English language television news in India nowadays is nothing more than exaggerated visual editorials. They pick two or three stories, sensationalize them, run them in a loop through the day, alongside panel discussions where the editorial ideology of the channel is forced down the throat of the panelists and the viewers. In short there is hardly little journalism left in these channels. Though they do have panel discussions, regional language channels – at least Malayalam and Tamil channels that I watch – have a wider and more diverse reportage than self-proclaimed national television.
It wasn’t always like this. When Prannoy Roy pioneered private television content for Murdoch – regardless of the ideological content – there was reportage. Editorial proselytizing and endless panel discussions were limited most often to when psephologists stepped in.
We must not celebrate every time we see a movement. Movements can be very popular without being very meaningful, disturbing only the surface of society. Some can be pretty and harmless like candle light vigils; others dangerous and ugly like ‘love jihad’. Some want efficient governance like Hazaare; others regime change like Nandigram. For those tired with political apathy, it is of course good news that a spate of new movements is emerging thanks to new technologies and media coverage. But it is equally true that they seem to be going indifferent directions, without any common end. The picture is not clear. Who knows better than us how ‘change’ can be purely rhetorical? It is not difficult to imagine why people are weary of dramatic social unrest. They hardly fail to bring yet more conservative and unscrupulous sections to power. If we don’t want to get carried away, it is because of repeated disillusionments with the promise of change that everybody makes but nobody keeps. Politics is not, we better understand, about promise but manipulation, bargaining for daily needs, livelihood and resources, and so it should be. Movements may come and go like fashion, they are incidental to reality, which changes very slowly if at all. There is an institutional process of elections we have put in place, and it has proven to be resilient and reliable.
Bandh Bhengey Dao – Break All Bonds –
Lyrics and Music – Rabindranath Tagore & Asian Dub Foundation
From the Original Sound Track of ‘Tasher Desh’ a film adaptation by Q