Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Indian Mainstream Media - "They crawl when they had only been asked to bend."

Rama has a post on the mainstream media


I read with astonishment yesterday an editorial in The Telegraph on the subject of forcible land acquisition in Singur by the CPI(M)-led West Bengal state govt, for handover to the Tatas for their small car project.

In a nutshell:

"The govt of West Bengal must do what it thinks is best for the economy. It is not obliged to obtain consent."

Ironically, even that hideously oppressive relic of British colonialism, the Land Acquisition Act, of 1894, gives allowance for natural justice by requiring hearing prior to acquisition. But evidently justice is very far from the concerns and desires of India's elite. If our precious democracy depends on this media and on this class - God help us!

I was immediately reminded of the words used to describe the behaviour of the Indian media during Indira Gandhi's Emergency (1975-77):

"They crawled when they had only been asked to bend."

In his book Being Indian, Pavan Varma writes:

"A concern for democracy was, in any case, conspicuously absent in most educated Indians when she imposed the Emergency. There was not even a semblance of credible protest anywhere in the country when almost the entire opposition was put in jail. The bureaucracy quietly accepted the new regimen. The corporate world welcomed it. The most spectacular capitulation was among the so-called guardians of the right of free dissent and free expression — the media. They crawled when they had only been asked to bend, with many top editors assuming the 'traditional Indian posture of respectful subservience (in which) they remained —not looking particularly dignified until the Emergency was over'. A dominant image of that time was a much publicised triptych in oils of Mrs. Gandhi by the colourful artist M.F. Husain, representing her as the goddess Durga triumphantly vanquishing her foes. The poor bore the brunt of the excesses of the Emergency, and ultimately, when elections were called, it was their hostility that defeated Indira. But the significant thing is the extent to which most Indians — poor and rich alike — were willing to quietly acquiesce in the abuse of power when in the first instance it seemed undefeatable ..."

If ever an example was needed to prove the utter ignorance, bankruptcy, and self-centred character of the Indian mainstream media and India's privileged classes - then yesterday's editorial in The Telegraph is it.

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