Saturday, February 28, 2009

Media can fight guns not capital

A gun could be retorted by a pen. This is not just a slogan, but the reality of Pakistan’s media. Journalist Musa Khankhel of Geo TV was shot 35 bullets and beheaded thereafter.

28 year old Musa Khankhel went to Swat to cover Taliban’s winning rally. This was a celebration of Pakistan succumbing to their pressure. A braving journalist who belongs to a country whose Govt. has given up an unconceivable thought for an Indian. Pakistan has always been an army of fundamentalists for Indians. Moreover, after the 26/11 attacks, Pakistani media is being perceived to have been colored in Pakistani colours.

Post- Musa Khankhel’s murder, the fearlessness that Pakistani journalists have shown has given Indian media and journalists, goosebumps. Indian media has always shown Pakistani media as a replication of the mullas. But when they themselves are fighting for Democracy, it’s time for Indian media to look within.

After Mumbai attacks no journalist had the courage to pronounce that the Pakistani attackers were given help in India. On top of it, IB’s report that stated the failure of Navy’s and Coastal guard’s shortcomings, was immediately dumped. The fire of patriotism burned inside the Indian media which when clubbed with State’s untold curb resulted into an unsaid harmony between the two. It was only when L.K. Advani in the Parliament negated the possibility of attacks without indigenous help, that the issue was addressed.

Most of the media houses in India are owned by people who have served as journalists. If we look at the leading news channels, all the proprietors have been journalist by profession. And that’s the reason why media is always mentioned as the fourth pillar of democracy; well proved during emergency. The tag seems to have rusted in the past 34 years now. Also, it has been heavily capitalized which has totally led to profit and wagging tails in front of the Govt. This is when the difference between the struggle of Pakistani media and the great tragedy of Indian media becomes clear.

General Parvez Musharraf was the one who gave a green signal to the broadcast of news channels in Pakistan. Geo News channel was started after this. When in 2001 Agra Summit he met Atal ji, he realised the power of media. I still remember how Musharraf invited all the journalists for breakfast and allowed NDTV to cover it live. Things that Vajpayee couldn’t speak openly and Musharraf wanted to, were finally said in open through media. That was the day when Musharraf and NDTV were most talked about. Immediately after returning to Islamabad he allowed private news channels in Pakistan.

The whole of Geo news channel was trained by the same set of people who trained Aajtak before its launch. I was a part of the team of Aajtak when the training was being given so I had a long association with them. In fact, when the same team was training Geo TV, they used Aajtak training tapes for the same. The tapes had everything form Aajtak’s then popularity to the journalists work after training.

I remember that just before Musharraf’s visit to India, I went to Pakistan where I met Hamid Mir. He was the owner and editor of a newspaper then. This helped me get information from the Pakistan’s side. Also, I called him for interviews, thrice. Hamid Mir said then, if the power of Indian media comes into Pakistan, the Pakistani Govt. would not act autocratic.

After the murder of Musa Khankhel in the Swat valley when Hamid Mir claimed to confront guns with pen. I reminisce the 2001 interview with LET Chief Md. Hafiz Sayeed. I was immensely praised by Arun Puri, owner Aajtak. During that time, the Vajpayee Govt. hinted not to air that interview on the grounds that it would invigorate the already existing terrorism. Arun Puri decided to not only broadcast it, but also released in papera saying- “Aajtak catches Lashkar Chief”.

Times have changed now. The Govt. is hiding its shortcomings and preaching media what to do and what not to. And the media apparently is very eager to learn it from the Govt. This eagerness is a result of the share in Govt. profits. Geo news proved Kasab a Pakistani when the Pakistani Govt. negated the very fact. Geo TV also showed the premise where the whole conspiracy of Mumbai attacks was framed whereas Pakistani Govt. calls it a mere part of the whole massacre.

On the other hand, in India, no news channel has the courage to stand and speak against ministers and put reality in perspective. From bombblasts in Mumbai to the Delhi blasts; Batla House encounter and information regarding people in remand, nothing was looked upon. Only if the Indian media had seen the issues superficially, it would have made a significance difference. But no news channel had the audacity to accuse its own support system, like Pakistan.

The state of Indian media can be well understood by the film “Delhi-6”. The script itself questions the very trustfulness of news channels. In the film, a news channel with its logo, anchor and reporter takes the story forward, which in the end portrays this thinking as a black spot on the society.

In the end of the film, the director has intelligently placed a mirror which reflects all the characters of the film. It signifies that real thief in inside you. Every character looks his/her reflection in the mirror, but here also the news reporter doesn’t turn up to look his reflection. Coincidentally, this particular channel also belongs to a journalist and the employees are also journalists.

In the Indian context, these reporters can walk with a puffed chest and consider Pakistani media as a fledgling. The present day reality of the two media is that, in Pakistan they have to fight guns and face tragedies like that of Musa Khankhel. Whereas in India, they befriend Govt. for profits, sideline the core news and claim their so-called professionalism. It’s interesting to note that in this period of recession when people are losing jobs, media should act responsible but it seems too engrossed in philosophy of cinema and minting money.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Politics won’t let live and Democracy won’t let die

Living with a tag of the World’s largest Democracy is not an easy task. Not at least when the Democracy is dependent on politics and the whole nation is being taught Democracy. Meaning of Democracy is imparting equal rights and opportunity to people to contribute in mainstream politics. To sustain Democracy is a responsibility of the Parliament, MLAs and MPs. Representatives of people chosen by the people themselves does not even formulate 0.0001% of the total population of our country.

The extension of this Democracy are the elected representatives at Panchayats, Villages and District level. However, even this collectively doesn’t make 1% of the total population. But this is where the tag of Democracy outshines. The moment these representatives reach this sphere, law and order differentiates for them and they enjoy special rights. No one can separate himself from the aura of Democracy and politics, ones reached. Hence it’s said that anyone, a Doctor, an engineer, a businessman, an unemployed, an illiterate and a dalit can become a politician. But ones an insider, no one can do anything else, but politics.

This is where the first lesson of Democracy begins. It points towards preserving a legacy and assuring security inside ones household. This practice negates the fact that power signifies 100 crore population of India. Out of the total 545 present members of Lok Sabha, around 15 % of them are in someway or the other related to big names in politics. The families which are taking the legacy forward are the ones who have actually made their way to the Parliament with hard work, by understanding true India, its villages and have actually felt for the nation.

When kids of big politicians entered politics, a new trend emerged altogether. The understanding was nothing but selfish instincts. Legacy can be seen as- Rahul Gandhi from Gandhi-Nehru family, Umar Abdullah from Abdullah family, Sukhbir Badal from Akali Dal’s Badal family and Supriya Sule, daughter of Sharad Pawar. Stalin and Kanimozhi, son and daughter respectively of Karunanidhi and Pankaj Singh, son of BJP chairperson Rajnath Singh are also the examples. Kalyan Singh- Rajbir Singh, Lalu Yadav- Rabri Devi; Meera Kumar, daughter of Babu Jagjeevan Ram; Reeta Bahuguna, daughter of Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna; Jaswant Singh, Murli Deoda, Pilot, Scindhia, Hudda, Sheila Dikshit etc…there is a long list of politicians who have made way for their children. Bala Saheb Thackeray’s political experiments though emerged like an alternative to legacy phenomenon. But even he succumbed to politics and had to pass on his legacy to his son, Uddhav Thackeray.

Democracy gets confined to a particular section as it reaches the village level too. This is evident from the fact that since last two decades around 20 lakh families have been solely holding power as a legacy. In the three tier system in villages around 38, 00,700 representatives are elected. Superficially, this seems alright where everyone has a right to stand for elections and even the politicians’ kids are elected by masses voting. The path to Parliament and Legislative Assembly is not that easy as it seems. It becomes very important to understand the complete reality and nuances of politics in Democracy.

Opting ticket from a political party is an enticing proposition because political parties have an organization of people who can work during the poll day. On a Lok Sabha seat there should be a cadre of at least 4- 5 thousand people. With this cadre, on the polling day, an opportunity to negotiate with other political party becomes easy. A youth willing to enter politics will take around 10 years to get associated with the influential class in politics. People will first elect them one after the other and later would consider them allies. But even this is not the solution.

In the present scenario of market and profit, Govt. has ignored people and corporate help can be seen everywhere on the field. The political parties declare names of candidate even before announcing the dates for election. This is done to ensure hassle free flow of money from corporate and others. The parties then involve themselves completely in formulating suitable policies. The influx of election fund from corporate and spending it on common voters is continuous. Presently, it has already started. The proposed candidates start benefitting from this as the code of ethics for elections is enforced upon the candidates only after the date of elections is announced. A vicious web of victory is designed and implemented before that. If common people are against the ruling power; the opposition benefits. They are loaded with all sorts of monetary help from the corporate. All the efforts are made in order to retain power in any case. This is an important lesson of Democracy and it goes through the path of market and profit. Profit and political awareness has lead to the consciousness of Democracy. It was said that earlier the villagers were unaware of whom to vote and hence sold their votes. But in the new era, Govt. and power sells itself and not the votes.

Specific policies benefitting a specific corporate house initiated the whole understanding. This has initiated a big game of business in which selling a vote one time doesn’t work, it is persistently carried out for 5 years. It is like a blank cheque of profit for some in power. Agreement or disagreement doesn’t count in the game of election politics. For every pillar to stand in power, it is important to state ones needs. Failing policies and breach in security has made the State and politics confront people. The judiciary and media became the stimulators. Media tried to control anger by broadcasting programs of felicitating the families of martyrs. And the corporate left no stones unturned to make it successful. There were advertisement and sponsors.

People lost their jobs due to failing policies but the executive and legislature with the help of Judiciary framed bail-out plans for companies facing losses. This was done to show that everything is fine even if it's not. Calling the whole crisis a global economic recession is a well played theory amidst total unemployment among people. If one pillar succumbs, other three supports the one and this is how the game of democracy works. This is not a common playground for everyone though. Democracy stands for equality but doesn’t implement it.

Democracy can well dream of Obama but can never permit him to break the vicious circle of Indian politics. Obama largely signifies youth which rests at Rahul-Priyanka and Modi-Mayawati. Before becoming the President of America, Obama couldn’t even pay his dues he took for studies. He faced all sorts of trouble one has to face in order to survive. And when the superpower was troubled, they saw Obama’s struggle as their victory. Politics in India still declares itself as the World’s largest Democracy but it's against politics and power that is camouflaged in Democracy.