I have been asked to give my opinion on ?Media: Is it anti-Hindu?? The topic itself strikes me hard and yet after a little deliberation I am convinced that what we see around us, hear or read, creates an impression that it has become a fashion to deride Hinduness. As if whatever is, in anyway, remotely connected with our tradition, culture and civilisation is perceived to be archaic, obscurantist and old fashioned. Some think, to prove oneself modern, up-to-date, one has to denigrate the Hindu. But they forget that Hinduism, as a philosophy has been thriving for centuries because it has an inborn tendency to adapt itself to modernity. Therefore, when one projects oneself as anti-Hindu, one is proving anti-modern. A Hindu not only respects other'sviewpoint, he also accepts it. A person who is anti-Hindu, can therefore be called undemocratic too. It is needless to repeat that a true democrat is he, who respects other'sviewpoint.
To talk about the media today is to deal with complexity and multiple meanings?variously perceived and described. Media today is not only a source of information but also entertainment. For many, it is also a forum of self- expression. In my opinion, the media is the bearer of social right to free speech. But aren'twe aware that in recent times global events have demonstrated that the right to free speech is both contentious and elusive in its definition?
The cartoon-caricatures of a revered historical figure by a Danish newspaper was perceived to be a mere articulation of its right to free speech, but for a major part of world community this was an act of gross provocation, a manifestation of the licentiousness of western civilisation which has transformed free speech into a sanction to cause offence. Therefore, one is to understand when one person'sright becomes an intrusion into another person'sindividual and social being.
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights conceives: ?Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression and this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.? The Indian Constitution illustratively speaks of Article 19, freedom as necessarily qualified by reasonable restrictions. The grounds for these restrictions are clearly spelt out and where it concerns free speech, these are : ?The sovereignty and intergrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an office.?
In all the discussion about the media and its role, freedom is necessarily balanced by a notion of responsibility. A liberal democracy allows for few institutional restraints or regulations on the functioning of the media, leaving the market place of ideas as the final arbiter. In matters that vitally involve the public interest, where there is risk of social disorder or offence to good taste, decisions are left to the prudence and the sense of social responsibility of the media. It may appear that taking advantage of this, a section of the media has derived pleasure in denigrating the Hindu belief and tradition. Some even think that by promoting the cause of the minorities, one is building a secular society. But they are gravely mistaken. Espousing the cause of minorityism, need not be appeasement only. Majorityism shouldn'tbe despised at. Majorityism in a country is a historical fact. One cannot wish it away. We need not feel guilty about it. But a section in the media portrays the situation as such, as if the Hindu majority is at fault. This negative attitude should be discouraged.
This tendency has evolved during the last three or four decades, basically when the educational system of our country got influenced by leftist bias. Since early seventies, the so-called socialistic pattern with leftist tinge became a fashion and one proved oneself progressive if one declared oneself secular. I fail to understand as to how a person can be secular. He may believe in God or he may not, he cannot be neutral on this issue. But the leftists, true to their salt, have successfully created an atmosphere where God-abiding people are forced to ponder whether they are in the right path or not. The electronic media, needs live drama and for it Hindu religion means flowing beards, ash-covered body, mumbo-jumbo and the like. How many of the channels broadcast the beauty of the Gita and Srimad Bhagvatam? A Hindu is not identified by its rituals but by his belief. The belief that has been there for last five thousand years or more.
Rarely in any country, other than India, the majority community is so derided upon. It does not happen in any of the western countries nor does it happen in any Islamic nations. Every other country is proud of its culture, civilisation and tradition. No media is allowed to offend any one, howsoever liberal that society may be. But, here in India a section of the media has taken the responsibility upon itself as the protector of minorities and has a habit of creating a situation where the minorities will perpetually be under fear. This has weakened the society. Media shouldn'tbe a party to this. Media should strike to build a healthy nation.
The nation will benefit if the Hindu-bashing by some so-called mediapersons is ignored by the society. We should not forget that during the freedom struggle days, our prominent freedom fighters were true to their religion and belief. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi, Gopabandhu Das and many others were devout Hindu and active media persons. They channelised their faith and belief for the struggle for freedom. As liberty has two notions, the positive and the negative, we should strive for the positive. The shape of Indian democracy has to an extent been determined by the strata that have entered the terrain of active political contestation in increasing numbers. Its future will be moulded by the new voices that will resound in the political battlegrounds over the next few years. In its present shape, the Indian media is equipped neither to give voice to the majority aspirations, nor render any discourse and direction to the emerging social class, which is feeling restless at present. But things are bound to change, because artificiality and make-believe will not last long.
(The writer is a Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha and is editor of Prajatantra, Oriya daily and group editor of all publications of Prajatantra Prachar Samiti, Cuttack)