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Dear Mr. Amitabh Bachchan and Mr.Aamir Khan

As an Indian, I feel absolutely elated that Indian Film superstars such as yourselves not only enjoy the adulation and demigod status with a humongous fan-following in our country but also across a country like China which seems so alien to our culture and ethos. But it just proves that talent can transcend all borders and language does not pose any kind of barrier.

It is but natural with your popularity growing exponentially across the globe; the large corporate and marketing gurus see great potential in investing in you as brand ambassadors, so that your charisma and popularity can rub off on their brands and boost the sales of their products.

I would like to bring to your attention certain facts behind Chinese products which celebrities endorse. A word of caution, you will find the facts revolting.

Did you know China’s economic power is the result of sending innocent people who have committed no crimes but do not follow the Party’s ideologies, to forced labour camps to serve as a large scale force of free slave labour? It is estimated that more than one crore people work in thousands of forced labour camps across China. This includes a big majority of 'political' prisoners.  China tops the world with more than 2,300 executions per year. Remember, every time you buy a product 'Made in China,' you are funding and empowering a brutal regime.

A lot of Chinese goods available in the Indian market are made by prisoners under appalling conditions in what the Chinese call ‘laogai’ or labour camps. They are deprived of sleep and have to slog away without food or breaks with their hands bleeding. The shocker is that they are killed on demand for their organs that are matched and sold to the highest bidder. It is a billion dollar industry supported by the state government. The victims are mostly Falun Dafa practitioners who practice an exercise and meditation practice that promotes good health with an emphasis on improving one’s moral character

Last year during Diwali there was a public service campaign calling for Boycotting Chinese goods. It is ironical that a popular Chinese mobile phone maker sold a record one million smart phones in India in 18 days during the Diwali festive season, despite calls for boycott of Chinese goods in the country.

We all know that in today’s world since a mobile phone is an extension of oneself, one is totally handicapped without a phone. But ignoring the sordid details of what goes on behind the making of the Made in China product would be as Gandhiji said   “An evil system never deserves such allegiance. Allegiance to it means partaking of the evil. A good person will resist an evil system with his or her soul.”

70 million people practicing Falun Dafa, a peaceful spiritual practice with exercise and meditation became the soft target and are being killed on demand to supply an ongoing illegal organ transplant industry. The Chinese government ex-chief Jiang Zemin not being able to come to terms with the popularity of Falun Dafa introduced by Master Li Hongzhi in 1992 with 70 million Chinese people practicing it banned it on 20 July 1999. Since then for 18 years Falun Dafa practitioners are systematically imprisoned, tortured and killed for their organs. Their bodies are often cremated so that there is no evidence left. (Read more at www.faluninfo.net)

Chinese doctors and hospital workers admitted in recorded phone calls from undercover investigators that they have live organs from healthy Falun Dafa practitioners in prisons, available for sale.

When all over the world, patients have to wait for years for organ transplants, in China you can get it in a week’s time. Hospital web sites in China till recently advertised short waiting times for organ transplants. Due to the increase of available organs for sale in China, many foreigners travel there for transplantation. 10,000 organs are transplanted in China every year, even though China has no effective national organ donation system.                                                                                                                     

I would  least like to put you in a dilemma where you can’t renege on your contracts which would cast a slur on your professionalism and integrity and neither can the Company summarily terminate the contract and suffer huge losses. What I think could be a benevolent solution is for you to make amends by making more people aware of these crimes against humanity. You can also at an opportune moment talk to the corporate decision makers or people who matter in the Chinese government to put an end to the persecution. Please do not misconstrue this as getting political. It is a moral issue- a human rights issue.

I respect your integrity and your exemplary sense of ethics, at the core of your being and it is demonstrated often when you have stood up for social causes and exposed many of society’s ills. A case in point is Aamir Khan’s ‘Satyamev Jayate’ TV serial.    

For your kind information Falun Dafa was introduced in India in the year 2000. It was officially registered in 2004 and since then the exercise and meditation practice has been introduced in schools and colleges across the length and breadth of India. Falun Dafa was well received by the Police academies in Delhi and Hyderabad. Falun Dafa adherents were invited by several large organizations to introduce it to their senior executives and interestingly Jail superintends too have requested to introduce the exercise and meditation practice to inmates.

It will be of special interest to you that in the Mumbai film industry there are many ‘behind the scene’ artistes such as hair stylists, make-up artists, Talent search agencies, photographers who have found strength in  Falun Dafa to overcome the stress of the glitz and glamour world.

Thank you for your patience and I look forward to some positive action from you.

Very truly yours

Suren Rao

President
Falun Dafa Association of India

surenrao9@unseen.is

5

Porn has come under extensive criticism from feminists as well. I find this scary. Accusations vary from porn resulting in rape to porn being born from an exploitation of women. I disagree with a lot of these accusations and agree with a few, but do not see blocking of porn as an answer. More importantly, I find it alarming that feminism can selectively abdicate interest in the agency of women.

Who decides whether and what porn should be banned?

A large part of the feminist view is that men deciding what harms women is a problem. A sizeable chunk of feminists also thinks porn should be banned because it harms women. Very few people actually ask porn watching women or performers. In my view, people who don't want to watch porn are not required to watch it, just like people not interested in cricket are not forced to follow scores on cricket websites. Thus, there is little question of porn being imposed on people and the primary stakeholders would be producers, performers and viewers - mostly not consulted in deliberations on bans. Other stakeholders could be law enforcement, social workers and doctors working with the industry and so on. Few, if any women enjoy porn that is violent, but there are women viewers as well as performers who like rough sex porn. Our efforts to figure out a way to reduce the harms of porn don't consult them. In my view not only is this authoritarian, bypassing stakeholders is unlikely to result in effective ways of dealing with the issue.

Can porn cause harm?

There is harm related to porn including addiction, unhealthy expectations about sex and violent or non-consensual sex. On the darker side is a sordid saga of drug abuse among porn performers, sexual abuse and allegedly, trafficking women to make porn, blackmail and more. Extreme and hardcore acts or object insertions can result in people injuring themselves. Those added to a rape can result in serious injury and worse. They can give men all sorts of misconceptions about what women like during sex. And this is "legal" porn (as in not depicting criminal acts) - not even necessarily violent porn. There is also little doubt that a lot of mainstream porn is too aggressive and disrespectful of women for women's tastes.

So are many Bollywood films. I'd argue songs like "Khambe jaisi khadi hain" starring the conscience of the nation, Aamir Khan, with "heroes" pursuing reluctant actresses, heartily idolized by cheering and jeering mob of sidekicks have inspired more non-consensual  sexual pursuit of women than porn films ever will. Catcalls and whistles from the balcony during rape/molestation/erotic scenes are embarrassing cinema traditions. When the heroine can slap the hero for harassing her, and discover at the end of the film that she was wrong for misjudging him. I would argue that public figures and people in positions of authority that excuse rape and hold victims responsible for "asking for it" do more harm than porn. Because these are cultural influences, rather than private activities.

What are the things already being done about "bad" porn?

Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection, Internet Watch Foundation and FBI track and seize servers that run child pornography. Google does not want revenge porn to appear in search results. There are other initiatives by ordinary netizens like Anonymous who are relentless in their efforts in their pursuit of child abusers and child porn. Efforts like feminist porn, Porna porn or sex-positive porn are growing rapidly as more and more people turn toward more "real" depictions of sex rather than aggressive porn that "gets off" on humiliating women. Bishakha Datta puts it well in her fine article on the porn ban, "If we applied the free speech argument to porn, we wouldn’t ban porn. We’d fight porn with more porn, make more porn for women." She is planning to create a porn-o-meter service to rate porn for being child, women and law friendly that depicts women enjoying and controlling the sexual action as well. Top rated videos of most popular sites are increasingly of the kind where women participate and enjoy the sex.

Above prejudices and ethics is hard business

A part of the problem is also the "quality", as a pragmatic porn performer who does not want to be named, told me. If a director fails to convey pleasure and emotional connect it can look alarmingly indifferent to a woman's pleasure. A woman's pleasure can be more subtle to portray and capture than a man's very visible orgasm. It is also no coincidence that most films with good production values and acting and direction also have sex that looks enjoyable for all participants.

While the audience was mostly men, this did not matter so much, but with the rise in viewership by women, this has started mattering. If women friendly porn has demand, it will be created. And it should be, because as Pu La Deshpande had said in his speech celebrating the 75th show of the outrageous Sangeet Vastraharan, "There is only one answer to inappropriate things and that is doing what is appropriate in an excellent manner."

Here is Erika Lust, who makes porn videos talking about the need for porn to change.

Porn is hardly a new concern. Other countries already have laws that the biggest sites have to comply with to remain accessible to viewers in order to profit. Any porn site with noticeable viewership already explicitly requires performers to be of adult age and to sign consent forms. They remove reported criminal porn - because they are here to do business from the desires of people, not protect criminals at the cost of their own business and reputation. The question of why aggression with woman turns men on - whether as a fantasy or in real life is a question beyond the scope of this piece.

Does porn symbolize crimes against women?

Meena Kandasamy, a feminist has published an article in which she argues against the porn ban, yet declares porn to be against women's rights (then why should it not be banned?)

I do think that the pornographic industry overwhelmingly represents NOT freedom but its opposite, the enslavement of women's bodies, the casualisation of paedophilia, the trivialisation of rape, the culture of trophy videos of rape, and all this, on top of being one of the most exploitative global sex industries that has trafficking, forced prostitution, abuse and near-slavery ingrained in it.

I invite anyone to check out the top porn sites to see if pedophilia or rape is present at all (whether casualized, trivialized or in another form) let alone "overwhelmingly represents". Women who participate willingly in BDSM cannot be considered to be "enslaved" beyond the sexual role play. I dare say that if the top visited sites don't carry it, most porn viewers never come across it. If you specifically search for child or rape porn, you will find it regardless of blocks, because if there is something you can find on the internet, you can find it around a block as well.

Conditions of porn performers

There are porn performers who reach the top of name and fame as performers and go on to produce their own content and there are those that do a brief stint and reach a dead end - like the bulk of acting and modeling work. There are plenty of "stars" speaking candidly about the profession, including their sex lives on and off screen when their partner is also a co-star; interacting with fans in an extremely candid manner, including doing Reddit IAmAs, where anyone can ask them anything and answering questions on Quora. There are candid Reddit IAmAs of partners of porn performers who speak of dedication to their work and career; the "work" of porn and sex being different things and even being committed to monogamy off screen.

Technology is killing mainstream porn but empowering the talent. It cuts out the middle man and let's almost anyone work from home. ~ Tory Lane

It is a career choice with its occupational hazards. Not all that different from a film star talking about how it isn't all about glamour but days of slogging doing retakes after retakes.

A construction worker abuses her body for far less money and comfort. Do we call for bans on construction work or coal mines because workers fall to their die, get health problems or abuse their body beyond endurance for a pittance? Is it not supremely ironic that feminists who would otherwise object to a woman being measured by her vagina end up condemning entire professions chosen by women because the part of the body overworked is the vagina? Is being a woman all about being a vagina then, that breaking your back ferrying gravel and cement is no reason for a ban but a far less brutal life as a sex performer is? Or is it that there is nothing to be outraged about a woman's sexuality unless she happens to earn from it?

This is not to say there is no ugly side. There are sex performers who get exploited, who face rude costars and suffer unpleasant sex from both the physical stress of postures for camera rather than comfort as well as brutal partners with usually larger than average penises. They speak of the abuse and humiliation of derogatory co-stars, being penetrated roughly, of drugs and exploiters. Why does the "victim" return to do another film? Performers make compromises they later regret because of the lure of money, like any of us. Women have had sex in ways that strips them of dignity for all kinds of reasons ranging from promotions to desperate attempts at preventing husbands from straying.

Defining the whole by a part

But more importantly, it is not so different from the million other people who "bitch" about their jobs, even as they continue to do them. Go to a corporate office, there will be bitter sense of victimization by colleagues and seniors considered to be manipulative, exploitative or otherwise unfair. Of bosses who will push employees beyond endurance to get the "work" done. Of work pressures that lead to suicides. Students commit suicide from exam pressures. Farmers commit suicide because they cannot afford to live. Bigggest common factor in cases of marital rape is marriage. Ban marriage? Every profession, occupation has a terrible side, but porn and prostitution appear to be two where a professional cannot talk about a bad day at work or problems they face without it becoming the "truth" of the industry.

What about the agency of women?

Whatever happened of the power of women to make choices including their own mistakes? If a woman chooses to wear skimpy clothes and walk on the streets of Delhi at midnight and gets raped, do we ask for roads to be closed to public after dark? If a porn performer faces abuse, why is it that instead of insisting that criminals be brought to book, we act like the ministers we condemn and condemn porn instead of the specific criminals? There is some preference within people to prevent porn, just like there is a preference to prevent women out on the streets among those who would deny them agency.

Concerns about Indian porn performers

That said, while I have no data, my perception is that the Indian porn performers do much worse than those in countries where it can be produced legally. I believe this is because performing contracts, mandatory health checks, legal status allow legal porn performers to build proper fan followings and improve  working conditions in ways that they find safe in ways Indian performers cannot. Indeed a lot of Indian porn I have seen appears to be little more than a shoot of a sexual encounter with a prostitute with little production values or direction beyond showing sex. If porn performing were legal in India, many prostitutes would be able to move out of prostitution and dictate who they would have sex with for an income and on what terms. They would be able to create and sell their own porn instead of being videotaped by profiteers who exploited them for their own profit. They would be able to choose producers who offered working conditions that did not exploit them.

What can the government do?

If we really want to do something about porn, in order to prevent exploitation of women, the need is not to ban it, but to legalize porn production so that working standards may be enforced, production companies can be formed and held accountable for the age and consent of performers in videos they produce and more. So that a porn performer may be able to file a case for rape just like any model can, if she gets forced to do things she has not agreed to do. I have often argued that instead of prudish bans on sex related activities like prostitution or porn, India needs to encourage a thriving sex industry that allows the government to crack down on exploitation and crime, because professionals will be interested in maintaining their licences to operate. Instead of fighting a token war against a tide of people interested in sex and profiteers thriving on exploiting women to provide it, the government can turn the bulk of consumers and providers on their side and really create conditions that deter crimes and exploitation.

[tweetthis]The only answer to inappropriate things is doing what is appropriate well. ~ PuLa[/tweetthis]

If porn is legal, it will become easier to monitor human trafficking, because the larger production houses that earn the most will have a vested interest in remaining legal and focusing on the money and they will have a way to be legal. Smaller operators in turn will not be able to earn enough from meager revenues from marginalized visibility to make the risks of crime worthwhile. It may not stop crimes altogether, but it will most definitely help to make them unnecessary as well as serve as strong deterrent for the vast majority.

One strength the government has, is the same one it exploits when it profits from FDI. The size of India's population is an asset when it comes to being a market. If the government can identify porn that encourages unhealthy attitudes about women and consent, it can pass a law requiring such content to carry disclaimers For example:

  • The following material is a fictional depiction of activities that are illegal in civilized countries - for enacted rape porn or "forced sex" etc
  • The actions depicted in this video can cause injury and are performed by practiced professionals. Don't try them at home - for extreme insertion porn.
  • The women in this video have consented to participate in a fictional depiction of dominance over women. Such actions without consent are illegal worldwide. - for rough sex, domination, BDSM, etc

Given the size of India's population, if sites that don't comply are blocked, it will result in a competition for the market share and allow the government to actively combat harmful messages potentially conveyed by porn.

The need is to not measure porn by the ethical standards of prudes with malice toward the industry, but by the standards of those engaging with it.

66

Dear Aamir Khan,

This is about a video of you on the subject of All India Bakchod's Knockout Roast. I agree with many views you expressed. I think it was juvenile, offensive, irresponsible. I agree that being profane for the sake of being profane is not funny. I agree that jokes about identity, color of skin or sexual orientation - particularly blunt, outright insults - are not funny. I saw the Roast. Some of it was funny, some in bad taste. It had multiple content warnings like you can't miss.

I appreciate that you stressed the extent of the right to object, in terms of expressing your dislike and requesting that the offensive speech be discontinued.

If you had kept it at that, I would not have a problem with your views. As someone speaking up for Free Speech for years now, I have a problem when you put the onus of not offending on the speaker with your talk of the creator having responsibility and oh so virtuous nonsense about "dil dukhana" and what not. You claim to be a responsible creator, yet I distinctly recollect speaking up to defend your film PK (which I haven't seen yet) from people who were outraged by whatever insult they perceived in it.

If the responsibility of not offending falls on the creator of the content, then perhaps you are not as ideal as you seemed to imply with the Delhi Belly example and perhaps should have added content warnings of another sort "Caution: Religion discussed here" etc and people objecting should have requested you with folded hands, etc. You know first hand what happens when angry people don't like content. Do you see the anger as your fault?

The opinions you expressed seemed to lack the gravity of understanding. The situation was beyond saying "please" FIRs were filed. There were threats, intimidation. The All India Bakchod videos are offline and they are busy issuing apologies left, right and center. At this point, when you speak of them being responsible for offending, it is the same as saying you are responsible for the vandalized theaters. How you think offense should be expressed is irrelevant when you speak after it has already been expressed. Who you blame can still be applicable and do much damage to free speech overall. "Even Aamir Khan said that you should not offend people".

It isn't the polite requests to desist that are the problem with Free Speech - the subject of the controversy and reason you were asked to comment at all. It is because lives and property are routinely harmed. Voices are silenced. The issue is way bigger than a juvenile video or what you or I think about it, when you expand your opinion into a blanket responsibility on the creator for "Who is responsible for hurt sentiments?"

Because, that question also answers who is responsible for Perumal Murugan being hounded or Shirin Dalvi having to go underground and her newspaper shut down or theaters showing PK being vandalized - with the WRONG ANSWER. People may not follow your guidelines on asking politely, but they will have no problem appropriating your words on the responsibility of those they want to silence to not anger them.

That is how FIRs get filed and threats made and you get invited to comment on a "wrong" done EVEN AFTER APOLOGIES AND THE VIDEO BEING PULLED DOWN. Way past the time for "Please, Sorry, Thank you". Your words end up endorsing intolerance by legitimizing people being offended and having the right to expect the creator to discontinue. You may accept that as your limit, but if others did, then Free Speech wouldn't be a rights issue, it would be a talk show where everyone shares opinions and goes home happy.

When a large voice like yours tells people that people speaking must be careful, and people who get offended can ask them to stop, a thousand voices like mine get raw throats trying to talk sanity on the issue and explain why it is not okay to shut people up just because you don't like what they say. "but even Aamir Khan agrees..." The louder the voice, the more power to heal or damage it has. I request you to be careful with where you lay blame.

Out of stray curiosity and as a side note, I want to ask you if you asked Karan and Arjun to not propagate the videos of the event further - like showing clips to people, like you saw, or putting on youtube - since that is the method you are recommending and you also say that you thought the show was offensive. If you did it, and they listened, perhaps this whole situation wouldn't have happened?

A blogger who cares for the Freedom of Expression.

Vidyut

1

My husband thinks that I am defaming him, and wants the other side known. Fair enough. I have typed this out as dictated by him (translated from Marathi).

  1. I don't want to say anything. I don't want to say anything from inside the home in public. I can speak with my close friends, but it is wrong to bring it up on social networks. Whether the problem is mine or yours.
  2. Bringing it up in front of the world means you are only going to say your side, and the world will only sympathize with you. It happens like that only, whether you intend it or not. If I do it tomorrow, I will do that only. That is human tendency. How many of them personally know you? But they will vote for you. "How much tormenting is happening, poor girl". The nature of person at such a stage is 100% like that. The grass is greener on the other side, only I am in a bad condition.
  3. I watch Satyamev Jayate with interest. I saw the episode on Domestic Violence. I have the same views as Aamir Khan, and I am personally angry that this is happening in my home.
  4. My story is a rare case. I am a victim of domestic violence by my wife. I cannot prove this, and I am in this sorrow, so I am bearing this silently.
  5. My innocence has been misused from day 1 of the marriage. From the start, some things were clear that they would not be allowed in my home. Before the wedding, and after, there have been many parties in my home, but when only my parents are not there. And the home was clear of all evidences before they came. This doesn't happen now. And I have stopped doing it too after all these years.
  6. I told my wife that if she wants to smoke, and she is quitting soon, then she can smoke in the home, but she continues till today.
  7. It is not my nature to talk about these things in front of the village. What will these people do? Will they patch up? My wife don't want to patch up.

I asked him if he wants to comment specifically on me talking about his alcoholism, since that is the most of what I talked about. He doesn't want to talk about it in front of the world like the rest of the issues from inside the home.

Anyone who wants to comment on this can speak with him on 9869433342, as he is not internet savvy and will not be able to monitor or reply to comments to this post.

Note: These views are not mine. These are a result of my husband feeling that the internet is being used to create an opinion against him, and he wants the other side of what I speak on domestic violence or alcoholism known. He sees himself as someone who has been wronged by me. I see this as any other reply to my posts, and am publishing it.

3

Aamir Khan's very excellent foray into television activism has stunned viewers and brought many facts to undeniable light. As I observed the reactions in social media, a few questions come to my awareness.

What motivates cynics?

It is a fairly known factor that any kind of an activist ends up with a struggle to retain legitimacy. Online activism has led to us being called arm chair activists. Anna Hazare's andolan got called "deluded masses", most kinds of activism faces skepticism that it can actually result in any change at all. Today, Aamir Khan's show reached massive audiences countrywide, ended with a call for very specific action that will result in convictions of doctors for sex selective abortions - something that hasn't happened so far - and could set a new precedent propelling the fight against female foeticide into more actively enforced circumstances.

That someone the significance of one of the leading superstars of the country is asking for something so specific and clearly needed makes it highly likely to work out, if only to save face, and the only logical conclusion of the court cases has to result in punishment. One would think this is a fairly important step right here. Yet, we find people focusing on defaming him or devaluing his efforts or otherwise undermining the impact.

This brings up the question of why this is so. What is it that makes a significant section of vocal influencers undermine efforts for social change? The actors may change, but resistance remains constant. Some said it was a case of sour grapes with media professionals jealous of the impact. Possibly. Others thought that people have a vested interest in human rights being violated to feel powerful. Maybe.

I don't know what the reason is, but the fact remains that some of the other lack of perfection seems to bother significantly vocal members of our country enough to discredit calls for change. The perceived lack changes, the people change, but undermining efforts to create change is a constant.

Must activism be free?

There were a lot of reactions to the effect that the show being a for profit effort was fake. This is a view that has come up often, where "connections" or financing  is seen as a lack of authenticity. My view has always been that the utility and investment of effort/resources in an action determines its authenticity. At the same time, I have heard disparaging comments by people as diverse as the Prime Minister of the country to random Tweeps where intent is attributed to the activist rather than valuing the issues raised. Notable examples are the "foreign hand" in the Kudankulam activists, or a comment on this blog, where the work of Sainath was discredited because his grandfather was a President and he got cash awards.

Does it really matter if someone earns from working on social concerns? Does it not make sense that such work earn for the activist so that it is sustainable? But whether it is so or not, what is the explanation of the requirement of "free" with social work? Is your country not worth someone working for its well being to be compensated financially?

Also, the lines are rather blurred. We have college degrees in social work no one expects to be free. We have social workers and NGO employees with salaries from their organizations. We have never expected that the people working on the vaccination programme not be paid, nor do we expect that news channels that disseminate information on social conditions be free - both as in advertising free as well as no channel fees. On the other hand, any individual making extraordinary effort must do it for free. Worse, if someone gets money for what they do, then it is a fair "proof" of their evil intent - this is even standard operating procedure with the government to derail dissent. What is the logic?

And the Aamir Khan situation is even more bizarre, because here you have a proper commercial show on a commercial channel backed by corporate sponsors, anchored by a celebrity. What part of this says that it was either cheap enough to produce to expect it to be made for free? Worse, just because a commercial venture is vital to the country, we expect not just that it be available to us for free, but that no one should pay its creators? In other words, make useless commercial content and earn, but do not make anything useful to the country if you want to earn? What crapshoot logic is this?

Strangely, no one expects the galaxy of crime shows, talk shows and what nots to be free. Why? Are they irrelevant to National Interest? The big difference between Satyamev Jayate and the other shows comes down to their content. The other shows are reporting/discussion, while SJ leverages the space into activism and actual calls for action. So it must fit the starving, khadi clad stereotype? How does such thinking help our country at all?

Or is it more unconscious resistance trying to delegitimize fights for rights on one hand, while ensuring that they always lack resources for survival on the other?'

Will this seed a trend?

The refreshing realism of Satyamev Jayate, its subject matter and its relevance to the masses - so far including the very poor - is new for television advertizing in content, intent and nature and size of target audience. Would the success of this result in more programmes catering to national interest? Are we in fact witnessing the emergence of a more mature phase in television programming? One show does not a trend make, it is true, but recently, Jay Hind also got a late night slot on Colors. So obviously there is some awareness on some level that the audience is ready for or media is ready to risk rocking a few boats.

The high voltage JanLokpal Andolan resulted in massive coverage, talk shows, and such content, further pushed by worldwide news of protests - be it the Arab Spring or Occupy Wall Street. Needless to say, money was made from activism related content, though news. Is this an experiment toward more activist programmes with deliberately created content as opposed to coverage?

The distinction I am making with existing programming is the presence of a high profile superstar, and the subject being an issue rather than incidents, with multi-faceted content around that issue that ranges from data to interviews to calls for action in National Interest. Existing shows stick to reportage.

Corporate sponsored activism

Less noticed by people is the fact that this show also signifies a milestone in human rights activism - corporate sponsorship. It may be argued that the sponsorship was for a guaranteed to sell programme by a superstar, with guaranteed massive viewership. And that may indeed be the truth. But the fact remains that the content of the programme was what it was.

I find this something to keep an eye on, considering that there are significant areas of human rights violations where corporations are guilty. Will such activism be effective on those fronts? Possibly through sponsorships of unrelated corporations? Or will it drown out those issues and end up creating a smokescreen of impunity for corporations, by questioning of corporates going missing from consciousness even as voices for human rights in general rise? For example, Coca Cola - the company Aamir Khan endorses is accused of spoiling water resources for the poor citizens near its plants. How does this impact the ability of such a show to take on the burning cause of the water crisis?

Time will tell, but I see this as a fragile balance that will inevitably come up on the front of human rights.

Why do we only question the "innocent" side?

An important perspective would have been that of a doctor caught in a sting who still continues to offer services, or family members who want a boy at all costs. We never explore that. Be it rapists who don't get questioned, school teachers who abuse students not getting questioned, murderers, corrupt policemen, parents of juvenile rapists or criminals... whoever. Why is it that our reporting, finding out, talk shows, everything always focus on questioning the victim, but raising no questions from those who commit crimes or promote or condone them?

 

There are some other questions, but they are too vague in my mind. This post will be updated.