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Thursday, March 27, 2014

First Person Singular: ‘Thank You!’

This is to say ‘Thank you!’

VOXINDICA was voted BlogAdda’s ‘BEST POLITICAL BLOG IN INDIA’ in the Win14 contest.

This is to say ‘Thank you!’ to the eminent jury that voted VOXINDICA. 

This is to say ‘Thank you!’ to Blog Adda.  

But first and foremost, I would like to say ‘Thank you!’ to you, ‘Dear reader’, for your patience and patronage over the years.

A prime reason for starting VOXINDICA was the negation of space for the ‘right of centre’ views in the mainstream media.

As an aside, the word ‘mainstream’ is perhaps a misnomer. Indian Media, both electronic and print, is highly fragmented. Consider these statistics: India has 825 television channels which together command a television viewing universe of 500 million at an average of 6,06,060. Similarly, India has 82,237 newspapers, with a combined circulation of 329 million (2010-11) with a per capita of 4003. Each fraction of the MSM, at best, represents a partisan view, defined by a certain commerce-driven social and political code of conduct.

The reasons for the media to be dominated by the left-liberal crowd can only be surmised. John Storey’s observation that cultural studies’ is itself grounded in Marxism might be true even in the Indian context.     

Here is an instance of how intolerant can the mainstream media be: During late 2011 and early 2012, I was contributing a series of articles for an English language daily. The Op-Ed page editor was all praise for my work and was insisting that I should contribute at least one piece every week. Indeed, he had published 12 of my articles in about three months, between October 11, 2011 and January 8, 2012. However, realization dawned on him that I was not one of those card carrying members of the left-liberal club, when I submitted an article on the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits. It was in the third week of January 1989 that the systematic cleansing of the Pandits in the Kashmir valley began. Therefore, I thought it would be appropriate to write a piece on their plight in the third week of January (2012). In my piece, I suggested that the humanitarian disaster that befell the Pandits was a genuine example of genocide, although the term genocide was used, abused and misused over and over again during the last decade with reference to the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat. This was what I wrote:

Our intellectuals and media crib and caw about the settlements in West Bank and Gaza and the injustices done to the Palestinians, but not a whisper from them about the fate of the exiled Kashmiri Pandits. No group of prominent public figures had petitioned on their behalf; no celebrity authors cried in their defence. They were once the elite of the Kashmiri society. The community produced artistes and artisans, poets and musicians, doctors and lawyers of amazing wisdom. At the turn of the century there were about a million Kashmiri Hindus in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. At the time of independence the proportion of Hindus in the Kashmir valley was 15% of the population. By 1991 it came down to less than 1%. 

The word “genocide” has been worn out in popular usage during the last decade. It has been so freely bandied about in public discourse that it lost its original meaning. If ever there was a context for it to be justifiably applied, it was in the case of the Kashmiri PanditsGenocide’ means, the systematic and widespread extermination or attempted extermination of an entire national, racial, religious, or ethnic group’. This is what happened to the ethnic identity called the Kashmiri Pandits. 

I could not make out whether it was the first paragraph or the second or both that got the editor’s goat, but after the submission of the article he bluntly informed me that he would no longer publish my articles. He gave me some specious explanation as to why he would not accept the piece: ‘schools and colleges are reopening in Kashmir and the situation is returning to normal.’ Schools and colleges might be reopening, and the situation might be returning to normal but wasn’t it with an important segment of the society completely ostracized? I tried to explain the topicality and the human interest involved in the story, but he would not give me a chance to get in a word edgewise. He had already made up his mind. He dismissed me with the usual anodyne.

The newspaper later commissioned one of those dyed-in-the-wool left-liberal writers to write a weekly column on minority affairs. Aren’t Hindus a minority in Kashmir? Well, that is India’s mainstream media!

In his eponymous title, ‘Can We Trust The BBC?’, Roger Aitken pointed out that there is a tendency on the part of the mainstream media to screen out ‘inconvenient other versions of the truth’. This is what India’s mainstream media did in its coverage of the Gujarat riots of 2002. Quite a few readers of VOXINDICA were surprised to read in Gujarat riots and the ‘secular’ Galahads of justice that it was Eqbal Ishan Jaffri who precipitated the Gulmarg society seize by opening fire with his licensed revolver, killing two and injuring thirteen people.

VOXINIDICA debuted on June 30, 2005. Over the decade, a spectrum of issues and various genres were covered. It has a small, dedicated and - going by the comments posted on the articles - intelligent readership, not necessarily always agreeing with the viewpoints presented. Here is a comment posted anonymously by a reader. It points to the direction of reader expectations, especially from VOXINDICA.        

“I normally refrain myself from commenting on blogs … … … I am afraid I can’t hide my disappointment anymore over the fact that you have, of late, inclined more towards book reviews than commenting on current affairs.

At a time when there is a dying need for the articulation of the centre-of-the-right’s views on every issue, especially in the English language, we cannot afford to … digress and take the easier route of book reviews. I hope you find your zest once again … … … [to write] commentary on current media/political affairs … … …”

 

The comment was posted on June 7, 2012 on the article, Lies, Damn Lies & Reporting Gujarat.


I have posted several articles on the issue of M. F. Hussain’s paintings, which discussed the limits to freedom of expression and the secular polity’s selective demand for its application.

The articles, which quite a few readers disagreed with were, quite predictably, Indo-US Nuclear Deal Demystified, Foreign investment in retail, boon or bane?, Federalism and National Security and Temples, Toilets & Minority Politics. The four articles on the formation of Telangana, Telangana & Political Ploys, Formation of Telangana, Claims & Counterclaims, Murder of Democracy and Congress And BJP Gang Up To Derail Democracy, Shame Parliament quite appropriately evoked mixed responses depending on which side of the divide a reader is.

I take this opportunity to thank Mr. S. Kiran Kumar for contributing Gujarat riots saw many bloodier riots before 2002, the only article that was not written by me and one of the most popular posts on this blog.


U. Narayana Das

3 comments:

  1. look,any award must be welcomed.
    But,main issue is not the award,it is the content that you provide and you have been very selective in providing exclusive content

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Chowlaji. You have been encouraging me quite often with your comments and constructive criticism. I assure you, your criticism and comments matter a lot to me as they help me hone and polish the content. Thank you.

      Delete
  2. Sir onus on us to keep building the Eco system as liberal media very appreciative of our exaistence. :P

    Having said that due to various reasons right is a but fragmented, hopefully that's not a weakness.

    But we can't be AAPTard either. MSM is often self depreciating in outlook.

    ReplyDelete