Days after senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi arrogantly declared that his government would have thrown China out of Ladakh in 15 minutes if they were in power today, old reports on the UPA government’s approach towards China and the ITBP have come to the fore. The reports, dating back to the September 2009, reveal that the UPA government was more concerned with headline management than rebuffing China and it says a lot about the media as well.
On the 15th of September, 2009, a report appeared in the Economic Times which asserted that two Jawans of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) were injured in Chinese firing. The report said that the firing was the first since the 1996 agreement between the two countries on not resorting to firing under any circumstances was entered upon. As per the report, the firing had actually occurred a fortnight previously and was sought to be kept under wraps.
On the 20th of September 2009, another report emerged on the developments surrounding China, titled, “Media asked not to ‘overplay’ China border incidents”. The report mentions that the UPA government had decided to file FIRs against two Times of India journalists for a report which claimed ‘Two ITBP jawans injured in China border firing’. The foreign ministries of both countries denied the claim made in the report.
“We have taken this story very seriously. We are going ahead with our decision to take criminal action against the two reporters and we will soon file an FIR. They have quoted some highly placed intelligence source in their story. Let them appear before the court and tell who is this source who gave them information,” top Home Ministry sources said on Saturday.
“I really am unable to explain why there is so much media hype on this question,” National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan said in an interview claiming “someone somewhere might lose his cool and something might go wrong.” A report on the Indian Express a day later cited that top Home Ministry sources who had confirmed that ITBP had registered an official complaint against the report with the Delhi Police.
Thus, it is quite evident that while conflict raged with China at the LAC, the UPA government was more interested in media management than countering China. So, when Rahul Gandhi says that his government would have thrown out China in fifteen minutes were he in power, it does leave a bitter taste in one’s mouth.
It says a lot about the Indian media as well. While the media was outraging against the government for terminating its relationship with PTI, no such outrage could be observed when the UPA government in 2009 lodged an FIR against two journalists for a report. “Bland reporting of events is also not palatable to the government anymore. Journalists must speak out. Don’t let politicians take away the last shreds of dignity the media still has,” said Rohini Singh of The Wire.
Siddharth Varadarajan described the terminating of the relationship with the PTI as “salami slicing” of press freedom. Arfa Khanum Sherwani said, “Basically, if you are not pliable, you are anti-national. The story of two Indian News Agencies.” Rajdeep Sardesai compared it to the emergency. “Crackdown now on PTI in the week of the 45th anniversary of the Emergency? What could be more ironic and tragic.. remember, those who forget history are condemned to repeat it,” he said.
It is a familiar pattern that we see in the mainstream media. Every transgression of the Congress party is ignored while even legitimate action by the NDA government is twisted and exaggerated beyond all measure. Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi is permitted to make preposterous declarations that is at polar opposites with how the UPA government actually behaved while in power.