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During my time away, a story that fascinated me — in a train-wreck kind of way, and as a cautionary tale of the danger of the media disseminating half-baked news — relates to the murder of one Paresh Mesta. The India Today channel and its consulting editor Shiv Aroor played a lead role in propagating the story; social media backlash then prompted Aroor to write an extended defense of his actions. Here it is, and it is worth reading in full as an exemplar of everything that is wrong with the media in general, and TV news in particular.

The first four paras are an extended ‘woe is me’ pity-party aiming to paint himself as the victim, and an attempt to stake out the high moral ground. Skip lightly over those, and consider the real story, which begins with paragraph five and the tweet that started it all:

This, says Aroor, was deemed a “story” worth following up because it was tweeted by an elected representative. And so, he says, the IT reporter in the area filed a follow up “quoting sources”. Here is the report he cites; read it carefullyand see if you can find a single source being quoted. Also note, vide this report, how quickly a Union minister latched on to the incident and gave it a political coloration.

But most importantly, note this: In the follow-up report that Aroor presents as exhibit A in defense of his brand of journalism, the reporter has not spoken to anyone from police/law enforcement to find out what actually did happen. What follows is a startling abdication of every single journalistic norm (Emphasis mine):

Deciding that this would be our top story at 5pm, we invited both the police and BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje to join us on our show. Given logistical constraints on the ground, the option was provided to pre-record with both or either. While Shobha Karandlaje took our questions, the police did not join us on the show.

A tweet promoting the show carried the gruesome allegations of the BJP MP and sources on the ground – a tweet that I personally composed. Unlike my earlier tweet, this one didn’t carry quotes indicating that it was an allegation.

Starting at the top: On what basis did Aroor decide this was the lead story? At this point, 24 hours after the body was discovered, all he had was the intemperate allegation of a politician with a long history of fomenting communal trouble. Note that as soon as the body was discovered, Karandlaje began to talk of ‘jihadi forces’ and of the ‘targeted killing of Hindu activists’. Note also that even as she was busy using the killing of a young boy to further her party’s political ends, she latched onto another incident to light further fires:

In actual fact, however, the girl in question was attempting to escape the attentions of a stalker, Ganesh Eashwar Naik.

This, then, is the person on whose unsupported word Aroor based an editorial decision on. Note, further, that his focus is on “getting police on the show” — not first checking with the police to find out what the story really is. And he compounds his criminal error when he, in his own words, “personally composed” a tweet carrying the allegations — without quotes, or other indications to suggest they were merely allegations. In other words Aroor, who starts off with a verbose defense of his journalistic integrity, took an allegation and converted it into a personal attestation.

Much is then made of how Aroor in a subsequent broadcast asked Karandlaje if she had any specific proof to back up her allegations. Which begs the question: Isn’t that what you ask first, before you decide if the allegation deserves air time? Giving a fact-free allegation considerable air time, giving it your imprimatur by airing it as fact sans the telltale quote marks, and then asking if there is any proof is so far removed from basic journalism that it constitutes a sackable offense were it a tyro; when the “consulting editor” of a major channel does this, it is way beyond the pale. And then there is this:

Later that evening, the police, which had sparked its own controversy by declaring that the death was a “samanya saavu”, released a Q&A report with a forensics doctor, a document that appeared to fully contradict the BJP’s explosive charges. I happened to be among the first to tweet this out:

Wait, what?! How did the police “spark its own controversy”? The meaning of the police statement is clear — or would be, if you weren’t determined to see it through a predetermined lens: the police is saying, merely, that this is not a communal incident. Apparently Aroor believes he fully fulfilled his responsibility as a senior journalist by suggesting — some 48 hours after he decided to run a full fledged story based on an unconscionable tweet — that the BJP should now explain the basis of its charges:

And then, this:

The following day, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah tweeted that the death of Paresh Mesta was “unfortunate” – a curious choice of word. Just as the BJP was certain this was a gruesome murder, was he certain this wasn’t murder at all? Could a murder ever be “unfortunate”? Was he simply alleging that this wasn’t murder, but a natural death, much like the Karnataka Police had done the previous day?

Seriously, is this guy compos mentis? “Could a murder ever be “unfortunate”?”, he asks. Sorry, but what the actual fuck does that even mean? And then he goes on to parse the CM’s statement, and in the process put words in the mouth of the police — note that the police did not say it was a natural death; that is not what “saamanya saavu” meant.

And then there is this (emphasis mine):

The following morning, putting the spotlight on the political war that had broken out, we planned a morning face-offbetween the ruling Congress and the opposition BJP on the issue. While the BJP joined us, the Congress apparently declined, forcing us to plan a face-off between the BJP and a member of the CPI (considering the allegations were of a political killing). Here’s that full broadcast:

“…forcing us to plan a face-off…”?!!!! Really? By then, four days had passed; communal tensions had been created by an unsubstantiated allegation — and Aroor admits that the allegations are unsubstantiated — and yet this consulting editor is still riding the fake news for all it is worth. His focus is on the next sensational talk fest, the next “show”, the next spin.

Related reading: The Rise of the Pseudo-Event

Remember what he says at the outset?:

I’ve been branded a communal hatemonger, a rabble-rouser and a plainly bad journalist who deliberately picked up the Paresh Mesta story with the specific intention of, among other things, “scoring TRPs”, “fanning communal tensions before the Karnataka elections”, “currying favour with the BJP”. Calls have gone out from several quarters for my sacking, arrest or both. I stand accused by some of these sites of peddling fake news.

Net net, by his own admitted actions, Aroor has amplified an unsubstantiated allegation, which gave it oxygen, which led to communal tension; his journalistic choices have been irresponsible throughout. As for the allegation that this “story” has to do with the Karnataka elections, consider what is happening on the ground:

#1. Karandlaje in short order propagated a fake story of jihadi rape. #2. Even two weeks after the original incident, Union Minister Anant Kumar Hegde was openly threatening violence in the state. Read that again, slowly: A Union Minister, sworn to uphold the rule of law, threatening violence and bloodshed. #3. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh continues to beat the drum of “justice” at a rally in Karnataka. Again — this is the central minister for Home — the man in charge of law and order in the country. #4. Tensions flare in Belagavi and every time some semblance of peace is restored, there is a fresh outbreak.

Do you need to be told that the next major state election is in Karnataka? Here, a clip from a story cited earlier (Again, emphasis mine):

Even after the state government handed over the investigation into Mesta’s death to the Central Bureau of Investigation on December 13, the BJP refuses to scale down its protests. For the coming week, it has announced a “jail bharo andolan”, calling upon people across Karnataka to court arrest to protest the Congress government’s policy of favouring Muslims. Chief minister Siddaramaiah has accused BJP of using Mesta’s death to create trouble for political gains.

The communal tensions come at a time when political parties are preparing the ground for Karnataka assembly elections to be held in the first half of 2018. In 2012, BJP had won in just one of the six constituencies in Uttara Kannada district and one of the eight constituencies in neighbouring Dakshina Kannada district. The 14 seats in coastal Karnataka will prove crucial in deciding the winner of next year’s election.

Connect the dots: Karnataka is Congress-ruled. Elections are due. The BJP, consistent with its win-at-all-costs methodology, has in rapid succession used two fake stories to stoke communal tension, and already begun to propagate its time-tested “favoring Muslims” allegation — the party’s go-to trope in every single election, in every single state. And all this is happening in the one region where the BJP is most anxious to gain a foothold.

Here is the part that should scare you: The dates for the Karnataka elections have not even been announced yet. And already, a former state-level minister, and two Union ministers, have done their damndest to light fires. Who knows what else is in store as the campaign actually gets under way?

All of which is why the “journalism” of the likes of Aroor — thoughtless, if I am being charitable; unprincipled, if I am being honest — is so dangerous; it is the oxygen that feeds the flames of bigotry, of hatred.

Elsewhere:

#1. BJP MP Kirron Kher joins the long line of politicians using fake photos to stoke faux patriotism

#2. A “fringe” outfit (I’ll have more to say on these fringes in a later post) in Karnataka is outraged that Sunny Leone, gasp!, is scheduled to perform at a New Year’s event in Bangalore. What will she wear?! Will she wear anything at all?!! Shock, horror!! And so the police — whose duty is to maintain law and order, not cater to every damn bunch of lunatics threatening the peace, decides to cancel the event. That is who we are today — a nation captive to every ragtag outfit that can say it with stones.

#3. Proving yet again that politics is the last refuge of the certifiably insane, a BJP MLA says that Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma chosing to get married in Italy is an unpatriotic act. The bit that should worry you?: “The crowd that had gathered there was seen applauding as the MLA was speaking.”

#4. The Hindu Jagran Manch — yet another of our ‘fringe’ groups, of which more here — threatened violence if Christian-run schools in Uttar Pradesh celebrated Christmas. Which is par for the course with the HJM. What should make you sit up and take notice is this: A Union minister saying, in support of the HJM threat, that schools are not religious places and people should celebrate only in their homes.

#5. A CAG report, which names Ramdev’s Patanjali in a list of polluters, provides a grim view of the Clean Ganga project.

Now, as per the CAG report, the river in the Prime Minister’s constituency of Varanasi happens to be along one of the most polluted stretches. In six cities of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal oxygen levels in the water have plummetted from the level it were in 2012-2013. Total coliform bacteria levels in all cities of UP, WB and Bihar was very high. The water quality in these cities was not even fit for bathing.

#6. In Rajasthan, a man kills a Muslim, videotapes the incident, and uses the videotape to raise money for an anti-Muslim campaign. Over 700 people from across the country deposit over three lakh in his account. A Hindu group supporting the killer clashes with police and raises a saffron flag over the area courthouse premises. And it turns out that the wrong man was killed.

Unpack this slowly:

During grilling, Shambhul told police that labourer Mohammed Afrazul, a resident of West Bengal’s Malda, was not his target.

He wanted to kill one Ajju Sheikh because he was in contact with a girl whom Shambhu regarded as his sister. But we suspect Shambhu had an affair with her,” said Rajendra Singh Rao, police circle officer of Rajsamand.

This hero on whose behalf people are raising funds and attacking cops brutally killed a man while meaning to kill another man he believed had eyes on ac”sister” he was having an affair with. Now what? Can the 700 idiots who “contributed to the cause” ask for their money back?

Tailpiece: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to TimesNow which, these days, is on a batshit hashtag trip, is engaged in Mission Sab Ka Saath. Per which Modi, on December 19, met fisherfolk in Kerala who were affected by Cyclone Ockhi and told them this:

“This is not the time for a lecture and I assure you that we will do everything to help you and that’s why I myself have comeWe are all with you and will do everything. With Christmas round the corner, we wish all the missing return back,” he said in his brief remarks on the occasion.

But even that is nothing compared to what he said next:

“The cyclone hit Lakshadweep, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and many of the fishermen are yet to return. We have taken quick action by first sending Defence Minister (Nirmala Sitharaman). The whole country is with you in your grief,” he said to claps from the grief-stricken families.

“…claps from the grief-stricken families”? Where is that facepalm emoji when I need one?

The cyclone hit the Kerala coast on November 30.

Originally published by Prem Panicker here.

On the 1st of September 2017, farmers of the Akhil Bharatiya Kisab Sabha called for an indefinite mahapadav or gherao of the various District Collectorates in Rajasthan. Like the farmer protests in Maharashtra, these too were sustained bouts of anger over neglect by the government. The farmers had very basic demands related to the very survival of agriculture itself. Proper implementation of the Swaminathan Commission recommendations,the greater allocation for MGNREGA, higher wages and more days of work, social security, MSP was another key area, removal of the absurd law on restrictions on cattle trade sinking the prices of cattle and protection for cattle traders, pensions of Rs.5000 for farmers and agricultural labourers over the age of 60. Here are their demands:

Demands of the Kisan Sabha in the Sikar agitation
Demands of the Kisan Sabha in the Sikar agitation

It is shameful that as farmer desperation and suicides increase and even suicides rise among the children of farmers, the government and their elite rent-a-pens remain indifferent and even dismissive to the plight of farmers. However the citizens of Rajasthan are not. The demands of the farmers found wide resonance among various groups of people who supported the protests in solidarity. Hundreds of members of the Kiln labour Union drove to Krishi Mandi, Sikar on red tractors in solidarity with the mahapadav. National leader of Jan Kranti Manch, Pooja Chhabra also reached the Mandi to convey solidarity. Veer Teja Sena of Sikar has pledged to support the struggle at every step. The Bakra Mandi Vyaparis have shown their support to the movement along with a contribution Rs. 11,000. Shaheed Bhagat Singh Law College, Sikar, bestowed Rs. 10,000 to the mahapadav. Sangliya Dhuni, a ‘saint’who claims to be a farmer at heart, gave monetary support and 2 quintals of wheat.

Dilip Mishra of the Auto Rickshaw Union expressed the willingness of auto drivers to go on strike in solidarity if called upon, as did milk suppliers. Milk Transportation Union of the state contributed Rs. 21,000; while the Amul Corporation Union gave Rs. 11,000 to the agitation. The Bus City Union took out a huge rally in support of the mahapadav. Dancing with the DJ, going through the city, the rally was welcomed by the citizens with flowers. The MR union put up a free medical camp to oversee the health of farmers in the rally and the ambulance union took out a rally in support of the mahapadav. [Source: Newsclick]

Protests raged for days with blockades at 300 points, as the government did what governments do. The internet was blocked in Rajasthan to prevent news from getting too much attention. However, this did nothing to dampen the flood of people out on the streets for their very sustainability. Protests continued to grow as the farmers declared the government of Rajasthan dead and carried out a mock funeral.

Finally, and unsurprisingly, like the protests in Maharashtra, the government was forced to bow to their demands. Amra Ram, Kisan Sabha leader and ex-MLA from CPI(M) speaks here about their victory.

And their press release thanking everyone for support in their victory.

AIKS Congratulates Rajasthan Kisans for Historic Victory!

Celebrating victory in Sikar agitation
Celebrating victory in Sikar agitation

The peasantry in Rajasthan under the Kisan Sabha banner have won a significant victory after their resolute struggle lasting 13 days. Since 1st September, 2017 lakhs gheraoed the different District Headquarters on the call of Rajasthan Kisan Sabha for a Mahapadav. For 3 days there was also Rasta Roko across the State bringing about 20 Districts to a standstill. Only ambulances and essential services functioned. The peasant movement received unprecedented support from all sections of the society making it a truly people's movement. The insensitive BJP Government led by Vasundhara Raje Scindia was forced to bow down and accept many of the demands of the peasantry after 13 days of struggle and talks with the Kisan Sabha leadership. The talks went on in 4 phases from 1:00 PM on 12th September and ended on 14th September at 1:00 AM.

Celebrations as Rajasthan government is forced to accept farmer demands in Sikar agitation
Celebrations as Rajasthan government is forced to accept farmer demands in Sikar agitation

The BJP Government was forced to agree to loan waiver of up to RS.50,000/- which is expected to benefit 8 lakh farmers, assurance that State government will write to the Centre seeking implementation of Swaminathan Commission Recommendations on MSP in a time-bound manner by working out modalities, purchase of groundnut, green gram (moong) and urad at MSP at all District Headquarters within 7 days, withdraw hike in electricity rates for drip irrigation, payment of SC/ST/OBC fellowship with arrears immediately, relaxation in restrictions in sale of cattle, protection of crops from stray cattle and wild animals, increase of pension to Rs. 2000/month agreed in principle, insurance claim for failure of canal irrigation and stopping harassment of traders and farmers by the police. After agreement on these issues and on a mechanism to implement decisions AIKS President Com.Amra Ram announced withdrawal of the Mahapadav and reopening of roads that were closed for the last 3 days. Kisans across the State celebrated the victory with slogans, songs and dances.

AIKS thanks all who stood in solidarity with the movement. This inspiring victory shall inspire similar struggles across the country.

Message from Com. Drm. Ashok Dhawale, Vice President AIKS

Heartiest congratulations to all leaders and activists of the Rajasthan Kisan Sabha and to the fighting peasantry of Rajasthan for their massive 13-day struggle and the impressive victory that they won in prolonged talks with the state government.

राजस्थान किसान सभा के सभी जुझारू साथियों को महाराष्ट्र किसान सभा के सभी साथियों की ओर से लाल सलाम.

- Com. Drm Ashok Dhawale
Vice-President AIKS

Special mention must be made of the excellent coverage of the protests by NewsClick. Where most media carried token coverage at best, they have photos, videos and interviews from the ground as the protests progressed.

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I am often challenged about my political views, because I am "anti-BJP". So naturally, BJP trolls imagine that I am a Congressi, or Commie or Aaptard depending on what day of the week it is, I suppose. I don't support any political party. I don't have a preference for any political ideology. I don't have any preference for economic policy - as long as it is fair and does not disadvantage citizens by class. I see India as a shared space for all citizens, but I don't insist that you must obey me. I support and oppose all political parties depending on what they are up to - with one seeming exception - the BJP. This is because I don't see BJP as a political party at all. I see it as a cartel of opportunists at best and criminals at worst depending on what is going on. In my view, they have amassed power by hook or crook, telling blatant lies and faking their way to the top and have no regard for the well being of the country whatsoever. Here are further observations toward this.

Incompetence being a virtue with Modi sarkar

Ever since the election win to now, all the appointments by Modi sarkar have had one overwhelming common factor - the people appointed are spectacularly bad for the roles they are appointed. And this is not because of a lack of good people, but because to be appointed, an important requirement is that the people do not have any particular ambition for excellence that could get in the way of compromises that would be made for profit. Even a right wing Modi supporting professional would find it necessary to object if blatant wrongs were done - it is easier for the profiteers to have incompetent people there.

The list is endless and mentioned well here, but for a quick gist - the RBI governor who would face NPAs as among his hardest challenges is Urjit Patel, who has more experience governing the GSPC defaulting on loans than paying them. With a galaxy of outstanding actors kowtowing before the government in public and even making the sort of bigotted statements that appeal to the BJP crowd, the choice for FTII was Gajendra Chauhan. Gajendra who? Exactly. Ankit Fadia, absolutely sneered at among serious hacking/coding circles for being a "script kiddie" at best - was appointed as Digital India's brand ambassador - BJP with its legions of trolls and endless website launches hardly lacked good coders. Smriti Irani who could have served the FTII better than Gajendra Chauhan at least, was chosen to be the Minister of HRD - the biggest wrongdoing by her that was attracting attention was her faking educational qualifications. As HRD Minister, she would also be overseeing education. Including that of those far more educated than her.

The list goes on and on and on, but the basic point is this, deliberately putting incompetent people in key positions is an act that harms India and it is consistently done by the BJP government to the point that there is no doubt that it is deliberate. It is an intentional undermining of India. And there is a reason. A professional who takes pride in his work is likely to take pride in governing to high standards. Also a person who is authoritative about their subject is unlikely to have the kind of blackmail triggers that BJP likely uses to create puppets for its corrupt purposes - more on that later. That makes the blatant perversion of quality in the country going on harder. For example, would an excellent professional simply nod and agree if cronies were allowed to profit from every sector they could? Would a professional agree to favor incompetent and unlicenced cronies on critical things that could result in dead people? This, I see as a direct attack on India. BJP is an absolute enemy of India in my eyes. It is not a political party merely ideologically differing with others on how India should be governed, it is an entity that has absolutely no priority of excellence for the country or even preservation.

Denial of the achievements of India

In their process of ideologically wiping out their much hated Congress, the BJP consistently defames the country. Over and over. Relentlessly. There isn't much to say here, because it is an outright falsehood, so I simply quote a disgruntled Congress supporter "If the Congress hadn't brought India from a struggling colony to the tech age, this blight (Modi-BJP) would not be inflicted on the country with their false propaganda."

Inhumanity

BJP operates through a process of dehumanization. Dehumanization is necessary in order to make people hate. No one likes to think of themselves as malicious to another human being. When they are reduced to hollow symbols of evil and stripped of all identity beyond that, it becomes possible to absolutely want the extinction of a "concept" you have been taught as harmful. The crazy buggers spewing hate on a daily basis can do that, because they have been conditioned to see anyone not BJP through various lenses that they have been taught. No one independently comes up with identical labels for any entity, because independent minds operate in diverse ways. Even all critics of BJP and Modi will have their own reasons and methods and they may even vary from subject to subject, mood or time. In contrast, those spewing hate will have very specific reasons for very specific categories of people - this is because the information provided to convince them what "reality" is, is the same.

Those who see Muslims hunting Hindu girls when a government action fails massively don't realize that they are being used to leverage nuisance value and misdirect attention from issues important to the well being of the country. It is not possible that thousands of supporters of one party alone actually have seen Muslims target women and others haven't. But they have been told so many times and in such convincing ways, that the stories they are told become real to them. Then all it takes is for whoever is controlling the propaganda to trigger the outrage when needed. Earlier it used to be subtle. Private groups and whatsapp and such. Now it is in the open, with most news channels discussing the demonetisation and other news of importance to the country, the Republic was busy broadcasting a victimhood narrative. Hindu khatare mein hai! The programmed trigger for bhakts to start attacking people who are not BJP for whatever latest threat has been announced.

With BJP getting less than a third of the votes, this basically targets the vast majority of the country for bullying with various labels and insults. This is basically creating a culture of cruelty and the only people benefitting are the leaders and cronies of BJP - even the supporters will actually lead less satisfying relationships because their minds are constantly bombarded with behavioral triggers to be intolerant. Such a mind finds the world divided into two types of people - those in agreement and those not. And it does not stop with the online world of politics. Once conditioned to be inhuman to those who disagree, the mind will tend to react in such a manner to all disagreement. Quality of life and relationships will be considerably undermined, unless they manage to live among people who always agree with them.

The profiteering cartel that is BJP

It is hard to find a single large group of people - particularly people with criminal leaders or members that is not affiliated with the BJP. This is not an accident. BJP has gone around collecting people - regardless of political ideology - to support them electorally. It appears that being a criminal is actually preferred - possibly so BJP has CBI investigation blackmail leash. There are businesses exploiting the resources of the country with no checks and balances in sight. Various godmen are undercutting established manufacturers on prices and cornering markets - not because their quality is better, but because their business being religion, is tax free - even inferior quality FMCG products. Entire monopolies are being created. Crazy godmen are sheltered from law in return for votes from their massive followings. Even a "corrupt Congressi" like Nilekani has been able to impose his globalist scam of Aadhaar with far more impunity with this cartel than he ever could with the Congress in rule and acting on public demands for committees and such (even though the Congress is no innocent). Politicians accused of crimes and corruption by BJP have switched parties to join the BJP and in many instances contest on seats and win. It is a cartel of criminals and profiteers becoming a monolith and giving each other impunity. And this too has been dishonest. Economically disadvantaged groups were exploited for electoral profit and discarded after winning. Bharatiya Majdoor Sangh - the labour wing of the RSS has suffered like all other labourers in the country and protested and objected and complained with no interest from the government whatsoever in improving the conditions of workers.

The Swabhimani Shetkari Sangh representing farmers in Maharashtra has withdrawn support for the BJP after three years of farmers being betrayed by them after being elected. They had vigorously protested the cattle slaughter ban as well. To no avail. The rapist godman Ram Rahim who was affiliated with the BJP, whose supporters were allowed to amass and intimidate the High Court prior to his verdict were dumped once he was convicted and became a political liability. Other rapists are still enjoying protection as long as they hand the votes over to BJP. Today after fifty kinds of "reasons for demonetisation" dodges, Arun Jaitley admitted, as this blog had immediately pointed out among many others, that the demonetisation was done to encourage the country to move to digital payments. Yes, you hear that right. The finance minister of the country had absolutely no problem with an economic assault on the country that devastated lives and livelihoods - to promote payment products.

There is no resemblance to a political party. There is no attempt whatsoever to represent the interests of the people. This is why I say I am politically completely neutral. I am anti-BJP because I am anti-criminal cartels. I don't see them as a party. It doesn't walk, talk or act like a party, therefore to me it isn't one.

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Big moral question these days, this business of who a legitimate citizen of India is. As fate would have it, as the super-Hindu government fucks up over and over, Muslims are among those who shine. Given the kind of publicity they get, one would imagine that Muslims are the sole saviors of India - almost as a corollary to the Hindutva government in the state being its current biggest clusterfuck. Of course, it isn't true. How a person responds when they see another in a moment of need is more about them as people than their religion. Of course, when callous disregard for human life is the norm, it seems like a dramatic flourish to show the actions of the biggest targets as worthier than those targeting them.

A few days ago, we saw the ruling party's considerable voice be misused to persecute a doctor who did his best to contain the damage of a massive crisis born of criminal negligence in Gorakhpur's Baba Raghav Das medical college. It is hardly the case that he was the only staff the hospital had, but he acted well under pressure and was appreciated by the distraught parents. Yesterday, in the aftermath of yet another clusterfuck emerging from the sheer incompetence and negligence of the Hindutva government in the center, saints injured in the Utkal Express accident managed to tell media that if it were not for Muslims, they would have died. One wonders at the saints who managed to notice the religion of their saviors even in the face of death.

In many ways, what is happening is clear. Uncomfortable with the unfair attitudes toward Muslims, those who see them for the hate speech that they are, are trying to shame the Hindutva supremacists into seeing that those they support are responsible for deaths due to incompetence and neglect over and over, while the Muslims they like to find fault with are saving lives within those tragedies too. There is a catch. Hindutva extremists do not feel shame if it is pointed out that they made false accusations about Muslims. They make false accusations about Muslims routinely and on purpose. One would imagine that this works toward acknowledging the "other side" of Muslims, but in reality, it elevates absurd nonsense to the respect of an argument made in a logical debate that requires answering.

Now here is the problem. In acknowledging the "other side", you end up legitimizing the nonsensical and rabid first side. This is a mirror of the technique that was used to whitewash Modi from the "butcher of Gujarat" to "Vikas purush". Tenders on Gujarat government funds for reporting "news" that showcased the "development" in Gujarat - public funds openly used for paid news, while ignoring its ongoing horrendous human development aspects. Then trolls were unleashed to target individual journalists and dissenting voices with these pieces of propaganda in hand to "prove" that critics of Modi were showing only "one side" of the picture. Cornered over and over, the journalists started exerting caution about what they said on social media. They started being carefully "neutral" and "including the other side" of the story to avoid being called out in public by angry e-mobs.

Of course, it is a head fake. There is no "other side" to hatred being wrong. There is no "other side" to crimes being wrong. There is no such thing as "putting your finger in an electrical socket is bad, but you can do it on Tuesdays and it won't harm". The Hindutva right invents these "other sides" out of thin air at convenience.

But faced with a barrage of propaganda, many were fooled into thinking Modi was innocent and targeted by vested interests. Surely all his desperate pleas to show Gujarat's prosperity were the signs of a man sincerely into development? Well, we saw the sincerity about development over the last three years first hand. Random people were put up to promise grand "deals" in Vibrant Gujarat summits and the lack of the deals materializing wasn't reported. Carefully concerted media efforts ensured that the fake news plants out-shouted the expose and prevailed.

Today, we have the opposite. Where that was an effort to cover up reality, after this government came to power, what we see is an effort to invent a reality - where only those loyal to the BJP have a right to live in India. Everyone else can go to Pakistan. Intoxicated on dreams of disenfranchising people they dislike, bhakts couldn't care less if nothing useful is actually delivered to them. The intoxication of power over another's safety means they are important people, right? Supporting the right man, so they are important people. They decide who has permission to live in India and who doesn't.

Every day the Muslims prove themselves worthy of belonging to the country they were born. "Jeene do becharon ko, kisi ki jaan bachayenge kal." Hindutva's biggest supremacist achievement. A default of half the country as being unworthy of belonging in the country for some reason or the other. If detesting the ruling party were enough to strip someone of citizenship, India would have become Hindutva free in the 60 years of Congress rule they keep harping about. It is fine to detest the government and you are still an Indian with complete right to being in this country. What is going on is basically thugs trying to attack people and make them flee.

"Muslims are a threat to Hindus!"

Strive to show how they save lives and establish the norm by submitting exceptions to scrutinize.

"Dalits are unworthy"

Showcase their achievements or competence and prove it by providing exceptions to the rule.

The TV channels that served by looking the other way are now serving by scrutinizing the targets of one political party that has never ruled India for any significant period and pretending it is the whole of India.

This too is a head fake. And the more you engage with it, the more you feed it, the more it grows. There is no such thing as Muslims being inherently criminal. There is no such thing as dalits being inherently unclean. It is all the propaganda of supremacists trying to disenfranchise everyone except themselves to become the biggest bullies on the block. The answer to this isn't posting links about individual Muslims for them to peer at and go, "ok, this one may be all right, but most Muslims are criminals". The answer isn't posting links about dalit achievements so that they can go "ok, this one may be clever, but otherwise they are too stupid to achieve anything on merit". There is no actual argument here that you are refuting. It is the chest thumping of bullies forcing you to play by their rules.

Sure, admire Muslims if they do something good, just like you'd admire Hindus or anyone else, but admire them for their deeds, not an accident of birth for being born into a specific religion and thus serving as a convenient example to answer a fictitious requirement. Admire the work of dalits for its own sake. There is no need to "prove" their worthiness. There is nothing inherently unworthy about them. I'll tell you why.

When you point out individual examples like rare gems, you're seeing the gems, but it is also an unintended "rare" being conveyed. There is nothing rare about Muslims being nice people or dalits achieving something. They are people, just like everyone else. They have their good, bad, achievers, good-for-nothings and everything in between. Don't fall for this nonsense and start proving that they have good qualities, as though if they didn't, their dienfranchisement was right.

Get this straight. There is no quality control test for remaining a legitimate citizen. A citizen is a legitimate citizen no superior or inferior to other citizens unless there is a formal procedure revoking the citizenship. Just look at the chest thumping monuments to proud refusal to coexist - would they qualify as good members of any place that wanted to stay whole? If they are citizens without a problem, why would people minding their own business not be?

No one has to deserve being a citizen. Just look at all the privileged idiots proudly showcasing ignorance and bigotry and still citizens. It isn't only meritorious dalits or life-saving Muslims who need respect. All citizens are equal under law and they all have same value.

Don't let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise. There is nothing to prove here.

BUJ condemns HT Media's decision to shut down 6 editions

The Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists (BUJ) strongly condemns the illegal decision of HT Media Ltd to shut down six editions of Hindustan Times (HT) at Bhopal, Indore, Ranchi, Kanpur, Allahabad and Varanasi with effect from 09 January 2017.

The closing down of six editions at one go is an unprecedented event in the history of Indian print media and has clearly been done to circumvent the implementation of the Majithia Wage Board Award which was upheld by the Supreme Court by its judgment dated 07 February 2014.

Apart from closing down six editions, HT Media Ltd is also illegally "pruning" staff in various departments as well as in The Mint, a sister publication from the Group and has shut down the business bureaus in Mumbai and Delhi, besides the bureau in Kolkata. Hundreds of journalists are likely to lose their jobs as a consequence of these malicious and illegal decisions.

HT Media Ltd, a BSE listed entity, with a yearly turnover of over Rs 2000 crore has not implemented the Award in any of its units and has forced employees to submit undertakings under Clause 20(j) of the Award to renounce the benefits under it.

The Company has also failed to implement Clause 9(b) of the Award which entitles even those working on contract basis to receive Variable Pay at the rate of 30 per cent of basic scale.

Section 16-A of The Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955 (45 of 1955) expressly prohibits a newspaper establishment from dismissing, discharging or retrenching any newspaper employee by reason of its liability for payment of wages under the Award.

Further, the Hon'ble Supreme Court is currently hearing a bunch of Contempt petitions filed against various newspaper establish managements and was all set to hear arguments on several legal issues including an interpretation of Clause 20 (j) of the Award.

It is astonishing that a hugely profitable company like HT Media Ltd (whose third quarter of Calendar 2016 earnings stood at Rs 602.23 crore) has chosen to illegally close down six editions of Hindustan Times and sack several other journalists working in various bureaus rather than implement the Majithia Wage Board Award.

Furthermore, the Company's official website has projected a total revenue of Rs 662.40 crore, in Q1FY2017, which constitutes an increase of 7.5 per cent over the corresponding quarter of the previous year. It also maintains a strong balance sheet position with a net cash of Rs 823.40 crore.

The BUJ demands that the management of HT Media Ltd should immediately revoke its decisions to shut down six editions and sack journalists in various bureaus, failing which it will draw the attention of the Honorable Supreme Court to these developments in the hearing slated for 10 January 2017.

BRIHANMUMBAI UNION OF JOURNALISTS

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