OPINION

Monthly Archives: FEBRUARY 2017


Gurmehar a victim of institutional hate; about time she gets some breathing space
28.02.17 - TS Sudhir*
Gurmehar a victim of institutional hate; about time she gets some breathing space



Congratulations, fellow Indians. The news is that Gurmehar Kaur "has fled''. At 7:23 am on 28 February, she put out two tweets announcing she is opting out. "I'm withdrawing from the campaign. Congratulations everyone. I request to be left alone. I said what I had to say. I have been through a lot and this is all my 20 year self could take :)"
Serves her well, purred her critics. In their worldview, Gurmehar sinned. Because according to them, she is not just a student, she is allegedly an 'AAPian', a term you could soon find in the Roget's Thesaurus as a synonym for 'anti-national'. And what's more, she dared to take a stand against hooliganism on campus. She dared to speak out against the student wing of the ruling party. She forgot the ABVP has the right to disrupt, vandalise, abuse teachers and fellow students on campus.
 

Did Gurmehar actually think she could get away with this? So the nationalists led by the combined force of a minister and an MP showed Gurmehar her place. Kaur became the latest addition to the long list of 'sickulars', 'libtards' and 'gaddaars'.

Conspiracy theorists with an over-fertile imagination claim Gurmehar is part of a larger conspiracy to target Narendra Modi (pray, where did the prime minister come into this?) Others accuse her of being a mask of a 'commie' agenda. Some mock her, saying she pressed 'escape' when she knew her game was up. This is the gang that plays to the gallery on cacophony-hungry television studios or on the battlefield called a smartphone, taking advantage of Twitter's tax-free status that also allows anonymity behind an egg.

I hope India has not killed Gurmehar's spirit. No one knows where Gurmehar is now. She is not at her accommodation in New Delhi so the assumption is that she must have gone back home to Jalandhar. TV reporters have been dispatched to Jalandhar to track her down because "khabar ko play up karna hai". OB vans are permanently parked outside her PG accommodation near Lady Shri Ram College where she studies, compromising the privacy of the other girls who live there.

The media has been on her trail for over 72 hours now. So much so that she had to tweet a public request and also tell individual reporters to stop spamming her phone with texts and calls. A colleague told me yesterday that Gurmehar is no longer the strong girl with spunk and courage. "She is an emotional wreck now, who fears she may soon be homeless because of all the media attention. Landlords don't understand all this standing-up-for-what-you-believe-in, nonsense. They only see that she has drawn unwanted attention,'' she said.
 
 

The media has contributed to this in a large measure. The nature of the beast is such that conflict sells. And thanks to the likes of Virender Sehwag and Randeep Hooda reacting to a year-old video where she made a larger point about peace between India and Pakistan, the issue has snowballed from being a mere campus dispute to an Indo-Pak issue, where she was accused of praising the enemy nation that killed her father. An RSS ideologue took insensitivity to a new low by accusing Gurmehar of trolling her late father. Can anyone even imagine the havoc the abuse, rape threats, vitriol must be playing with Gurmehar? Hate has been institutionalised and Gurmehar has been its victim.

It is time media took a step back and give Gurmehar breathing space. Because if this is the price to pay for showing spine, no independent-minded youngster, especially a girl, will ever do what Gurmehar did.

The ABVP now alleges the rape threat was issued by AISA. The AISA points to Gurmehar's placard that says, "I am not afraid of ABVP''. Frankly it does not matter if the threat was red or saffron. That the threat of sexual violence has wrecked this young girl from within, is more worrying.
 
 

But in the middle of all this, the real story has been forgotten. On 21 and 22 February, the literary society of Ramjas College and its English department had organised a seminar on 'Cultures of Protest'. With its focus on Kashmir and Bastar, professor Nandini Sundar was initially pencilled in as a speaker on the troubled Maoist zone. But eventually the dates were not suitable for Sundar and Umar Khalid was brought in because his PhD work is on adivasis in Bastar.

Some members of the organising committee had apprehensions about whether Khalid's presence could create trouble. But the principal gave them the go-ahead. That was a refreshing change because other colleges have indulged in self-censorship after incidents of trouble on their campus. In August 2015, when Kirorimal College organised the screening of Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai, ABVP members disrupted the screening. Ramjas' decision to go ahead was applauded and the liberal principal praised.

A day prior to the event, a student with ABVP leanings warned a first year student of English (Hons) to watch out for trouble the next day. And as predicted, objections were raised by ABVP, just a couple of hours before Khalid was to address the seminar. The police was called in and they reportedly told the principal that it cannot promise "protection'' if Khalid was to speak at the seminar. Khalid, who was on his way to Ramjas college, was asked not to come.

But just cancelling Khalid's talk was no more enough. Having tasted blood, the protesters went for the kill. The event had to be called off. Professors say it is unfortunate that when the curriculum teaches feminism, decolonisation, theatre of revolution and that authority should always be questioned, organising an event on 'Cultures of protest' is branded as a "lab for separation''.

The Ramjas students and faculty were held hostage on the following day. What was worse is that teachers were heckled, abused and assaulted. They were told to go to Pakistan, warned to find another job and a chair was thrown at two lady professors, shocking everyone around. Outside professor Prasanta Chakravarty was assaulted by non-Ramjas students. Ironical that those who take pride in Indian culture and celebrate Guru Purnima, were the first in attacking those who teach them.

Fear rules Ramjas now. Students as well as lecturers are scared to come into college because the ones who beat up and threatened the students roam free. The college has borne the brunt of this game of one-upmanship played out between the ABVP and the AISA.

The mistake the organisers of the event made was to take the space for debate for granted. They now realise it comes with terms and conditions attached.
 
*(courtesy: firstpost.com)




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The Tribune celebrates arrest of journalist, Indian Express blasts EC for it
14.02.17 - By PT Media Pundit
The Tribune celebrates arrest of journalist, Indian Express blasts EC for it



*Wah, wah, Election Commission jee, aap ne kamaal kar ditti - says The Tribune
 
*Sharm karo, koyee akal di gal karo - says The Indian Express

FORGET OPINION POLLS. Here are opinion piece writers arraigned against each other over an exit poll controversy.

Editorial opinion reflected a Split Wide Open today with The Tribune hailing the Election Commission for arresting an editor of Dainik Jagran for publishing "exit polls" related to the first phase of polling, and The Indian Express blasting the EC for the same. 
 
At least one approach reflects a pedestrian understanding of what happened, and tends to be shamelessly preachy. Nuance with this particular newspaper does not really carry much currency, and if you don't believe, the editor thinks he only has to offer you a weekly coffee for you to become a fan.
 
Telling the media to "Hold the Line," The Tribune said, "Media enjoys no immunity."
 
The Indian Express, on the other hand, minced no words in saying that "arresting an editor is a dangerous precedent, violates free speech."
While the newspaper, edited by veteran Harish Khare, who has served journalism and government, criss-crossing back and forth with equal aplomb and by all available information equally proud of both, said the "Election Commission of India has done well to move quickly and promptly against Dainik Jagran," and used the occasion to hail it as "institution that adds lustre and legitimacy to Indian electoral democracy." It said the EC is "a formidable bulwark against political waywardness."

The Indian Express used the same occasion to show a mirror. 

"Over the years, the media have suitably curbed the tradition of publishing exit and opinion polls. The EC, on the other hand, no longer stands as tall as it used to, going by the frequency and impunity with which allegations are levelled against it by politicians, most recently by Arvind Kejriwal. Its overzealousness in the name of protecting a level playing field only further hurts its hard-won stature and credibility," the Indian Express said. 

The Tribune virtually celebrated the arrest of a senior journalist, and said, "No one should be allowed to get away with defying" the EC, and then went on to issue a certificate: "It would, therefore, be wrong to see the action against Jagran as any kind of attack on the media." 

Here is what The Indian Express said in terms clear: "For the Election Commission to register FIRs is unnecessary, and to go to the extent of finding cognisable offences in exit polls is an enormity."

The Tribune chose not to see the subtleties like the EC invoking not just Sections 126A and B of the Representation of People Act, but also, and dangerously, Section 188 of the IPC, that deals with a cognisable offence, empowering the police to summarily arrest and investigate without the need for a court directive or warrant.

The Hindustan Times did what it often does - buried the news on page 10 at the bottom. Some things never change.




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Intolerant or too tolerant
03.02.17 - Mandeep Singh
Intolerant or too tolerant



The bad guys haughtily beat the hero and leave him with livid bruises. Hero recovers with the thought of vengeance in his mind. Soon, the hero valiantly strikes back and gives bad guys the taste of their own medicine and in the end, good wins over the bad and the justice is served. 

The above lines can very conveniently encapsulate the plot line of any typical 90's bollywood drama. But now welcome to 2017. In 2017, members of a fringe group, Rajput Karni Sena ferociously hounds upon a national award winning director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali because according to them, his latest project, Padmavati is showing "distorted history” and Rani Padmavati very derogatorily. 

Obviously, members of Karni Sena never bothered to read the script of the movie or ask for it. They are not aware of the fact that Bhansali directed an opera on Rani Padmavati in 2008 in Paris which was a huge success. 

While the entire film fraternity and people from other spheres of life have been very vocal in expressing their anger and concern and at the same time bluntly condemning the violent practice of Karni Sena, CM of Rajasthan, Vasundhra Raje has kept mum throughout the entire episode. 
 
 

According to recent reports, Sanjay Leela Bhansali is trying to resolve the issue with Karni Sena. One can very well argue that why does he need to give in so easily. He is an influential man, after all. But at the end of the day, he is a director who is answerable to his producers and his entire team. Most importantly, an artist wants his product to reach his audience. If bending a little prevents his ambitious project from a total disaster, he would definitely do it.

Last year, Bhansali was honored with Padma Shri which is the fourth highest civilian award in India. Instances like these become very ironical since till now, no government representative or official has openly come out in support of Bhansali.

The main idea of movies, theater, books or any form of art is to convey the message and views of the artist by representing life through their work. Without going into any legal technicalities, each citizen has some basic fundamental rights to express their opinion, do what they feel right as long as they are not inflicting any harm to others. Then, who are these people who ruthlessly indulge in the practice of jingoism and hooliganism from time to time in the name of nationalism? Out of everyone, artists, writers, comedians and filmmakers must be granted the ‘dramatic license’ to follow their creative instinct and deliver a product of their own choice.

The famous dialogue of movie, Rang De Basanti – Zindagi Jeene Ke Do Hi Tarike Hote Hain Jo Ho Raha Hai Hone Do Bardast Karte Jaao Ya Phir Jimedari Uthao Usse Badalne Ki(Either suffer in silence or take the responsibility to change things around you) cannot become more relevant, today. It is unjust to label India as an ‘intolerant’ nation. Over the years, the problem with us is that we have become too tolerant of everything that is happening around us. India is not an intolerant nation at all. India is a too tolerant nation.




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