Since December 2019, the most dominant topic in the English TV and print media in India was the coverage on the CAA-NPR-NRC protests. During the course of this coverage it struck to me that at least twice in the past few years, NDTV’s Editorial Director Sonia Singh had enlightened us that “You don’t have to shout to be heard” is NDTV’s tagline. And looking at their coverage of the violence and protests, I could not help but get amused at how Irony died multiple times looking at NDTV’s hypocrisy in extensively highlighting the voices of only those who were shouting, literally and figuratively! In their coverage of the anti-CAA violence and protests, almost the entire English TV and print media has chosen to glorify the dissenter and demonize the supporter.
For example, we were emphatically told that the student community was moving away from the Modi government. Infact we were also told that the protesting students are not even being viewed as citizens of India! Doomsday was predicted based on history of student protests in India. The horrendous days of emergency were recalled. Rallies in literally a handful of universities and violence in a subset of that handful(!) were amplified to make a case out of this.
Amidst this, the silent student supporter who chose to attend classes instead of wasting time on a ill-informed meaningless protest was never given the chance or choice to be heard. The silent student supporter who yearned to learn meaningful lessons from his/her classes was assumed to be non-existent. One of the best examples was the fact that a vast majority of students in the ever controversial JNU cleared their hostel dues and registered for exams the moment the hurdles created by these glorified dissenters were removed.
Noticing that the student angle was not working, we were then told that the youth of the country have moved away from this government. Infact, Shekhar Gupta even condescendingly wrote about a “children-versus-uncle/aunty mood among the youth.” He had a sample size of three events to decide that the youth has given up on Modi. The ilk told us that those voted for Modi are now moving away from him. Well, I, for one, am not moving away from him. If anything, I am even more proud that I voted for him! Leave aside glorification, I need not tell you that the voice of this supporter and millions of supporters like me will not even be given a space in their industry!
They glorify when 1000 people write a letter against CAA but royally ignore when 1000 professionals write a letter in support of the CAA. Would you like to know why no space is given to such supporters? Because the supporters are “people of no consequence”. One Bollywood star attended a protest and the whole English media industry went berserk. Many Bollywood folks met a Union Cabinet minister and Shekhar Gupta dismissed them as people of “no consequence”. In his own words – “check out the worthies who landed at the central ministers’ dinner in Mumbai to support CAA. You will need Google to identify some.” So, for the supporter to get a voice, (s)he has to be identified without google first!
I know of one entity that is “of consequence” – the state government. After all that noise made on NPR, all states except one (West Bengal) attended the meeting called by Government of India to discuss the modalities of NPR! After the meeting, only Kerala additionally said they will not update the NPR. Some states objected to only one question in the NPR database – place and date of birth of parents. It was clarified that the answer to this is optional. So, in summary, a mere 2 states opposed the entire NPR exercise and they were glorified. MP now is saying they will also not implement it. There are atleast 20 states that are enthusiastically going ahead with their planning for NPR. Do you remember seeing TV shows debating why an overwhelming majority of states do not have a problem with the NPR even after so much noise that was made on TV? Do you remember articles in print explaining to us why an overwhelming majority of states do not have a problem with NPR even after so many Editorials, Op-Eds and front-page banner headlines of just the dissenter?
This, however, is not highest form of their hypocrisy. The highest form was when this ilk told us that the voices of dissent needs to be heard and answered to. In the context of all this violence and coverage, I am still raking my head as to who didn’t listen to the dissenter. Every single question the dissenter put forward was answered by the Home Minister of the country in Parliament. The dissenter chose not to listen, yet the ilk chose to glorify the dissenter. The Home Minister chose to yet again clarify in many interviews to TV channels. The Prime Minister spoke about this in public rallies and in Parliament. The entire party machinery across the country came forward to clarify. While the dissenter was slowly beginning to listen, those providing platform to the dissenter still chose not to listen. Their continued glorification of the handful of protestors in one area of New Delhi has already become nauseating.
Amidst all this, it’s not like the supporter didn’t speak. The supporter was on the street too, in many cities, but the English media happily chose to not give space to the supporter because they were of “no consequence”. Merely because the supporters are busy with their lives and contributing to the economy doesn’t mean they don’t care or support.
Most importantly, expression of support doesn’t necessarily mean everyone has to come out onto the street. Afterall, “you don’t have to be shout to be heard”! It is our tragedy that our English media has turned into a mafia that has become adept at peddling falsehoods and spreading lies that disturb the peace of the country.