of Shahjahanpur, was burnt to death in his own home. His dying declaration held then SP minister Rammurti Singh Verma responsible as he had exposed Verma’s alleged illegal mining activities.
Where were the #IAmRajdev, #IAmDevendra or #IAmJagendra protests then. If at all India’s image has taken a hit, it is only because of media’s unmistakable double standards and the disproportionate outrage that only Gauri’s murder saw. What concerns the left is not free speech, but its perennial agenda to malign the right and divert attention from its emerging fault lines ( It is timely to remind ourselves of Gauri’s last tweet – “Why some of us fight between ourselves…” ).
The real concern of the elite left is that their narrative is now being examined and challenged. It is worried that its authority is now being questioned. It’s clear, therefore, that India’s image is not their real concern but that of staying relevant in an increasingly informed and aware society is.
In a civil society, the battles must be between ideas, the arguments must be based on facts and the debates must end at disagreements. Instead, weighed down by their deep prejudices, this elite left has made it a habit to stand up for principles circumstantially, to conclude before the turn of events and pass judgements with a clarity that even an eye-witness to a crime would lack.
With the BJYM Karnataka, the so called right-wing has fortunately started to foil the attempts of the elite left to coerce the public into believing that free speech is a right only of a select few. The defamation case, therefore, is not a bid to silence anyone, but to make it loud and clear that baseless implications will not be tolerated and that the left must learn the right lesson.