- Posted September 11, 2013 by
New Delhi, India
The media malady in India
Look at the irony! Dengue is causing a major alarm in India. It has established itself as a major health problem..and the media is deeply and rightly concerned. The mosquitoes feed on Delhi’s moist garbage heaps that also harbor zillions of bacteria in every particle. But the media looked askance when, to fight the scourge, nearly three quarters of a million descended upon the city of Delhi on 10th September, 2013. They cared not for the food or water, they cared not for the sun or the stares, they cared not for the stench and nausea of Delhi’s drains or gutters. They just charged furiously into the smelly cauldron. They came to clean up Delhi armed with hoes, brooms and the paraphernalia that such an endeavour needs. They came with a prayer on their lips and a deep love of humanity in their hearts. And they sought nothing! These were the followers of Dera Sacha Sauda, a Sirsa based socio-spiritual organization. Dividing themselves across the thirteen zones of Delhi, they worked ceaselessly to painstakingly remove garbage from places where it had been accumulating for years. The event was inaugurated at 9 am in the morning at Jantar Mantar by Guruji, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan, and attended by a hundred thousand people who sprawled across the road and in the parks. Guruji fielded questions from a variety of newspersons present and dealt with their queries adeptly, sometimes shining a new light on matters, hitherto, unrealized. Yes, I am a sympathizer and a devotee, and you are welcome to question my neutrality, but do I not have a right to be heard, in this seemingly secular, democratic setup. Am I permitted to speak the truth, or at least, my point of view?
The Orwellian nightmare unfolded as I looked for a shred of news of the powerful campaign that I had myself witnessed on the roads of Delhi, the next day. Barring a couple of Hindi dailies, there was a blackout. Not that I expected the media to sing paeans for a grassroots faith based organization, but merely hoped that the media would help , at least buttress the awareness message against unabashed littering by our emancipated citizens. Being a medico, I am aware of the huge risks of Dengue, Malaria, Swine Flu, Salmonellosis or plague running amok, any time; and very concerned, as expensive drugs are no substitute for basic prevention through cleanliness, that India lacks.
But sadly, in India, the truth did not ‘happen’; practically, none in the elitist English media reported it! So, three quarters of a million people never came to Delhi, never did anything worth reporting and remain unsung warriors of sanitation. The TV channels were absolutely silent. They did remain silent during the previous such drive in Noida, even while their surroundings were cleaned. Hundreds of journalists seeing hundreds of people, in the precincts of their empire called film city, and yet the event did not ‘happen’. But do not blame the journos, they maybe mere pawns in a much bigger game played by media masterminds and their ilk!
People tell me that the Dera is a besmeared organization. Yes, we are fighting ‘serious’ allegations of having imitated a dress, have been accused of rape in an anonymous letter whose author has not been traced in 11 years and linked to murders. In a country where the Supreme Court Judge, VK Iyer, has documented that “professional pedlars of perjury” exist; it is no big deal to arrange false witnesses. But that is a small price the Dera has had to pay for de-addicting millions and unifying India by bringing different castes and religions together.
Put aside Dera Sacha Sauda, let us just look at the dangers of media manipulation by vested masterminds. Yes, this does happen. I have been researching the issue for quite some time now, and stand by every word that I write. The evidence is all culled from the public domain and my experience. India’s major media houses make a lot of money from ‘paid’ news, states the Press Council of India. Major Indian newspapers have been on the scanner and still continue to do so with impunity. Those who want higher stakes can simply purchase equity in the media companies through their front companies, and remain assured of their ‘reputation’ remaining intact. Likewise, if you offer a good price, you can chase anyone’s reputation, hammer and tong, and rip it apart. The electronic media additionally, also works through agencies, who purchase news-time in news channels for those desirous of getting their events reported. For those who claim that their publications or channels are sacrosanct (for smaller buyers) and there is a complete division of responsibilities between marketing and editorial, the agencies pay ‘cuts’ to their corrupt staffers for micro-management – the business of making or sullying reputations! Remember RadiaGate and the big ‘deified’ Indian news mafia, which came crashing down. Poor Radia was only doing her job, because India is only a country of wheelers, dealers and fixers. The shame does not belong to any individual, but to the system that actually exists. The RadiaGators were the tip of the iceberg, but what remains beyond public gaze is unbelievably big.
What are the dangers if Indian newspapers remain obsessed with communal riots, rape, political corruption and power play? It has a mirror effect that media and society have on each other. People are affected by what they read. And if depravity is all that is served to them, depravity is all that shall result! And world over, the media freely promotes obscenity and trivializes women as mere objects; and yet pretends to be the sole custodian of their interest! In the Indian context, the media has no answers, only problems. We should at least listen to people who proffer solutions with an open mind. Let us not confuse crass commercialism with professionalism, let us not forget that society needs solutions to fix what is wrong! And media is a part of that society. And the solution could come from anywhere.
And Dera Sacha Sauda has solutions that go beyond the millennium development goals. It holds 18 Guinness World records for social work! It has a hundred simultaneous social programs addressing every conceivable problem, from the handicapped to the transgendered, but still remains unmentionable. No one asks why? At Jantar Mantar, journalists were eager to know about the impending clean up of Indian polity. Guruji suggested that an option could be added while voting, where the voter could ask for either the President's rule or even the Supreme Court rule! Even if it sounds strange, such a measure could, at least, help gauge the public perception on what people actually want. I have not heard any intellectual proffering something so innovative.
While the newspapers spoke of rape, rape and more rape, Guruji said that He had been advocating the stoppage of female feticide or sex selective abortions for the last twenty years. Such criminality and dastardly crimes were also the ill-effects of skewed sex ratios. In education, the concept of instilling the right values has been entirely forgotten. Finally, he stressed that daughters should not reared as weaklings but must be brought up to be strong. The Dera organization is implementing martial arts training for free. Men are filling pledge forms against harassing women.
The media loses its fast eroding credibility, even faster when it ignores the truth. The truth is that society is crisscrossed by a million faultlines, waiting to implode and rupture. It is time where pushed our supercilious and caparisoned perspectives into the background and tried to understand who can reverse the rot at the mass level. Otherwise, the evil that lurks around the corner may soon overtake us all. What happens in Muzaffarnagar could so easily happen elsewhere, what happens in the jungles of Chattisgarh could easily invade urban spaces. Listen to faith based organizations, with an open mind. Ignoring the truth,only imperils society, open mindedness leads to answers