The Media Again...
Why can't the media shun silly statements of sensation seekers?
Prime Minister Narsimha Rao who is rightly remembered as the father of economic liberalization in India was also known to relapse into silence whenever faced with irrelevant questions. Once a persistent journalist, whose repeated questions Rao has ducked, asked him in exasperation: “Sir, why don’t you respond to what I have asked you several times?” With a poker face, the unruffled PM said,” why don’t you understand that my not responding to your questions might itself be my response?”
I wish Indian media - especially the electronic media - had learnt some lessons from Rao. The media’s apparent obsession for covering even the most trivial things related to Bollywood celebrities is linked to the belief that it will raise the TRP ratings. But this does not justify the insatiable craze amongst the people at large, particularly the city bred bubblegum brigade to consume anything and everything related to Bollywood celebrities.
The media’s nonstop 24x7 coverage of silly statements of some individuals with inflated egos is a gross wastage of television time when hundreds of issues affecting the lives of millions of people cry out for attention. Having long panel discussions on silly statements on TV channels at Prime Time by dozens of individuals, touted as experts and opinion makers, defies logic, common sense and comprehension. They don’t pause and ask: is this coverage productive? Does it serve a larger public interest? How does it benefit India?
The media doesn’t seem to or care to realize that their coverage, unwittingly, offers oxygen to brazen publicity seekers.
The most recent example was the statement of the award winning Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut -who was honoured with a Padma Shri this month- where she claimed that what we attained in 1947 wasn’t independence, it was given to us in Bheekh(alms) and that true freedom was ushered only in 2014!
The statement is so blatantly provocative,it is also silly and bereft of any historical understanding. It betrays an appalling ignorance of the long struggle for independence in which scores of leaders and millions of Indians made supreme sacrifices .It reflects hopelessly poor knowledge and utter stupidity about India’s history on the part of a Bollywood star.
There is nothing wrong in applauding and extolling numerous achievements of PM Modi and flagging how drastically the political landscape of India has changed since he became the Prime Minister. Kangana Ranaut has the sovereign right to say, if she so wants, irrespective of whether others agree or not, that Narendra Modi is India’s greatest PM ever and India has been witnessing the best time in history since 2014.
But what was the need to lie and belittle our national struggle? And insult all those who fought for our independence? Which nation on earth has got Azadi as bheekh? The British Empire where the sun never set wasn’t dismantled because the Colonizers decided to give independence to various colonies as alms but on account of decades long struggle for freedom in which millions of freedom fighters perished.
There is only a thin line between adulation and unadulterated flattery. The former usually flows from genuine admiration but the latter is mostly motivated and aimed at seeking rewards and drawing some benefits. One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what might have motivated the actress.
Perhaps, the intention might have been to belittle or write off all what the Congress party has done .But even the bitterest critics of the Congress party who never get tired of finding faults with the party can’t deny the pivotal role played by the Congress in India’s freedom struggle.
India’s movement for independence was led by the Congress. Was Gandhi not a Congress leader? As was Nehru. And also Sardar Patel whose statue of unity, the tallest statue in the world, has been erected by none other PM Modi. Even Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was elected as the Congress President.
The statement isn’t an insult only to the Congress leaders but also to the young, courageous and charismatic freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad and many of their contemporaries who dared to challenge the yoke of colonial rule and paid with their lives. One feels pity at the individuals who make such senseless and silly comments.
The crude and unabashed chamachahgiri dripping from Ranaut’s statement should have been rejected by the media outright. If the entire media, both print and electronic, had snubbed the diatribe by ignoring it, it would have died a natural death in less than 24 days. And been consigned to the dustbin of history. Instead by running headline stories, breaking news, conducting interviews and seeking opinion about it for days, the media gave it wide publicity and accorded it the salience and respectability of a profound statement which it didn’t deserve.
Shunning silly statements which generate sensationalism, cause outrage, promote divisiveness and insult our national heroes is the simplest action which the media can take. But…?!
Ambassador Surendra Kumar is retired from the Indian Foreign Service.