By S M Anwar Hussain,
India, with a 1.2 billion population, is considered as the biggest parliamentary democracy in the world. The very preamble of lndia’s Constitution adopted by Indian Constituent Assembly in 1949 with 42nd amendment by Parliament in 1975 declared India as a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and aimed at providing its people JUSTICE (justice in social, economic and
political arena), LIBERTY (of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship), EQUALITY (of status and opportunity), and FRATERNITY (among people). ‘
The very aims of a secular democracy can not be achieved unless there is a free press. Free press, which is also called ‘the fourth estate,‘ plays the role of a watch dog and it is supposed to play its role without fear or favour and and if this watch dog goes corrupt, biased, greedy and purchased, the very foundation of a secular democracy starts crumbling, and today India is facing this dark and dreadful situation where the independent and impartial and of course very critical role of media is in peril. Media as a whole, specially the electronic media (except a few) belonging to big media houses have become the loud mouth pieces of the ruling party and are preaching the philosophy and ultranationalistic beliefs and thoughts propagated by RSS- the patron organisation of the Ruling party the BJP.
This safronization of Indian Media started not during the Modi regime only but the very process of turning Indian media into the ‘Hindutva‘ mould began way back in 1977 itself when ‘Jansangh,’ the then political organ of RSS was merged into Janta Party and the first non-Congress government was formed. Mr L.K. Advani became its Information and Broadcasting Minister. First, he started safronizing the Ministry itself. People and writers belonging to RSS or representing RSS views and ideology were appointed and given important positions into the Ministry, not only in Centre but in many of states where the Jansangh was the dominating force within Janta Party. The most important tool in the hands of government to influence the Media is advertisement. Government pays a huge amount of money to Media for its adverts and the papers and the other forms of media basically run and survive on them. Mr Advani and his people started rewarding the Hindi press which began getting huge bunch of government advertisements and the Urdu press received a pittance only. Vernacular Press was better than Urdu but much inferior to Hindi Press. The majority of the Hindi press advocated the policy of ‘Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan,’ and regularly indulged into minority’s baiting. English press apparently remained neutral and not much influenced by government policies.
In 1980 Indira Gandhi returned to the ‘Centre‘ but she herself could not do anything to purge the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting from RSS-linked people. In fact, in her last days she did not want to antagonise RSS directly and she had opened secret channels of dialogue with them. After that RSS kept on spreading its influence and grip on the media like an octopus. From here the RSS/BJP started extending their tentacles on industrial houses of the country. With the advent of the liberalisation of the economy came the emergence of big industrial houses in India who with their money-power were able to influence anybody from Minister to a press baron. Now the biggest ‘revenue’ comes to press from industrial houses in the form of full page advertisements. With time Indian Media became very powerful but with a jaundiced vision. One section of the media started playing in the hands of RSS and its allies. Another section of the media spoke for them who were able to bribe them. The last two terms of the Congress were headed by a gentleman Shri Manmohan Singh who did not know how to bridle the media barons with favours by granting their subsidiaries and favourites with licences and hugely profitable contracts. At the helm of affairs was another gentle lady Mrs Sonia Gandhi as the UPA boss. She was no match for these crooks. As a result, the press started wrecking their boat specially in their last term. Cases of unsubstantiated corruption were highlighted one after another. Mr Anna Hazare was brought forward by RSS people to wage a war against ‘corrupt regime’ of Mr Manmohan Singh. Mr Hazare was projected as second Gandhi by the media . And then started the media trials of important public figures of Congress charged of huge corruption. There rose a storm which washed away Congress not only in Centre but in many states one after another.
Actually Modi, remaining a very powerful chief minister of Gujrat and under the training of Chanakya of modern India, Mr Amit Shah, for a long time, has developed a powerful grip on the media and media persons. Today what Modi and Amit Shah speak have become a ‘sacred mantra’. No queries and no questions. Only a loyal publicity of their ‘great utterances’. Today, the situation has become so bleak that a vast section of the the Indian Press and some very powerful corporate houses together keep the election campaign for the BJP going on through out the year.
Yes, the picture and situation of press in India is very bleak not because it has become weak. No, on the contrary it has become very powerful to the extent that it can blackmail people of prestige and wealth. The case of Radiya Tape, in which Zee TV journalists are heard demanding one billion rupees bribe from the then congress MP and an industrialist, Mr Naveen Jindal of Jindal Steel for suppressing a story against him and his business, is a glaring example of to what extent it can fall. Truth is that journalism in India has lost its voice of coscience. It is a sold out journalism. They write what they are paid for or threatened for. There is an undeclared press censorship. Lately, many cases of forced resignation of senior journalists like editors and chief editors have come into light. They were guilty of giving space in their papers to articles and write ups exposing the misdeeds of Mr Modi and Mr Amit Shah. It is not that every body has succumbed either to some favour or fear. There are still people and media houses that are fighting tooth and nail for the independence of media, for the voice of conscience, for the freedom of expression, for truth and sanity, for creating fraternity and equality instead of fragmenting the society, as the BJP and the government want. They are not Dalit or Muslim baiters. They speak and promote a language of rationalism and mutual love and respect. NDTV, The wire, The Telegraph, The Hindu, The Indian Express, The Tribune, and few others are just examples who are consistently and persistently fighting for the freedom of press and survival of composite culture. But they are very few. India is on the threshold of fascism and dictatorship. Only a brave and unbiased press can save it. Let us come forward and join hands with those who are trying to save India.
Media outlets like Muslim Mirror, Two Circles , Justice News and National Dastak have emerged as successful alternate platforms and are consistently highlighting the issues of minorities, Dalits and other marginalized sections of the society with all earnestness and vigour. They are doing a great job — they have created a pace in the realm of media for the underprivileged minorities and Dalits with limited resources but not without impact on the mainstream media forcing them to take up the issues which otherwise are left unnoticed. But, they are working under great financial constraints, and struggling for their survival.If the affluents of the society do not come forward and help them out,I am afraid, they are at the brink of closure. We must make efforts to save them and back them up.
With them, we need many more independent and assertive media houses which can save the country. Let new media houses come up and take the command to save the boat from being drowned. Let some influential Muslims, Dalits and OBCs join hands together and establish a strong, independent, bold, unbiased and non-purchasable media centre aiming to create a big space in the English, Hindi, Urdu and all other Indian vernacular languages for a voice that is honest, fearless, patriotic but not ultra nationalistic. A voice that speaks for the sufferings of minorities Dalits,and all other poor and weaker sections of the society, but does not indulge in hate-mongering against anybody. There is no dearth of journalistic talents among Muslims, Dalits, and OBCs.What is needed is to cultivate and nurture them with a spirit of magnanimity.
The author is former president AMU Students Union.He can be contacted at Email:firstname.lastname@example.org