Tuesday, 29 December 2020

One Crisis a week – State of India’s media-driven hate agenda

The year 2020 has been stressful; we do not want to remember it, do we? Or perhaps we do need to think a bit about how we have been kept on an edge – ‘the sky is falling down’ (if that is a phrase) psychology perpetrated via multiple channels – TV, Facebook, Twitter and the ever so gloriously encrypted WhatsApp messages.

History will remember the role of Indian media at a time when the country is moving to an oligarchic demo(auto)cracy - how it is build(break)ing a nation by holding high grounds for hate, division and dumbness. Of course, there are exceptions but it is hard to say how long these exceptions will survive? Tough questions are asked about where we are headed as the people in leadership positions deflect the issue, bhakts (blind supporters of Modi/BJP/RSS) have self-appointed themselves as the spokesperson of the regime – and they have weird connections with Indian mythology, history, politics, sociology, economy and whatnot. 

Source: ED Times


Indian media has gained notoriety in promoting the hate agenda and fake news. Building up to the 2014 win of the BJP government and onwards, we have seen newer terms and phrases take center-stage in newsrooms, which include Commie, Urban Naxal, Godi Media - Lapdogs of Modi Government, WhatsApp University, The Nation Wants to Know, antinational, JNU Activist (many of these should not be offensive but made into an offensive)…

News and opinions to choose the narrative from vary on the content of the news. Our capacity to believe or not believe the credibility of news is ever so more dependent on our willingness to investigate further – be well-read, or perhaps some of us carry a strong opinion secretly (which is harmful to ourselves if our opinions are linked to fake news).

Let’s visit what aspect of news was fed to us by the media (or shall I say godi media) in 2020? The diversity of topics is mindboggling as one topic or the other will catch one’s attention – even when one is not politically inclined. What is interesting is that the News coverage diverted the attention to everything the core issue.

I am picking up a few issues to explain how the core subject was diverted towards an insignificant debate.

1. Indian Farmers’ Protest Against legislation that gives dangerous control to corporate
Building a Khalistani narrative for farmers’ protest against three farm bills that were passed through an ordinance (not bills – please be mindful of the difference) in the Indian parliament. It is not just that the camera-friendly PM has made multiple appearances in his talk show – Mann Ki Baat indicating oppositions’ influence, I have also heard ministers, celebrities such as Vivek Agnihotri, Kangana Ranaut, Payal Rohtagi pointing out Communists and Urban Naxal involved in undermining the efficacy of the bills.
What should have been captured – There is a seemingly deliberate lack of discussions on the Farm Laws, how they will impact the grassroots realities of the agricultural sector, the existential aspect of small and medium farmers, the exploitation of farmers by corporate, taking away legal recourse if farmers are wronged the corporate.
The ongoing Farmers Protest which started in September 2020 in Punjab and has now spread throughout the length and breadth of India (between 200,000 and 300,000 are protesting at the borders of Delhi). The farmers got together and objected to three ordinances presented in the Indian parliament. The opposition walked out of the parliament because they objected but the ordinance was rushed by the ruling party BJP. While the farmers articulated their demands very strategically and in unison – to scrap the three laws namely:
A. The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020
B. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance
C. Farm Services Bill, 2020

2. Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide case – Media trial
What we heard was Arnab Goswami coming up with a sensational revelation (with no factual evidence) that Rhea Chakraborty, Sushant’s ex-girlfriend used to sleep around. Sushant’s manager and Sushant were murdered by the deep dark drug-mafia driven Bollywood industry. And how the Maharastra police did not do its job and Bihar police had to intervene – CBI also got involved. Rhea spent 28 days in jail, and in the end, there was no evidence of her involvement in his suicide.
The animosity between Shiv Sena and BJP – after BJP-Shiv Sena failed to form an alliance in Maharastra was used to instigate public sentiment in the run down for Bihar elections, as Sushant Singh belonged to the state of Bihar.
Media should have shown the facts – not rhetoric to create ‘our people, their people’ narrative. As soon as the Bihar elections were over, the news about Sushant Singh went off-air.

3. Hathras gang rape and murder
A 19-year-old Dalit woman was raped by four upper-caste men. The incident left her paralyzed with a severe spinal cord injury and her tongue was cut off. After fighting for her life for two weeks, she died in a Delhi hospital. The victim said two of the accusers had been harassing her for months. The victim was cremated by Uttar Pradesh Police without the consent of the victim's family and the family was locked up in their house during the cremation.
As the influential upper caste accusers were involved and the incident drew media attention to the Yogi government in UP, the godi media diverted the focus by character-assassinating the victim. While activists highlighted the caste dynamics in Indian society, the godi media worked to portray the victim as a woman of "loose morals".

4. Tanishq’s Interreligious advertisement released on YouTube and drama of Twitter helping Tanishq gain the support of ‘liberal’ buyers.

5. India’s federal ministry of information and broadcasting to oversee streaming video content, and video streaming platforms, including global services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Walt Disney’s Hotstar.

6. Netflix movie - A Suitable Boy in crisis because of temple kissing scenes.

7. RBI to allow large corporate houses to set up full-scale banks like private-sector lenders HDFC and ICICI Bank. Beneficiaries include Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis, Mahindras. Reliance Industries, Aditya Birla Nuvo, Tech Mahindra, Tata Sons, Sun Pharma, all had applied for a license.

8. Beginning of Ram temple construction at Babri Masjid site.

9. Mathura Mosque demolition plans because that’s where Krishna was born as per RSS.

10. Right-wing goons demanding placing Hindu idols inside Jain Temples.

11. Hindu organizations asking for prayer rights/restoration of temples in the Qutub Minar complex.

12. Facebook’s manipulation of public opinion as Facebook’s India head influencing pro BJP narrative.

13. Centre To Court - Our Laws, Values Don't Recognise Same-Sex Marriage.

14. New education Policy – driven towards creating an elitist structure for education

15. NRIs and Caste System – CISCO Case

16. Love Jihad legislations in BJP run states

17. Arnab Goswami’s Arrest

18. Kangana Ranaut’s take on nepotism and moving the Bollywood industry to UP

19. Kangana Ranaut’s take on protesting farmers – that protesters are paid and exchange of tweets between Diljeet Dosanjh and her.

20. Indian government shutting down NGOs including Amnesty International

21. India intrusion by China – which seems to have been ignored by godi media. They were more interested in Bollywood, drug and nepotism narrative. India’s war with Pakistan narrative

22. 23% decline in GDP – blame it on coronavirus or on economic policies?

23. Migrant Crisis – due to lack of planning during COVID-19 lockdown

24. Corona – Tabligi Jamat demonized while Hindu organizations hosting events

25. Cemcho Trump – Trump’s visit in Gujarat during COVID-19 and dismissal of Indian authorities about the pandemic

26. Street vendors’ carts and sources of income destroyed prior to Trump’s visit

27. Arrest of activists in time of Corona

28. Delhi Riots

29. Delhi Elections

30. Jamia Students attacked by cops

31. Anti CAA protests - December 2019 – Mar 2020 (stalled due to COVID)

32. Gun shot by a Hindutva terrorist at anti CAA protest site

33. Revoking section 370 in Kashmir

34. No internet in Kashmir

35. Kashmir Elections

36. Kunal Kamra and Arnab Goswami on plane episode and subsequent banning of Kunal Kamra by some airlines

37. Privatization of LIC

38. Privatization of Shipping Corporation of India – bids invited

39. Privatization of Indian Railways

40. Privatization of NTPC

41. BJP’s narrative that Mamta Banerjee is nepotistic – claims about the political aspirations of his nephew

42. Parliament Construction – Project Vista

43. Prashant Bhushan’s trial on contempt of court

44. Bhim Army chief arrested and granted bail

45. Union Budget – Employment, development…

46. Violence inside JNU campus

47. Ban Tiktok and Chinese apps

48. Mann Ki Baat – follow up with its praises and criticism (the devil is in the details)

49. Parliamentary Winter Session 2021 canceled Right-wing organizations in India telling Hindus not to visit church or celebrate Christmas or else they will be attacked

50. Halal meat bashed by a Christian organization in South India – and follow up to that

51. Facebook claims that calling out fake news in India will be a threat as Bajrang Dal will attack its employees or Facebook office

52. Centre taking control of state legislation through parliamentary measures

53. Electricity Bill 2020 – privatization of electricity (which is also being objected to by protesting farmers

There is nothing much to say after listing down the items that were on my top-of-the-mind. I am sure if I put in more time I will be able to bring more to the list above.

It is crucial that we are aware and enlightened to be able to connect the dots – identify real issues.

In conclusion, my questions are:
- What do we do as responsible consumers of news?
- What do we do as concerned individuals?
- What do we do as intellectuals and experts in human rights, economy, society…?

Well, the least I would do is keep eyes and ears open, learn and share learnings with others.



Monday, 28 December 2020

Love, devastation, and its ugly intricacies!

The train was speeding in a tunnel, and so was something in my mind.

Thoughts snapping between the extremes - yeses and nos, blacks and whites, darkness and light. So many of them, born as a tiny black dot, they keep getting bigger as they speed towards me. For all I could do was to dodge them, I fail to catch them.

I looked around, I saw people, and wondered how vast the unending depths of imagination in their minds could go? Consumed by patterns and spaces. They refuse to eliminate emotional fixations. Refuse to see within what their oblivion did to you.

They did not make space for someone, they create placeholders. Someone to sit next to, someone to hold hands, someone to tell sweet nothings, someone to feed on emotionally, someone to joke around with, someone to share their deepest darkest secrets with.

They do not give 100%, they just give as much as they can to keep the doors open. So they can swing by anytime they like. They call in love, but they meet you at a superficial level. They do fear the depths love brings, but the like the way it sounds. The sound of love. How they say I am in 'love' and how they say I am now out of love.

Love, devastation, and its ugly intricacies!

Source: Neo Cha | The Importance of Ugly Art

Author's Note: We all work for the thing that we hold dear. We fight, throw tantrums, struggle to make it a success, we see it with a rose-tinted vision. We all have our own languages, and the moment someone comes close to figuring that out, we push them out. We hold our ugly intricacies dearer than the love someone held for us. 

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Ranting in the era of social media

Talk to me about how the COVID pandemic has made us all Netflix addicts! And lo and behold - I watched The Social Dilemma directed by Jeff Orlowski released in January 2020. It was for a little over one and a half hours of disturbing information. It was about how the information served to us for free through social media and employ sophisticated bots to learn about us. I am not suggesting that this is new information - I know how social media functions, you are a product when you consume anything for free. Well, Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook's animosity laced media releases explain that. However, while watching the documentary I felt like a pawn. I kid you not, I found myself wondering if a bot is deciding who I date, thanks to the algorithm on dating apps, I ultimately deleted my profile from dating apps. I definitely do not discount the fact that I may have been manipulated into believing or acting a certain way, thanks to all the information rolled out towards me on my Facebook feed.

Getting back to the documentary, it mentioned that social media has made it easier to instigate people using misinformation and create social distress. The polarity has been instigating civil unrest, and can potentially cause mass scale riots. Images, videos, content - can be extremely triggering. I find myself correcting - tag the post as 'Hide This Post' - on my Facebook feed when I see a triggering piece of information. It does ruin my day sometimes. Don't we all see and experience it in our day to day lives. How information can be triggering, toxic or just unproductive. Often after finding a trending thread on Twitter, I need to switch off and rest my mind. Faceless people fighting behind computer screens (many bots) can make one feel low, even if I do not participate in the conversation. The most recent time I found myself triggered was when Umar Khalid was jailed.

Overall, in terms of the world order - what we are doing today will not be the best course of action. We are putting those people in trouble who belong to a certain section of society. Maybe if we pick a historical narrative, it is same as what was done in the past -

1975 Emergency
Indo-pak division
1857 mutiny
World wars
Holocaust
Apartheid
1984 Anti Sikh Riots, Delhi
2002 Godhra/Gujarat Riots
Killing of Native people by colonizers
Black Lives
Slavery
Labour Issues
Immigration
.... and definitely more. The list does not end, I picked what I know of and I am in the process of learning. We do look back and wonder what got in to humans?  

Some of us do look at the 'present time' and wonder what is wrong with the world. There is clear polarity. The historical narrative is picked up in bits and pieces and presented as facts, without any regard for the context.

What do we do when faced with triggering information? The good news is that it is not so much about the information that is been presented to us but our understanding of how we consume the information. Internet is a great technology and it has made our lives easier, but while regulators will act on the regulation aspect of social media, we must deliberately take steps to sensitize and educate ourselves.

In the process of learning to survive with bots, here’s what I am learning to do:

1. Does this help in creating an inclusive world order

2. If I have a feeling of hate, I ask myself - why am I driven to hate? Am I projecting my traumas on a social order?

3. Have I developed a hatred fueled by social media?

4. What sources do I find reliable and why are they reliable?

5. Human beings are characterized by qualities or bad characteristics. What does my mindset say about me as a human being. Not that I want people to like me, can I look at myself and find contentment- that I did not hurt an innocent person, that I did not have an intention (selfish) when I did a good deed?

I'd close by saying - don't just rant, make a positive change with what you consume or express. Please share what you'd like to add to this list.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Across the Seven Seas

Well well well. Well, I do not enjoy starting my sentences with a 'Well'! or with a 'So', or with and an 'And'! 
But (or with a 'but'...) I do that many times. 

I'd say that today I am in a mood to talk, I have wasted half of the day binge-watching streaming series, eating (and not enjoying it), contemplating whether to step out to the beach and face the wrath of a heatwave warning, here in Toronto! Yes, in Canada, we have heat waves leading to heat strokes. And (haha, you got me!) not to mention, being a redhead how terrible a sunburn I anticipate! 
Summers are beautiful here, and winters are dreamy. 
Rains? Well, Delhi scores better on rains.



Its been a little over two years that I moved to Canada for good. Being a Delhite, Toronto resonated most with me. It is not so much of this city, or an idea of a whole new world but what I have been able to do better while I choose to move across the seven seas! 

These are weird times we live in, I am sure you have read it, resonated with this idea umpteen times. As if the ending of 2019 was not dramatic enough for us activists, that we are in the midst of a pandemic. How being indoors makes us ponder?  Personally, I do not enjoy being idle. I like time off for sure and there is a hell of a difference between being idle and taking time off!


To begin with, I did not know what was ahead. It did scare me but it did not stop me. Perhaps it was something I wanted to do always and that's why it did not make me way too scared. But the struggles have been real. Right from understanding cultural sophistication to crossing the road - the first couple of months were exhausting. So much so that being 30 minutes outside would make my body demand a nap.

Overall in Canada, I have found good samaritans - many of them and sending you lots of love if you are reading this. Friends who are so far away that we catch up on a call - hope we meet soon. And to those who I have lost touch with, I wish you well. 


Author's Note: I know I slacked, the last few years I questioned myself whether I lost my flair for writing? I think it was so much going on that I could not focus much on writing. I did not plan this post, just on a lazy day, I picked up a book, was enjoying reading it and hope that I pass on a similar enjoyment to someone who hopped on this piece on the internet. 

Do drop in a word, it'd make me smile.

Photos (c) Shine Kapoor
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