CORRUPTION has been creeping into professional journalism that, if left unattended, may greatly harm democracy in India. It would seem journalists, like some newspaper proprietors, are purchaseable. In December 2009, the Mumbai-based daily DNA published a story about some seventy-odd journalists summoned by the authorities to explain corruption charges. They apparently hailed from both the print and electronic media. A hundred days have passed and we do not know what transpired after they were summoned.
The story was literally killed probably on the theory that dog does not eat dog. Now we have an article in Hindustan Times (March 2010) that is painfully revelatory, authored by Rajdeep Sardesai. Noting that “across the political spectrum senior politicians are unwilling to subject themselves to rigourous media scrutiny”, Sardesai had this to say: “Part of the problem lies with us in the media too. Where once the media thrived on its anti-establishment image, a number of influential journalists are now foot soldiers of the political class. Facts have been replaced by propaganda, even as the creeping power of the public relations machine threatens journalism. Unfortunately, the changing nature of the politician-journalist relationship means that the space for independent journalism that can hold the politician accountable is shrinking…” That is a pretty damning indictment.
We now seem to have reached a stage when every journalist has become suspect. Whether he (or she) supports a party or a politician out of sheer conviction, or opposes them again out of conviction, doubts about the credibility of the author are raised. This is a dangerous situation. Doubts, again, are being raised about the manner in which certain newspapers have been treating the way in which the Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been interviewing Narendra Modi. The pathetic hatred against Modi shown by some of our newspapers has to be noticed to be believed. If Rajiv Gandhi was alive, would anybody have dared to have him questioned by a Special Investigative Team? Why is Modi being targeted? Is it because the Congress is finding itself losing popular support? (The election results to the Bangalore Municipal Corporation is an eye-opener).
It is against this background that one must read R Jagannathan’s brilliant attack on secularists in DNA (April 1). One presumes that Jagannathan is not a member of the RSS cadre and is speaking from his heart—and it is time someone like him did. He talks about the current “emptiness of Indian secularism” and has damned “India’s humbug secularists” for ‘personalising’ the definition of secularism “for narrow political ends”. Humbug our secularists undoubtedly are.
As for the Bachchan episode, Jagannathan says that the actor’s problems have arisen, firstly because “he had the temerity to bat for Gujarat” and secondly because “he had fallen foul of the Gandhi family”. Writes the distinguished columnist: “Combine the two and he had no chance to be left alone. This is why Congress party buffoons are busy demanding all kinds of explanations from him when Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani—all businessmen who showered praise on Modi directly—got away unnoticed…”
Our secularists are not just stupid. They are cowards. To quote one more line from Jagannathan: “It is also sickening to see secularists salivating at the prospect of Modi’s humiliation, when justice is the priority. No one noted that Rajiv Gandhi was never called to answer questions on Bofors when it was more than clear that he and his nominees were the unstated suspects. The Swedish prosecutor in the Bofors case expressed surprise why Sonia Gandhi was not quizzed in the scam—when she is also the obvious link to Ottavio Quattrocchi…” One suspects that the Congress will go to any length to damn the Modis, the Advanis and their likes, considering that its popularity, such as it is, is slipping badly, if the elections to the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palika (BBMP) are any indication. That may partly explain the reason Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has handed over virtual command of his government to Sonia Gandhi who will henceforth become chairperson of the National Advisory Council.
The National Advisory Committee, incidentally, was created soon after the Congress-led UPA government first took over the reins of power in 2004 to give Sonia Gandhi superpower, as The Free Press Journal rightly noted. She had opted out of it on March 23, 2006. But now, as the Congress is on a losing field, it has to do something to recover its power, like damning Modi and running down Bachchan. Incidentally, may one remind fellow citizens from first-hand knowledge as to what happened when Congressmen in Pune went on a murderous spree following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi? When the magistrate in Pune sought the then Bombay’s Home Minister Morarji Desai’s advice on what to do, his advice was clear: he told the magistrate to let public anger freely express itself and thus dissipated before taking a strong action. The Modi-haters might take a lesson from this.