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Darr ka mahaul: Why has India’s most honest reporter not been on air for the last 3 days?

Why the radio silence. No black screen. No painted face. And no mimes. Just silence.

He is the voice of the voiceless. For the millions of people – students, workers, farmers, women, Dalits, tribals, who feel disenfranchised ever since the BJP came to power in 2014, he was the one true hope. Every night, for one hour or so, his followers could tune in to his show and escape the harsh reality of their marginalized existence. No more fear, no more hopelessness, no more intolerance. Only justice. He would announce himself in his sobering voice and his topic for the day. The powers that be would be tried in his court and always found guilty.

This was real journalism; speaking truth to power the way it was supposed to be.

Except, where has it been for the last three days? Why has the light gone out of our lives? Why is there darkness everywhere?

Did something happen in the news that India’s most honest reporter had to go into hiding? Perhaps there is a story out there that he doesn’t want to cover? Why not? Is he scared? We know that cannot be, for he is fearless. Then, the question is : what are his incentives?

And in the meantime, what happens to his millions of followers? Without his nightly show telling them what to think, where do they go? Last I heard, they were so much in love with him that they were adding his name to their own. It was their homage to him and his fearless reporting. One night on his show, he acknowledged the affection of his disciples. What a day it must have been for them!

Think about that: half the folks at Singhu border have changed their names in support of him. Imagine entire villages full of people, all with the same name, marching in lock step behind their dear leader. Sounds exactly like all free societies, right? Now, is there any journalist in the whole world who can command such loyalty?

Except, where is their dear leader? Why is he hiding from the biggest story in the country right now?

What does he have to fear on his show? It is all his. He does not have opposing views on his show, not even for token reasons, just to shout them down. There is no shouting on his show ever. Because the only voice that is allowed is his. Let alone bring on people who disagree with him, he rarely ever hosts people who agree with him. Because even if people agree with you, they might word it somewhat differently. And since he always has the truth and the only authorized version of the truth, he is the only one who ever speaks on his show.

In fact, that is supposed to be what makes his show so great : that he is the only one who speaks on it. Bringing in other people would induce cacophony. That would make his show just like the shouting matches on other channels. Things work so much better when you have only one view and only one voice to express it. And when that voice is guaranteed to give us the truth, why would we want to hear anyone else?

Even his employers seem scared of him, or at least in awe of him. He once said that he does not allow his employer to cut up his show and upload snippets of it to Youtube. That would be sacrilege. Imagine dismantling the Mona Lisa into fragments. If they did that, would you be able to appreciate the sublime greatness of the masterpiece? Now, I am a small person. I would not understand either the Mona Lisa as a whole, or in parts. But I know other people would. His show is just like that. He insists that they upload his show to Youtube as a whole.

If he had his way, he would probably insist that people only be allowed to watch his show on youtube or on TV as a whole as well. No getting up halfway, no eating or drinking, no switching channels midway. You must stand to attention while watching him make his historic announcements on a nightly basis. I bet half the folks at Singhu border already do this.

So where is he? Why is he hiding from his own show? And his own followers?

Others have tried to shut him down before. He always found a way to reach them. He spoke to them from behind a darkened screen. Only a voice from the ether; no visuals. When the intolerance grew too much, he found even more novel ways of reaching out to his followers. He brought people with painted faces to speak on air in language that sounded like gibberish. Except it was not gibberish. It was a coded language that only his followers could understand. From the mind of a genius to his loyal disciples. No fascist government could have intercepted that line of communication.

But things are different on the media landscape right now. There is a big story on the prowl. If you are on the scene, you cannot possibly ignore it. But if you choose to take that story by the horns, you will have to speak real truth to real power. And there will be no international awards for speaking that truth.

That’s why radio silence. No black screen. No painted face. And no mimes. Just silence.

To his followers I say: this silence is the reality of your savior. Ye chuppi hi aaj ka show hai…

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Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or may not be an Associate Professor at IISc Bangalore. He is the author of Operation Johar - A Love Story, a novel on the pain of left wing terror in Jharkhand, available on Amazon here.  

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