Note: This is a guest article by Neha Srivastava.
Lots of politicians and their supporters have been hurling “paid media” allegations at media houses lately, but this is not about that. I am here to talk about a much deep-rooted problem than just skewing news reports for money. Its true that the intellectual discourse in India is not unbiased, its not neutral. But this is not about money at all, this is about power and control over the narrative, its about shaping the ideology of the masses, this is about skewing the discourse so much that opposing voices are summarily suffocated. This is about the Marxist Devil. And this is about the Nazification of Indian intelligentsia.
In a democracy, journalism is said to serve the role of a “fourth estate”, acting as a watchdog on the workings of the government. Journalistic integrity is based on three principles: truth, disclosure, and editorial independence but somehow the first two tenets of Journalistic Integrity have been completely overpowered by the third, thereby reducing the once revered profession to a propaganda machine. Time and again we have seen editors with an agenda, trying to feed their ideologies through everyday reportage to their readers. The subtle way of doing this is by a cunning choice of words & setting the tone in a manner which shows a level of contempt towards anything divergent to or opposing their ideologies, and all the while using superfluous, flowery descriptions when reporting anything supportive of their ideology. Often this method is masked as freedom of expression and editorial independence, yet many forget that it is not honest journalism if you do not fully disclose your proclivities.
It’s absolutely fine to have an ideology–after all editors/reporters are human too, but pretending to be neutral, while furthering their agenda is intellectual dishonesty. Take the very recent case of Ashutosh, a IBN7 Managing Editor who quit his job and joined Aam Aadmi Party. Now, quitting journalism and joining politics is not a crime but if you think about it, its not like someone develops an ideology in a few hours. Did he ever disclose his fondness towards Aam Aadmi Party’s ideological stance for the 10 months that he was working as a “neutral journalist”? Did he refrain from reporting on politics? Did he show any intellectual honesty towards his previous-profession?
The not-so-subtle and rather heinous way of furthering an agenda is by reporting partial truth, misreporting (and then under-reporting the correction when exposed) or even killing stories, all to either attack the opponents of their ideology or to protect their ideological sympathizers. The most prominent example of this was the sustained vilification of Narendra Modi for 10 plus, a vile project which is still ongoing. Favorable reports are quashed or not given due importance but “Blow to Modi” reports become headlines & get hours of coverage via TV debates, op-eds and so on.
Oh, but the bias is limited to media…Is it?
Lets take a look at what we have been taught so far. Having completed my primary & secondary education in India, I have witnessed first-hand the bias in the discourse. 12 years of history lessons do a brilliant job of enforcing a distorted version of Indian history. Pre-independence history recognizes Mughals as the benevolent monarchs who shaped India, when in fact most of them were tyrants and took pride in destroying Hindu temples and murdering/enslaving the native population of the region they conquered. Ashoka is great, but no Hindu ruler is given his due share in history. If it weren’t for TV, Shivaji wouldn’t even be a recognizable name for non-marathi youth. This is what we can safely call as the “Romila Thaparification” of Indian education. Ask any Indian student and he will tell you that Gandhi and Nehru were the most important faces of the Indian freedom struggle. If the kid is genuinely interested in history, he might also recognize some other names like Sardar Patel or Subash Bose but only as side characters. The bias is so extreme that Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev & Rajguru were mentioned as terrorists in ICSE & NCERT history books until 2011, when a litigation forced the board to remove that reference.
Post-independence history is just as skewed, as it begins with Nehru and ends with Rajiv Gandhi. Indira Gandhi, the first woman PM of India comes out a clear winner, and of course, the Emergency barely gets a one-sentence mention. There is negligible reference to JP Movement, which shook the collective conscience of the country. Rajiv Gandhi is apparently the father of the IT revolution, but students aren’t informed about LTTE/Srilanka episode and its aftermath on India. There is no mention of the Shahbano case, a landmark judgement which changed the Indian political scenario forever and is inseparable from Rajiv Gandhi’s politics. The contributions of Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyay and many other stalwarts have been omitted forever from Indian education system.
Whenever these concerns of biased intellectual discourse are raised, they are dismissed by saying “Why do people with opposing views not work to present their side of the story? Why do they not write books on these issues?” Oh, but they do! Several authors have done their bit to expose the sham of alleged historians like Guha, Irfan Habib & Romila Thapar, who have done everything to mutilate Indian history. Most prominent among them has been Arun Shourie, whose book “Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud” has done a beautiful job of exposing the bias but has he ever been celebrated as an author like that one-book-wonder cum seditionist, Arundhati Roy? Does he get invited to lit-fests, interviews or debates?
Similar biases also exist in the publishing industry. Even if an author with an opposing view (read: non-communist view) would find a sympathetic publishing house, she would never be given her rightful seat on the table. She would never be invited in any conference or debate on this topic, her voice would be curbed to the maximum extent possible.
Publishing houses which do not subscribe to the left ideology often aren’t big enough or fearless enough to publish views that might ruffle a few feathers. Most don’t have the courage to face years of litigation even if they can win. Media house owners are worried about being on the wrong side of powerful politicians. The Communist/Marxist/JNU version of the discourse has successfully conquered the intelligentsia as it stands today and comply-or-perish is the rule of the jungle.
However, there is a silver lining in the clouds. The advent of the Internet has effectively shaken up the foundations of this well-entrenched nexus. The Internet is giving people easy, quick and free access to opposing and divergent views. Today, when schools students research material for their history papers, Arun Shourie, Sitaram Goel, Francois Gautier or Koenraad Elst turn up in the Google search results. These names have become popular, their interviews/debates, however few, have garnered large numbers of hits on the Internet. Some of these authors are even on social media sites where they have acquired tens of thousands of followers. The best example of this phenomenon was seen in the Wendy Doniger case, where a petitioner offended by Wendy’s version of Hindus, Hinduism and Indian history and her misleading portrayal of Hinduism, sued her and the publisher. Penguin India, the publisher agreed to pulp the book in an out-of-court settlement.
When social media discovered the issue, within a matter of hours, Rajiv Malhotra became part of the conversation as he had been writing about Wendy’s bias for years. People wanted to know his side of the story. He aired them and thousands listened. Not everyone agreed with him, but he had a seat on the table, he was being heard, and for the non-leftist writers of the India, this is no small feat. In short, the world has found one medium which is not under the control of the Marxist nexus, YET. This, quite expectedly, made a lot of people very uneasy. It includes those who had compromised their honesty and those who have been the forerunners of the nexus.
Either way, the Internet is ruffling the feathers of those who have been oppressing freedom of expression for years. No wonder, UPA Home Minister Shinde, wants to “crush” social-media. Let’s see how long our newfound freedom lasts, but until it does, I say, let us speak and speak out and speak LOUDLY!
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