“Bias” in Indian Media – an Insider’s view

One very common allegation I’ve heard these days is that the Indian media isn’t honest. There are those who try and sensibly analyze the issue, and those whose vitriolic comments are quite honestly an embarrassment to sensible bloggers in India. But to sum up, here are the main allegations:

  1. The Indian media is anti Hindu
  2. Big media houses are “pro minority”
  3. Political parties (especially the Congress) fund the media for favorable coverage

Now my personal opinion is that these are false. Of course, since I don’t have all the information, it may not count for much. But my reasons for disbelieving them are:

  1. It will have to be a massive conspiracy on an impressive scale covering all the big media houses
  2. It has to be so well concealed that no one gets any proof whatsoever
  3. I find it impossible to believe that other well funded parties like the BJP would not have exposed such a conspiracy by now if there was any truth in it
  4. It means that all editors, associated bloggers and correspondents are involved. Meaning that every single reporter and writer is dishonest
Is the Indian Media Biased?

Is the Indian Media Biased?

Such considerations to my mind, are too great a barrier to overcome. However, I could always be wrong and so I withheld my opinions on this until I was able to grab some reliable information instead of shooting off my mouth and making an idiot of myself.

One of my college mates from Stephen’s has been working for the TOI for quite a while now. Like all corporate employees, he has a good deal of disillusionment with work life in general and with his own company specifically. Without intending to flatter him, he’s one of the most well informed guys I know. Unlike many others in our college who studied day and night for the IAS mugging up facts from books, this guy seemed to know everything without even trying. Combine this with his somewhat impressive academic achievements, and we have a dude who’s opinion I trust – especially when he’s in a position to know the facts.

So I decided to ask him about the perceived media biases.I reproduce the chat I had with him verbatim:

Bhagwad Park 14:20
Oh MM – now that you’re here let me ask you something I can’t ask anyone else

MM 14:21
sure..

Bhagwad Park 14:22
See – there’s a lot of debate on whether the India media is biased against the BJP, sympathetic to muslims, the congress party and the Gandhi-Nehru family specifically

MM 14:22
media like everything else is divided

MM 14:22
There are even more who speculate that major national media like the TOI even receive funding
from these sources 14:22

MM 14:22
haha
categorically, no 14:22
for toi i can tell yu 14:22
and u know i have problems with this place, so i aint singing for my supper 14:23
no organisational tilt at all 14:23
its a liberal paper 14:23
will tilt a bit here and there based on issues 14:23

others r different 14:24
rediff.com for eg., clearly goes right 14:24
online 14:24

in print HT is a congress aligned paper, its owner is a Cong MP 14:24
but no it dont get any money from Cong either 14:25

Hindu is a liberal paper too, but its current editor is a commie 14:25
but the paper remains fairly liberal and left of centre, nothing more 14:25

Indian Express doesnt matter to readers, its liberal too 14:25
but will be anti-gov of any party in power 14:26

DNA is also similar – largely liberal but its ed and owners are a little righty 14:26

so thats where the right -wing in india has a prob 14:26
they see the english media as biased 14:27
i see it as sensible 14:27

language media is a whole diff ballgame 14:27
diff alignments and biases 14:27
vary by region 14:27
and also have issues of parties funding some of the smaller outfits – but thats a big ‘maybe’ 14:28
but those alignments r very clear 14:28
for people in the know 14:28
so not much of a problem 14:28

big media houses like Times dont need money from parties 14:28
and would in fact run away from any such offers 14:28
for the strings that would come attached 14:28

english Tv media is also largely liberal on the communal front 14:29
can be left-right/soft-hard on other issues 14:29

Bhagwad Park 14:29
This also goes for television houses like NDTV etc?

MM 14:29
thats abt it
yes 14:29

Bhagwad Park 14:29
Ok…but people present statistics showing that Hindu deaths for example go unreported and that Muslim deaths are presented in all fanfare

Bhagwad Park 14:30
Coincidence, incompetence
or what? 14:30

MM 14:30
rubbish

MM 14:30
communal deaths are communal
besides india is founded on a very clear ideal 14:30
u must remember that 14:30
and was split very painfully on an opposing ideal 14:31
one major reason for the ‘majority’ to be accomodative of the ‘minorities’ 14:31

Bhagwad Park 14:31
See this one small quote from a blogger for example:

Bhagwad Park 14:32
“The Indian media needs to project riots between Hindus and some other community to be selective persecution of the ‘minority’. This impression can again be only created by largely omitting the violence committed against the Hindus. This, I believe, is the reason that the deaths of around 200 Hindus that had occurred in post-Godhra riots in Gujarat are hardly given any coverage. ”
Now I don’t know the details 14:32

Bhagwad Park 14:32
So what response would you give to something like that?

MM 14:32
over 2000 muslimes died

MM 14:32
in a near-genocide
where they were targeted 14:32
so thats the answer 14:33
200 vs 2000 14:33

Bhagwad Park 14:33
Hmm

MM 14:33
provocation was limted
and result was a planned pogrom 14:33
where everyone co-operated 14:33
its was like nazi germany 14:33

MM 14:33
the police watched
on orders to do so 14:33

MM 14:34
CM presided over the carnage
so now, you tell me, whats scarier? 14:34

MM 14:34
in streets where some muslims had houses and shops
only those were targeted – based on electoral rolls supplied by the admin – this has been proven in courts 14:34
so thats no riot. 14:35
A riot is spontaneous and uncontrolled, total chaos 14:35
this is targeted slaughter 14:35
I agree radical islam is a problem 14:35
many muslims do not ‘integrate’ into the larger mainstream across the world 14:35
even in India 14:36
and India must be considered a secular nation of clearly hindu-majority character 14:36
just as say Europe or the US are secular but shaped by their christian ethos and history 14:37
…but thats no reason for the majority not to safeguard its minorities

MM 14:38
thats the compact we made at independence
to prove to a country like Paksitan, thats we’re NOT them 14:38
we’re not founded on an exclusivist principle 14:38
we’re inclusive and open to all 14:38

MM 14:39
hindu fundamentalists are idiots who dont realise that want they want is a Hindu version of Pakistan

Bhagwad Park 14:39
Yes, I know the ideals
Odd MM – I didnt’ know you had the “Mera bharat mahan” spirit :D 14:39

Bhagwad Park 14:39
Nice going.

MM 14:39
the idea of india is a beautiful one , my friend

Bhagwad Park 14:39
True

MM 14:40
considering where it came from and how it came into being too
quite extraordinary 14:40
any historian will tell you that 14:40
India is still like Europe 14:40
but happens to be one nation 14:40
some sort of miracle really 14:40
only part of kashmir and the NE today question the conept of indianess 14:41
no one else does 14:41

MM 14:41
thats a remarkable achievement in nation building

Bhagwad Park 14:41
Tis tis
Thanks for the feedback 14:41

MM 14:42
ok, thats it for today
true blood and sleep beckon 14:42

Bhagwad Park 14:42
I’ll send you a link…
14:42
ciao 14

I had to do a little bit of cut and paste to compensate for the synchronization problems usually found on Internet chat, but it’s otherwise “as is.” Since his views on the Godhra violence weren’t directly related to the question on media bias, I thought of leaving them out but decided to keep them in the end cause he brought out some good points.

We have to know which sources to trust. Those alleging a national media bias don’t have any evidence. Of course, this doesn’t automatically mean they’re wrong. But when I do have opinions from people I trust who are in a position to know, I choose to believe them.

Update: I had missed this great link which gives the official position of the Times of India on its role in the political spectrum. It terms itself as a classically liberal newspaper and illustrates how it handles various issues including the right to freedom of expression.

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Comments

  1. I just want to remind yet again that the reason I cited the figure of 200 dead Hindus kind of annuls the theory that the state had actively sided with the Hindus. The Nazi analogy does not hold here, because the ratio of Nazis killed by Jews to Jews killed by Nazis is not 1:4.

    In fact, if one goes through the links I had posted from ‘reliable’ sources like The Hindu & India Today, etc., one would realize that in the initial three days itself more than 50 people were shot dead by police. And by no stretch, in a riot in which in all 1,200 people had died, would I consider that as “deliberate inaction”. I am not even taking into consideration the number of people arrested here. It’s just that which portion of the ‘statistic’ and ‘opinion’ is propagated with greater force that determines our opinions. With the reports of the same riots from different sources, different opinions can be formed.

    Reply

    • In reply to Ketan

      You’re absolutely right when you say that different opinions can be formed depending on the sources and how they’re read. Which is why I rarely take the trouble to go through all the voluminous material myself and rely instead on the consensus of independent verifiers.

      Interestingly, after talking to you I became a little less convinced that Modi orchestrated the riots. A month or so ago, in conversation with a woman who has great admiration for Modi, the topic of the Godhra riots came up. She easily and categorically affirmed that Modi was behind it and that “everyone knows it” (how anyone can “know” this is beyond me though). She claimed the purpose was to teach Muslims a lesson and that Hindus were peaceful people, that no Muslims were killed and that it was only to frighten them.

      It got me thinking. The reality may not matter after all – the whole thing may be so complicated that only Modi himself knows the truth! But perception is more important here. Did Modi for example condemn the Godhra riots vehemently enough? Did he issue a statement saying that the rioting against Muslims is not acceptable in civilized society? etc etc.

      Just looking at the whole issue from a different perspective you know?

      Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        Hehe, you’re right!

        From twitter I know the impression that Modi orchestrated the riots might be actually be helping him to an extent, which is a very sorry thing. But of course, whether this image helps him or hurts him must not become the basis to fix blame on him for alleged acts of commission or omission. However, not many people I have noticed while debating are not able to make out the difference. So, usually I like to carry the debate on this issue beyond whether this image helped Modi or not.

        It is possible that BJP might think that dispelling the misconceptions (if one acknowledges them as such) surrounding Modi’s role in riots would actually worsen BJP’s electoral performance. It is also possible that most people within the BJP would actually want Modi’s position to weaken. Because his political strength might prove to be a career-liability for many people within the BJP (Modi had effectively shunted out lot of inefficient people from Gujarat BJP – and that is why the agitation against him by the likes of Keshubhai Patel, et al, if you remember). So, the latter kind of people would not actually try to provide all the evidence that would go against the theory of Modi having supported killing of Muslims. Hence, it is not surprising that BJP spokespersons who appear on debates by NDTV almost never refer to the above news reports of police killing and arresting people in the very first days of riots. Otherwise, it is not easy to see that citing such reports would greatly weaken the opponents’ argument! Phew, politics is so very complicated. :D I have realized over time that political parties are not a monolithic entity. They consist of individuals, who look at their party just as an employer for livelihood [it’s a different matter that as employers, political parties provide one of the best livelihoods possible, at least for the top politicians! ;) ]. Also, the constituent members are not as united as they seem. This scenario is similar to that of competition that occurs among as well as within species in case of Darwinian natural selection. E.g., a cat competes for survival not only against the mouse it chases, but also against another cat that might be chasing the same mouse. Likewise, the same mouse apart from competing against the cat, also competes with another mouse that might be trying to enter a burrow that can accommodate only one of them would effectively save them from the mouse. So, the idea that BJP members compete with Congress members on political front is a simplistic one. Actually, much greater effort must be expended to ‘out-run’ the members within ones own party rather than those outside it. Anyway, this part of my argument was a huge detour, but I presented it only because I want to know what do you think about this observation?

        As to whether Modi condemned the ensuing riots in sufficiently strong words is not known. If I go by the media reports that have emerged, he did not. But then there were a few speeches of his appealing for peace and exercising restraint in the immediate aftermath of Godhra train burning. However, even those were not reported by the popular media houses. So, I on the basis of this, and many, many other instances, have reasons to believe that most of these media houses would not carry out reports that would go against Modi’s communal image, or would do so only with great hesitation.

        I also do not find the analogy of consensus (of scientists on global warming) to be proper enough to be applied in this case. Scientists have to collect and provide the statistical evidence for their conclusions (and subsequently aired opinion) when demanded. Those who think that state government did not actively conspire in shielding rioteers can point to the statistics of number of people killed in the riots by the police. However, what is the statistical evidence by those who are claiming that the government actively shielded the rioteers? The argument that if police killed (and arrested) several people then it is not inaction is sustainable. But, the argument that if a single person/several persons die, it is deliberate government inaction is not sustainable as can be seen from 26/11 rescue operation, where for the whole world to see, the authorities & forces concerned had tried reasonably hard to rescue people, yet only ten people had succeeded in killing over 250 people.

        For that matter, it needs to be asked, what steps were taken by Indian Railways when they got the info that two-three coaches of Sabarmati Express were burning? How many fire engines were rushed to the site? How many ambulances? How many firefighters got hurt in the process? If there was Muslim mob behind the attack, what steps were taken by the Railway police to control the mob? Was there an attempted genocide of the Hindus by the Indian Railways headed by Lalu Prasad Yadav, that so many Hindus died just a few kilometers away from a Railway station of a reasonably big & communally polarized town? I’m afraid, these questions have not been asked by prominent media persons. I do not know why.

        Of course, what I typed above is silly if one assumes that there was a Muslim mob actively attacking the coaches and igniting them. It is practical to assume that despite their best intentions the Railway police must have been ill-equipped to counter such a large mob and perhaps even afraid to intervene. So, what I want to point out (yet, again) is that not all instances where people of one community kill that of another, deliberate partisanship or inaction by the state need be involved.

        Also, it seems from few media reports that the SIT has cleared Modi off the charges leveled against him. I don’t know if the SC has gone through the report and commented on it. But I am sure that if one goes by “overwhelming consensus”, such an occurrence will not be reported. Would you be inclined to believe that no such SIT has opined on the matter? ;) Also, if one goes by the same consensus-method, WikiLeaks never released a cable implicating Ishrat Jehan as an LeT recruit. You can read about it here: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/WikiLeaks-reveals-LeT-plot-to-kill-Modi/articleshow/7050601.cms In fact, take the very example of WikiLeaks. What they are revealing is NOT consensus, not by the farthest stretch. Because, after all, it is the people of just one organization and it is not a case that several organizations are also releasing the same cables independently. Does that in your view make WikiLeaks cables unreliable?

        BTW, what do you think of this blog post and the comments on it? http://www.deeshaa.org/2010/12/02/the-unbearably-sickening-indian-pseudo-secular-press/

        Sorry again for the long comment! I hope you do read them. I would be disappointed if you reply in negative, but then at least a lazy person like me would not expend so much energy typing them out. :D

        Reply

      • In reply to Ketan

        There’s a saying that one must never attribute to malice, that which can be adequately explained by incompetence! The SIT did indeed acquit Modi, and if that is the final word on the subject, I’m willing to accept its veracity since I assume it was independent. So let’s wait for a little while longer and see if anything else comes up.

        By the same token, people must also admit that the HC has on several occasions held that the original Godhra train burning incident was a spontaneous act and not a conspiracy.

        Till that time, my position is that I don’t know fully and that it’s not possible for me to know simply because there are too many reports, too many timelines and no one is Sherlock Holmes who can accurately determine what happened.

        Incidentally, the place where the best consensuses are found is Wikipedia. The “discussion” pages are always very interesting and those making emotional/abusive appeals are very quickly shut down. Plus things are updated very fast. So I almost always go to Wikipedia for a consensus especially on sticky subjects like this :D

        As far as Wikileaks goes, there is indeed a consensus that the cables are accurate. To my knowledge, no one has disputed them (not even the US government!) So the consensus is very strong there.

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        Bhagwad,

        Thanks for pointing to the Indian Express report. I would like to point out that, all that the Gujarat HC had ruled was that the incident was not “pre-planned”, like say 26/11 attacks were, but nor has it actually upheld the U C Bannerjee report that the train had burned spontaneously. The debate had been whether the amount of planning involved was sufficient to book the alleged conspirators under POTA or not. The ruling does not, in my understanding, imply that the train had burned spontaneously independent of human intent. E.g., can those accused in post-Godhra riots be booked under POTA for killing multiple Indian citizens in a planned fashion? Perhaps no, because no long-term planning was involved and the riots were seen as spontaneous. Of course, I am no expert in legal matters, but that is my reading of the hearing.

        BTW, see what Teesta Setalvad, who apparently is consulted the most on how the whole riots unfolded, herself had to say on the same day the train had burned about the possibility that it had happened spontaneously and not as a result of Muslim mob fury: http://ketpan.wordpress.com/2010/10/31/shades-of-justification-of-violence-modi-vs-setalvad/

        Hehe, even I find Wikipedia a very good source of information. If one cuts out the opinions, at least even its most controversial pages lead one to some obscure but reliable sources of information. Also, the fact that it is difficult to peddle one-sided propaganda helps.

        What you say is right about WikiLeaks’ cables not being disputed, but I wanted to point out that the cables are not being leaked independently. Perhaps, they are at best being reported independently (?). [So, it is possible that even WikiLeaks has an agenda (e.g., I am yet to hear of info leaked out of Chinese government, which works in lot more opaque fashion than the US government).] I put a question-mark at the end of the previous sentence, because I am yet to see widespread coverage of the cable that hints that Ishrat Jahan was indeed an LeT recruit. Which for me puts into question (yet again) the independence of the Indian media, which is the most basic precondition in your relying upon the consensus you perceive to exist among mediapersons. So, I wanted to likewise point out that nobody has contested that Gujarat police had killed over 50 people in very first 2-3 days. And that over 30,000 people were arrested. Has anyone disputed precisely the above claims by Gujarat government/newspaper reports, e.g., by claiming that the Gujarat government had fudged the vital statistics registry in control of the Union government, in claiming that so and so people of such and such religion were killed by Gujarat police on this and this dates? Unfortunately, all I have heard or read (in implicating Modi) is lot of noise, rhetoric and appeal to emotion and a few unsubstantiated third persons accounts. The only reason this seems like consensus is because these reports have been reproduced (as against by carrying out actual independent field work) lot more frequently (which makes the reporting involved ‘not independent’, IMO).

        Personally, I am of the opinion that the SIT should not have ‘leaked’ the info about Modi’s name being cleared to the media if the SC expects them to maintain confidentiality in the whole issue. That would for me, make the SIT’s method of operation unprofessional. But, as a citizen I don’t mind, and in fact welcome such info, because the investigations were carried out using tax-payers’ money, so I am not actually in support of the whole ‘confidentiality’ thing.

        BTW, what do you think of the accusations against Teesta Setalvad of tutoring witnesses that are being made by her former aide, Rais Khan? Do you find Teesta Setalvad an independent and unbiased person in her role in face of above accusations, which have not yet been substantiated (this is not a rhetorical question)? I ask because, lot of ‘reporting’ done by prominent media houses was based on the information supplied by NGOs like the ones run by Teesta Setalvad.

        Reply

      • In reply to Ketan

        When I say consensus, I’m not referring to a media consensus here. For a consensus to hold weight, it must have the three qualities of being independent, qualified, and widespread. I won’t consider the media to be particularly qualified, they can carry some weight.

        I was referring to the consensus of independent human rights organizations, and even the US’s own analysis of what happened, as well as the reports in the New York times so the whole Indian media bias doesn’t come in. Besides, I think we’re in danger of restarting a topic that has seen enough discussion especially on this post!

        As for your last question, I think sometimes we need to view things after all the smoke has cleared. If the accusations are true, then of course it disqualifies all the assertions based on her evidence. But how much is true? Exaggeration vs complete fabrication? Why? So many questions which we can’t answer immediately but will have to wait for.

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        Bhagwad,

        But, I am not sure if these human rights groups were independent in the sense you mean. Did they report the evidences based on what they had themselves seen or was it in turn based on what was reported to them by other not-so-independent NGOs like ‘Communal Watch’ as they took the latter’s word in good faith. One area that strongly suggests to me that their understanding of the riots was wrong is from their oft-quoted figure of ‘over 2000 dead Muslims’, which is substantially higher than the figure of around 1,000 dead Muslims.

        BTW, I had published the above comment without refreshing the page, so I had not read your concern (?) that we might end up re-opening the entire topic (as if we had not already done!). ;)

        Thanks again sincerely, for bearing with me. :) You’re up till now the only person I have encountered, who believes (I don’t with what level of confidence) that Modi had a personal role in perpetrating/abetting the post-Godhra riots, and yet did not slip into rhetoric to prove his/her point. So, thanks again on that count, too!

        Reply

      • In reply to Ketan

        Well, you’re the only person I’ve met who believes that he didn’t have a role and doesn’t slip into rhetoric to prove their point! So thanks to you too :D

        One thing we all ignore though. Between actively planning the riots to being completely innocent and horrified that they occurred, there is a whole spectrum of attitudes and actions.

        Do I believe that Modi actively planned the whole thing from the ground up? No. But do I believe that he was shattered and dismayed by the loss of human life and did he try to call out those who were responsible and give them (at least) a tongue lashing? Not for a moment.

        If I had to bet my life on it, I would say “In medio stat veritas” – the truth lies in the middle.

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        Yes, again a very sensible thing you said that the truth lies *somewhere* in the middle.

        Yes, it is possible that Modi did not condemn individuals involved publicly based on their religion, but that must also be viewed in the light of the fact that (in my understanding) it is only people outside Gujarat who tend to see it as a planned genocide against Muslims, whereas those within see it as inter-religion riots where more damage was incurred by Muslims because Hindus were in majority (this is my understanding from talking to relatives therein). And as I said, I have no idea of what all did Modi say or not say to the rioteers who had indulge in brutal killings. In case of Indian media, I do not equate non-reporting with non-occurrence (obviously!). But yes, even I am inclined to believe that Modi would not actively call the rioteers as “Hindu fanatics” and condemn them, largely to not disappoint his Hindu electorate. [However, I don’t remember if he referred to those who he thought have burned the train coaches as “Muslim fanatics” or “Islamist terrorists”.] But I find the nature of that hesitation very, very different from the other accusations leveled against him. E.g., there have been occasions when I would find a particular patient very irritating & ill-mannered, so in their case I would talk to them with a straight face, trying to curtail the conversation. Whereas, in case of a patient I would take liking to, I would smile, try my best to be vivacious, and in general be warm (and would actually feel more concerned about). But this disparity in attitude would be very, very different from my actively ignoring the symptoms of the irritating patient or giving him the wrong medicine. Hope, you get what I mean. :)

        And, I am not the only person who tries to argue against the accusations leveled against Modi on rational grounds. In fact, Offstumped’s blog does exceptional information-gathering and analysis on the subject. You can see the pages linked through this search result: http://en.search.wordpress.com/?q=site%3Aoffstumped.wordpress.com+godhra And see also this one, for instance, which I also read for the first time, and was actually quite surprised upon doing so: http://offstumped.wordpress.com/2007/10/30/justice-in-gujarat/

        Also of the full-time journalists, I found Ashok Malik’s take on Gujarat riots the most sensible ones. E.g., see this one: http://www.hindustantimes.com/Unchoose-this-man/H1-Article1-528032.aspx [though, he does use the “sources suggests” once! :D ].

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        Of the coverage on the web w.r.t this issue, I feel one of the INI bloggers said it something like this:
        Modi is guilty more of acts of omission than commission.

        1. While conceding that an active widespread riot situation is not the best of things to bring to control quickly and that similar situations in non-BJP ruled states would have also gone to some lengths before getting tapered down, I certainly feel the Modi govt. did not do all it could. Its very difficult to judge by “how much” though.

        2. to the best of my memory 2 ministers in Modi cabinet were directly present in the police control rooms, and the charge was that rather than directing and helping the operations they were keeping police actions in check and away from the most problematic areas. IIRC one of these persons was Gordhan Zadaphiya.

        3. Modi govt’s acts of complicity were in fuller bloom after the riots in the way cases were taken up or rather not taken up. In some relief camps M refugees were told to drop cases/ proceedings as a precondition to come back and settle in their old localities. I think in several instances cases were not lodged at all. I believe there were cases that the prosecutor could be mistaken for a defence lawyer for the trials.

        **** The SC had to order some sensitive cases transferred out of Guj. ****

        regardless of where you stand politically this is something that should be scary, this level of influence of govt on courts! For all his passionate defence of Modi, Ketan shd be careful not to rub any powerful minister in the Modi cabinet the wrong way.

        Imagine Ketan running from pillar to post unable to get a fair hearing or verdict! Maybe he would have a better appreciation of Best Bakery and other such cases.

        While I think all parties bar none influence media and try to sway judiciary, Guj 2002 and after sets a kind of record for this. Most politicians influenced trials of corruption cases against them, some may have done so for assaults or even the odd political killing or two. I think what happened in Guj post-2002 was the most brazen and widest scope ever attempted.

        thanks,
        Jai

        PS: I actually came here to post this link on the power of media, or some specific media personalities:

        http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/27/business/media/27stewart.html?src=me&ref=general

        Jon Stewart’s advocacy role in 9/11 bill passage

        Reply

      • In reply to Jai_C

        Regarding your link Jai, I’ve mentioned before that comedy is one of the most effective means of getting a message across and that India needs more comedians.

        Of course, political influence on the judiciary is very worrying…though I wouldn’t really make it personal to Ketan to get that point across. I do believe though that the Modi govt is guilty of acts of omission…

        Reply

      • In reply to Jai_C

        Dear Jai,

        if you think that “Most politicians influenced trials of corruption cases against them, some may have done so for assaults or even the odd political killing or two. I think what happened in Guj post-2002 was the most brazen and widest scope ever attempted.”

        it is obvious that you have not heard of the Emergency of Indira Gandhi and her attempts to “improve” our Constitution.

        Reply

      • In reply to Jai_C

        Jai,

        Thanks for raising these issues!

        I do not believe in taking a black-and-white view of the things you mentioned. Also, I would appreciate if you keep the emotion element out of this analysis. For, I believe whatever happened in context of Gujarat riots was bad and unfortunate, but I do not get how does all of that automatically lead to Modi being guilty?

        The transfer of cases outside of Gujarat was also criticized by some people, though perhaps it was hailed more vocally. At this point, I also want to ask, why should it be a case that only Modi is capable of influencing the media and not some of his political opponents that could have influenced those in the HC? [Justice V. N. Khare has won Padma Vibhushana – only one of the four SC CJIs up till now to have done so. Barkha Dutt and Teesta Setalvad are both Padma Sri winners]. How many times has the proactive media pointed out that with the President of India’s closest family members charged with crimes as serious as that of murder and land-grabbing, her getting to provide ‘consultation’ to the CJI on who to promote to the Supreme Court Bench constitutes a very serious conflict of interest? Anyway, that might be seemingly irrelevant when viewed from narrow perspective of Gujarat riots, but if one wants to talk of *real* independence of Judiciary, you’ll get what I mean.

        This is what Modi had to say (click) on transfer of cases outside of Gujarat:

        “Citing the example of the Best Bakery case, in which the trial was held in a Mumbai court, Modi said even though the case was transferred to Mumbai, the investigation was done by Gujarat police, and the case papers and charge sheet was prepared by them.

        “Only the courtroom and judge was from Mumbai, rest including the investigation was by Gujarat police, based on which the accused were convicted,” he said.

        Similarly, he said in the Bilkis Bano case, which was first transferred outside Gujarat, and then handed over to the CBI, all persons except one, named in the chargesheet filed by the Gujarat police were convicted.
        “This shows that Gujarat police was correct and CBI wrong,” the chief minister said.”

        Of course, Modi could be lying, but I have not come across rebuttals to his above claims that investigations carried out by the Gujarat Police had carried greater weight than that carried out by ‘independent’ agencies like CBI (& NHRC).

        And I’m afraid, I read almost all news very differently from how you have presented them here. My hyper-skeptical approach is irrespective of whether news pertains to Modi or something as unrelated as Bt-Cotton.

        For instance, I would read what you said above as:

        1. “It was claimed by *certain people* that 2 ministers in Modi cabinet were directly present in the police control rooms, and the charge was that rather than directing and helping the operations they were keeping police actions in check and away from the most problematic areas.” I don’t know if these ministers were indeed present. And furthermore, if indeed present, whether they were ensuring that the police did not mess up things, for instance, by making police kill (click) the rioteers beginning the first day (28th February) of violence itself. Of course, one could point out that the Gujarat police was lying while making such claims about killing and arresting rioteers, but I believe it is much easier to lie about police’s inaction or even making a preposterous claim that the reporters were indeed present in the police control room while two Modi ministers were directing the police to do ‘wrong things’.

        2. “It was claimed that In some relief camps M refugees were told to drop cases/ proceedings as a precondition to come back and settle in their old localities.” Now of course, you might say that I must have some mercy for the people who had gone through hell. I do. But, in no way do I believe that an aggrieved person cannot lie. Moreover, why does Modi need to be personally involved in such misdemeanors, if indeed indulged in by some? Is such intimidation by even small-time goons (who might have indulged in rioting and might I add here, without Modi’s ‘orders’) really uncommon in India?

        Lastly, I need to ask this once again: I agree that Gujarat riots could have been handled (like you, I do not know how much) better and perhaps, including the legal courses that the cases took, but why is it that most people target Narendra Modi in all that happened? How do we know that it was actually in Modi’s hands to ensure that things proceeded in a better fashion?

        I had linked to one of the Offstumped’s posts [ http://offstumped.wordpress.com/2007/10/30/justice-in-gujarat/ ], where he quite clearly demonstrated that the judicial handling of Gujarat riots cases was much, much better than that of any other large scale violence in the past. Now, I’m not claiming that if that was indeed the case, then, Modi or for that matter, people who actually ensured that judicial process proceed did any kind of favor, but I tend to judge people/events according to their context. If I know that the Judiciary and legal system has been lax even outside of Gujarat when it comes to dispensation of justice in instances of such large-scale violence, then I would tend to hold a favorable view of one (entity) who does better than others would have in the past.

        You might see my ‘defense’ of Narendra Modi as passionate, but as far as I see, I rarely include any element of emotion in my arguments. In fact, in heavy heap of disinformation and rhetorical PoV, I try to come up with statistics as provided by ‘reliable’ sources like The Hindu, The Times of India and India Today as against opinions and hearsay provided as evidence by other sources. I see my approach as quite dispassionate. Of course, others are free to see it otherwise. :)

        Yes, but beyond that I do feel pity for those who had died (includes around 1000 Muslims and also some 250 Hindus, for whose justice, curiously no human rights activists seem to be coming forward) and their relatives that their personal tragedies are being used for playing political games.

        I also feel very mild pity for Narendra Modi that so much anger and so many expletives have been hurled against him without letting the facts come out or providing him any opportunity to give any explanation. Also, I suspect he can’t speak much, as all of this is subjudice. And yes, you can laugh (or feel aggrieved) that I feel mild pity for him. :)

        Reply

      • In reply to Jai_C

        bhagwad, ketan,

        I dont mean to make things personal in the sense perhaps that you intend. I often use the names of the persons in a conv, including myself, in my scenario examples eg. “bhagwad2 from Dantewada”…”X= Jai_C or Binayak”… in my experience its been better to use names, and usually better to use real names rather than John Doe.

        But this isnt the first time I’ve been told this is making it unnecessarily personal. I still dont get it completely, its not like I put KC in a villains role here, rather it was a riot victims role.

        I defer to the sentiment… I will stop using names other than my own in any examples or comments.

        thanks,
        Jai

        Reply

      • In reply to Jai_C

        Jai,

        When I talked of “use of emotion”, I wasn’t referring to your using my example/name; I have no problems with that.

        What I meant is, that when you try to inspire sympathy (emotion) in me towards survivors who did not get justice and who suffered because of death of their loved ones, how does it logically lead us to the conclusion that Narendra Modi personally ensured that their relatives die and they do not get justice?

        That is where I am against mixing of logic and emotion, which unfortunately, the media often, and in my understanding, to serve their own ulterior motives, do.

        Hope, this clarifies.

        I repeat, I do not disapprove of people getting personal with me in debates/discussions if it what they say is sincere/well-thought out. This, because what I do not want to compartmentalize and hence restrict what I can learn from others into ‘relevant’and ‘irrelevant’.

        Thanks!

        Reply

      • In reply to Jai_C

        Bhagwad,

        On Jon Stewart: I like and respect him. I mostly enjoyed his shows when I used to watch them in the US and politically we’re probably not far apart. I believe he is in the top ranks of “most trusted person on TV” lists.

        The only nit I had to pick was that he kept using his “but we’re comedy” as a defence to any serious criticism while using the gag-show getup to get in some serious punches at others. This one-way free pass irked me a bit.

        However I am concerned with the power being vested in *any* individual to swing legislation; even Jon Stewart.

        thanks,
        Jai

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        And yes, going by how little coverage the serious accusations against Teesta Setalvad have received, I don’t think even if the reason for why things the way they happened get revealed, they will actually come to us.

        Reply

      • In reply to Ketan

        Ketan,

        I believe the accusations made by Mr.Khan include allegations that his email ID was hacked by Teesta or her supporters and that mails about influencing witness testimony or filing cases were then sent (apparently by Teesta or somebody else on her behalf).

        Is this a great plan or what? X sends mails from his own mail ID and then claims that his account was “hacked” by his target T. X could even have actively engaged in suborning witnesses and getting them to file false cases on his own accord. All he has to do is later claim that this was all done by hacker T.

        thx,
        Jai

        Reply

      • In reply to Jai_C

        Jai,

        I’m impressed by your analysis. And in all honesty, that is how I try to myself view things and want others to do the same.

        Yes, you’ve demonstrated very well that it’s much likelier Rais Khan himself had sent those emails. In fact, one more thing I would like to point out here is why would largely poor victims and witnesses use email?! I don’ think many Indians are well-versed with emailing.

        Anyway, irrespective of whether the copies of affidavits were sent by Rais Khan or a hacker ‘T’, one noteworthy thing about either situations happens to be that those affidavits were false. And it is on the basis of affidavits and accounts such as these that most of the Gujarat riot events were reported (and even ‘independent’ agencies like NHRC & Human Rights Watch had passed their judgments). And that has been my point all throughout.

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        And yes, this is the most pragmatic thing I have heard on the entire Gujarat riots issue: “one must never attribute to malice, that which can be adequately explained by incompetence!” Though, I would consider the usage ‘incompetence’ just sort of uncharitable, but that is still a huge improvement over other usages like “mass murderer” and “Hitler”. :)

        I believe, such events are not handled well, partly because of incompetence and negligent attitude, and in other parts because of India’s generalized poverty – low police:citizen ratio, their being ill-equipped because that amount of money would have to go to more urgent needs, like paying salaries to doctors, teachers, building schools and hospitals, building, widening and maintaining roads, etc. And of course, I would like to factor in the communal passion part. Riots are highly polarizing events. Police personnel are not different from the pool of population that they come from.

        So though, I would put the blame of lack of preparedness on administration and that of negligent attitude communal passion on the individuals (i.e., police), I feel a wider discussion and debate is needed to understand if and to what degree is India’s generalized poverty responsible for police being ill-equipped and under-staffed. I vaguely remember that even in countering 26/11, there was 6 hours’ delay in deploying NSG commandos, because the flight that was to carry them was at Chandigarh for refueling. One difference in the reporting was that nobody on this account said that “the state/Indian administration was hand-in-glove with Islamist fanatics in killing of innocent Indian and other citizen”. :)

        Reply

  2. I just re-read my above comment. Too, too, too many typos! :( Hope, you will not be confused. Henceforth, I will try to keep my comments simple. :)

    Reply

  3. In yr article u have tactfully did not say then who the actual owners of indian express and hindu r. U also did not anwered the barkha dutt , pronoy roy being given money to cover gujarat riots.(They still mainly show muslims being victimised) . Have never ever till dt. shown the more then 50 peoples family who were burnt alive.
    U also did not clear Tehlka charges .U people think just writing smartly will comouflage yr misdeeds and tratitors amongst u.
    Check surndran blog and the bashing he got from reader.Don’t think people r fools and people could be having far more IQ then u half wits.

    Reply

  4. sanjaykhandre says

    It is very clear that most of news chanels owned by foreign companys and christian missionary.ex.cnn-ibn and their single point agenda is to promote congress and christianity if you take the example of baba ramdevs movement from the day one they try to give it a politacal,and communal angle,
    When at the begining all hindu,muslim,sikh,isai,gurus are present with baba and they declare it as a national movement but our media peoples are busy in highlighting the presense of sadhvi ritambara and they sucseed in their mission and declared it as a communal movement it is we indians to seriously choose the what is correct

    Reply

  5. Apologies for commenting on this so late, just caught this blog while surfing the web.

    Reading from the comments on TOI and many Indian news websites, it sure seems that a lot of Indians (not just “right-wingers” as you seem to be so fond of labeling people who do not happen to agree with you) seem to feel that the Indian media today largely presents some form of “paid news”. “Paid news” incidently seems to be quite widespread in Indian media according to a much-discussed report by the Press Council of India. To use a justification that there nothing more than a benign bias or a philosophy (i.e liberal or leftist) is really the extreme hypocrisy of ascribing palatable motives to the unabashed activism of behalf of one party that we see in the Indian media.

    Reading from your friends chat, it’s quite likely he may not be aware of what goes on the upper echelons of the Times (like any global corporation, information would generally be made available to employees only on a need-to-know basis) and , to put it bluntly, simply seems to be fudging the facts to justify his political opinions. For example, let alone his own organization, how would he know the revenue sources of privately-held RIVAL news organizations like HT? Also, Rediff is right wing? His claims neither are factual nor appeal to common-sense.

    And you seem to be repeatedly using your friend as a shield to make you appear factual and unbiased, whereas it’s clear where your sympathies lie. Good gimmick, but sadly very transparent.

    Apart from your political sympathies, you seem to be a good writer (liked your article on ‘treating women as adults’). Good luck with the rest of your posts.

    Reply

    • In reply to Samir Jog

      But according to you if it’s so difficult to really know about the finances etc of rival organizations and to have access to information that “only a few people have,” how is it that everyone in India (including yourself) seems to have their own personal unshakable knowledge that the Indian media is paid?

      Reply

  6. You seem to putting words in my mouth in an effort to win the argument:). Where have I claimed that I have personal unshakeable knowledge that the Indian media is paid? If you read my post carefully, I am quoting what people in India generally seem to think, based on comments that one gets to read in various websites as well as reports from the Press council of India.

    Anyways, I am not a professional writer, I have a fulltime job so have very limited time to argue with you. You are a very eloquent writer, so all the very best with your articles!

    Reply

  7. +1 Samir

    Reply

  8. I’m surprised your media did not cover the anti-Sikh pogrom after Indira’s death. Any reason?

    Reply

  9. Gujarat 2002 was nearly 10 years ago. Same view?

    Reply

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