Since 2002, not a single reference to Gujarat has passed without association to The Riots. It’s turned into a conditioned reflex, just like we say earthquake when we hear of Latur, or many pairs of shoes and assorted pieces of jewellery all hidden away when Jayalalithaa is mentioned. And this bypasses even the earlier conditioned reflex – that of associating Gujarat with the Earthquake.
As if Godhra was the only place in India where riots took place…. there have been bloody riots all over India over the question of Religion, these are nothing new. State-sponsored, someone said? Hark back to 1984, New Delhi. I don’t think there was widespread demonization of Rajiv Gandhi, least of all by the mainstream media when he justified the riots spawned by his mother’s death with “When a great tree falls, the ground is bound to shake”, or some such similar line.
Which brings us to the much-maligned man of the moment. Mr. Modi. His is one name that brings up association with Hardline Hindutva (an oxymoron, but I don’t think most people care, or notice). That spells annihilation for the Minority (Er… what Minority? In India, we are all minorities). That brings up the nightmare of draconian laws like POTA being imposed.
That’s not surprising considering the conditioning process we’ve all undergone over the past five years – the mainstream media consider it to be their prerogative to keep it alive in public memory what happened in Gujarat in 2002 – Five years on, the old horse Gujarat continues to rake in the TRPs much, much more than the new-born brat that is Nandigram. Why, even RDB had a SanskritizedHindi-spouting evil politician who was easily distinguishable as a lookalike of the Merchant of Death. But I guess we can’t hold it against Rakeysh Mehra – he wasn’t making any statement; he was only putting together bits of Indian Pop-culture.
And that is not in the least surprising. Nehru, and before him, Macaulay coached us through a woefully inadequate instruction system to feel ashamed of our roots, our heathen polytheistic religion. Nehruvian and Gandhian secularism, which translates to its pseudo counterpart. So today it’s uncool to take pride in belonging to the Majority. Corollary, contrary to Minority-bashing being frowned on as politically incorrect, Majority-bashing is Cool, even a social necessity.
Naturally, when a news item came up, with live action, of the Majority inflicting blows on the Minority, just during the 24HourNewsChannel Explosion era, it was like manna for media moguls desperate for some news to telecast. It had all the necessary qualities for viewers to stay glued, that the Establishment was evil, that innocent lives were being lost, that there was widespread violence. For most of us, the gory images of Gujarat, splashed in newspapers and on TV screens were the first bits of live violence we’ve seen, and hence stay etched in memory.
And Modi, hitherto unknown, was cannoned to fame, as the architect behind it all. Within a few weeks, Gujarat, and its CM would too have faded into oblivion, just like the people of Nandigram. Except that it didn’t. Because the man stood his own. Refused to buckle under any pressure. Stood by what he did. Unapologetic. And ensured that his name and face turned bankable news items.
Since then he’s won his party two elections, both by large margins. Had Non-Resident Gujaratis swear by his commitment to Gujarat. Had someone no less than Ratan Tata saying “It is stupid if you’re not investing in Gujarat”.
So why is the Evil image still not washing off?
I mean, I know that’s a huge thing to forget, but hell, too much time has passed since then. And too much has happened. Especially with regard to Modi, and Gujarat. There has been more violence on the streets in Bangalore alone in the past year than in Gujarat in the past five years. And more terrorist activity, too.
So why is Modi still the Media’s favorite whipping boy?
Because shining light on his good points would be today’s equivalent of a Klansman dining with a Black. And that means hell for TRPs in the long run.
But the current stance of the mainstream media spells hell for India’s image abroad. And I don’t just mean Modi being denied a US visa.
The UPA government will not last forever. I guess Antonia Maino’s masterstroke of ruling the entire country by proxy, with marionettes in both the PM’s and President’s post has angered many citizens, and left most with no doubt of her Rasputin-like intentions. And the educated, who last time, didn’t turn up to vote, and hence lost the NDA an election will definitely vote in the next elections. Or people may vote for the BJP more out of lack of choice than anything else. Sometime soon, the BJP will be in power either at the Center or in some key states.
And such character assassination by the media doesn’t go well with foreign relations. People outside the country have their perception of India moulded mainly by what the Indian media says about it; case in question – Indian filmmaking is synonymous with Bollywood. So wouldn’t an outsider think twice before investing in a state, or worse, country, being ruled by what was (and possibly is) portrayed as a far-right minority-hating votebankPolitics-playing party? Or worse, if Modi did become PM, (which seems increasingly the possibility, considering his increasing stature as a development-oriented administrator, the CEO of Gujarat) wouldn’t other countries tread with care dealing with us? Or publicly denounce us?
The mainstream media, the one that shapes all our opinions, needs to do a volte-face on this now. There’s a lot more at stake than TRPs and political correctness.