Guest post by HARSH SNEHANSHU
This January, in a session at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), the award-winning writer Jerry Pinto said something that sent most of us into a tizzy.
“We are sitting in the ‘Google’ Mughal Tent discussing how crucial the freedom of expression is for us writers,” Pinto said wringing his hands animatedly. “It’s the same Google that reads all our mails, encroaches on our privacy, and here, under its roof, we are discussing how we should feel free to say whatever we want without any fear.” The crowd was amused, and left with some food for thought. Would it have been possible to organize an event as grand as the JLF, free for all, without Google’s help? I asked myself. The answer was a no. Google’s deep pockets couldn’t be ignored. Should I refrain from attending the fest just because of Google’s invasion of my privacy? The answer, after some thought, was again a no. Google monitoring my mails doesn’t affect my freedom of expression that I prize most as a writer.
Two weeks later, another literature festival has arrived, this time in New Delhi. Run by arguably India’s most revered newspaper, The Hindu’s Lit for Life is being held at the Siri Fort Auditorium, New Delhi, on 8th February after its successful three day stint at Chennai in mid-January. The guest-list is embellished with names of noted luminaries like the writers Rana Dasgupta, Sam Miller, Rahul Bhattacharya among others, the Olympian Mary Kom, and politicians Shazia Ilmi and Manish Tewari. The entry, like every other literary festival nowadays, is free. The beautifully designed logo is aptly shaped as the fountain pen, representing the craft that it celebrates. However there is something below the logo that disturbs me. It says, ‘Powered by VIT University.’ Continue reading Are you celebrating free speech, Mr. Lit Fest? Harsh Snehanshu
Guest post by SATYA SAGAR
The shocking spectacle of Siddharth Varadarajan, the Editor of The Hindu, being forced out of his post by a cabal of its owners is a brutal reminder to journalists all over the country that however fine a professional you may be you will always remain at the mercy of media proprietors.
Just around two years ago when N. Ram, the then Editor of The Hindu, passed on the mantle to Varadarajan, a highly respected and independent journalist, he had touted the move as a radical shift away from being a family run outfit to one headed by professionals.
Ram’s motives were neither clear nor very noble, engaged as he was in a bitter struggle with his siblings over control of the newspaper. Still, for the newspaper to move away from its long tradition of tight family control was a welcome, positive departure in a land where dynasties run everything from politics and religion to cricket and cinema.
Unfortunately, this flowering of corporate democracy was not to last too long. Ultimately the family managed to strike back with a vengeance, ganging up in a Board of Director’s meeting to demote Siddharth from the post of Editor to ‘Contributing Editor and Senior Columnist’ prompting his immediate resignation. Continue reading From dynasty to plain nasty: Satya Sagar
Guest post by MALARVIZHI JAYANTH
Once upon an election, the ruling party was bullying and booth-capturing recklessly. I was there. I saw it. Outside one booth, three Tata Sumos drove away at mad speeds, their screeching, spinning wheels blowing dust into my eyes in a scene straight out of the Tamil movies. I walked into the booth to find it had been ransacked minutes earlier. I saw weeping government officials and ballots with the stamp over the rising sun scattered everywhere. Other reporters saw similar scenes. Reporters received complaints of cash and biriyani(!) being distributed to voters.The management of the newspaper I worked for chose to run the Election Commission’s claims that the elections had been without incident, rather than accounts from several reporters who had seen the captured booths and heard from voters who had been offered bribes. Two days later, when almost all other media (barring the usual suspects) had run outraged stories about the brazenness of the booth capturing, hesitantly, The Hindu followed suit. Today, they announce to us that cash for votes is a way of political life in Tamil Nadu. Yeah, thanks, we know that already. Too bad you couldn’t believe your lowly brown-skinned reporters who told you all about it. A white man sends off a cable about it to his masters and then it becomes news? Really? Continue reading The Hindu, WikiLeaks and Me: Malarvizhi Jayanth
Mr. [Murli] Deora’s “long-standing connection” to the Reliance industrial group, which includes significant energy equities, was described by the cable as his “only vulnerability.” Besides Mr. Deora, the new entrants with strong pro-U.S. credentials, according to the cable, included Mr. Saifuddin Soz, Mr. Anand Sharma, Mr. Ashwani Kumar, and Mr. Kapil Sibal. [Link]
Gems like the one above should keep readers of The Hindu entertained for days. Congratulations to them on getting the whole set of 5,100 India-related cables from WikiLeaks. They’ve created a sub-site for this. Here’s N. Ram on how they got the cables. Makes you wonder if others tried.
The story so far…
Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association was formed after the so-called “encounter” at Batla House in 2008, in which two students of Jamia Millia Islamia were killed. You may remember posts on kafila at the time, questioning the credibility of police accounts of the “encounter” and criticizing the unethical nature of media coverage:
A little less melodrama, a lot more forensics;
The Jamia Nagar encounter: Curiouser and curiouser;
Shame is a revolutionary sentiment;
Some questions about the Delhi encounter.
In April this year, JTSA, which has been demanding an independent probe into the encounter, issued a statement after the post mortem reports of Atif Ameen and Md. Sajid were made public, revealing that the two boys were not killed in cross fire as Delhi Police claimed:
Batla House ‘Encounter’: Whom is the JP Trauma Centre Shielding?
On April 25, 2010, Countercurrents published another statement by JTSA, titled Praveen Swami’s Not so Fabulous Fables, which began thus:
“If there is one infallible indicator of what the top Indian Intelligence agencies are thinking or cooking up, it is this: Praveen Swami’s articles. Each time the security establishment wishes to push a certain angle to this bomb blast or that, Swami’s articles appear magically, faithfully reflecting the Intelligence reports. After the Batla House ‘encounter’, he launched a tirade against all those who were questioning the police account of the shootout labeling them all ‘Alices in wonderland’. He went so far as to identify ‘precisely’ how Inspector Sharma was shot by claiming that “abdomen wound was inflicted with [Atif] Amin’s weapon and the shoulder hit, by Mohammad Sajid”.
And no sir, Swami’s conclusion was not based on post mortem reports of the killed, fire arm examination report or ballistic report but on this innocent fact: “the investigators believe that…” He certainly brings in a whole new meaning to ‘investigative journalism’. Swami however felt no need to pen an article when the postmortem reports of Atif and Sajid revealed that they had been shot from close range and that neither of them sustained gunshot wounds in the frontal region of the body—an impossibility in the case of a genuine encounter. Was it because the police and the Home Ministry chose to remain quiet after the revelations—hoping that the storm would quietly blow over?
Praveen Swami wrote an injured response via a letter to Annie Zaidi, which too was published on Countercurrents
And now read on, as JTSA responds to Swami.
Continue reading Swami & Friends: JTSA’s response to Praveen Swami
The national news papers are now awash with stories of the past and present of Jihad, depicting the picture of the ‘venomous, truculent Indian Muslim youth’ each carrying an improvised explosive device (IED) within himself, lethal enough to burn the country. It is a fact that a section of the community is attracted by fundamentalist outfits, most of them motivated only by blind faith and a few of them by material ‘offers’. Each and every time a blast occur, the entire Muslim community is put in the dock and they themselves carry a strong sense of guilt as if they too are accomplices in a cold-blooded crime. The media of course plays a vital role in charging a community for crimes executed by some sick minded monomaniacs, by the colored stories, semi-fiction and fiction on SIMI, LeT, HuJI, and of course ISI and the involvement of the youth in the same. It is turned out to be tough to distinguish between a believer and a terrorist. Anybody who grows a beard, does namaz, and follows his religion, is prone to be arrested and detained at any time!
Some times the stories untold serve a purpose more, than the stories told. Covertly, for a couple of weeks the national news papers effectively serve this purpose, deliberately or not. Look at the way media handled the blasts in which Sangh activists have been involved. Let me cite an example. The Indian Express and Mail Today have carried the story of Kanpur blast in which two Bajrang Dal activists were killed. Both of them were killed while they were engaged in bomb making. (The Bajrang Bomb?-IE; Bajrang Dal plotted revenge blasts in Kanpur-MT, 26th /27th Aug.2008) It is also reported that, the police was astonished to see the quantity of bombs found.
Continue reading Bombs defused in Newsrooms: Shahina KK