(This is a reprint from NewsBred.)
Two gone, three to go. In this election season, I was waiting for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's interviews to Ananda Bazar Patrika, Indian Express, The Hindu, NDTV and India Today (Rajdeep Sardesai). The first two in the list are through. The other three might actually avoid one-to-ones. If they missed the underlying theme in the ABP interview, the one against Indian Express would've absolutely hit them in the face. Singham (The Lion) is in town and the rats better stay in their holes.
The media outlets mentioned here have anti-Modism, some call it anti-Hinduism, in their genes. Some dub it Left-Liberal-Sickular cabal and some others see foreign hands as their remote control. All of this shouldn't concern us here: insinuations are conjectures and instances are the real deal. The "real deal" is what Prime Minister Narendra Modi served up to Indian Express in their own backyard. Hostages in own home would be an apt analogy.
Modi's words must be hot oil in the ears of Indian Express loyalists. I don't know whether they cried for help since neither of the two Indian Express interviewers (Ravish Kumar and Raj Kamal Jha) could challenge Modi's verbal onslaughts. Let me list out the excerpts of the interview for readers:
The Alwar Rape: Your paper has always been at the forefront of raising issues relating to crime against the backward community. (But when) A Dalit girl is raped in Alwar, it doesn't become a headline in The Indian Express till May 6 (when polls are concluded in Rajasthan). It will raise questions on the neutrality of the Indian Express. It was not there until May 6 because there was polling till then. Can you listen to it? Whether you like it or not? You can also all the questions to me but if I make a counter-question, we are called offensive (and you champion of freedom of speech).
Hate speech: Someone shares one's experience of custodial torture (or just saying 'I am not a terrorist') it's considered hate speech. But when someone calls Hindu terrorists, it's not a hate speech. When a terrorist receives death from the Supreme Court of India, there was a headline (in your newspaper) "And they hanged him." But that was free speech, wasn't it. Yeh jo do taraju hai na, mera neutrality se jhagda is baat ka hai (my quarrel is with the different scales of neutrality).
Democracy in peril: Like you must ask some questions to us (government) for the sake of democracy, similar probing questions should be asked to others also for democracy, isn't it? This is my quarrel. It was a remote-controlled government for 10 years. How many in press conferences did you ask from those holding the remote control? An illegal institution was created that could overrule the PM. Did you ask them about democracy (being in danger)? Questions like what you are asking me? "A cabinet decision was torn (by Rahul Gandhi in public." Loktantra aap mujhe sikhaoge kya? Kabhi poochha kya (You will teach me democracy? Did you ever ask them?)
Freedom of Speech: Chor has been a democratic word for the last one year but corrupt is a derogatory word for you. What is the dictionary of yours? Ek aadmi ki chhavi chor-chor-chor-chor chal raha hai, appko us par kuchh nahin hai (A man's image is spoilt by the constant chore of thief, thief, thief--that is Modi himself). Your paper is at the forefront of protecting freedom of speech. But when people are booked by police in MP for chanting "Modi, Modi", it missed your front page. You are free to highlight Rahul Gandhi, if you want to help him. It's your call.
Journalism of Courage: Did the Indian Express, which does investigative journalism, write that 100 percent electrification has been achieved after governor's rule (in J & K). Isn't it news? Not a single incident of violence during elections in Jammu and Kashmir (not a news)? More than 100 killed in violence during the panchayat elections in West Bengal (not a news)? Meri deshbhakti Jammu and Kashmir mein dikhti nahin aapko kya (can't you see my patriotism in Jammu and Kashmir)? Bundles of notes have begun resurfacing (in the states Congress has come back to power). This may not have been corruption for Express, which does investigative journalism. The (missing) money meant for feeding the poor kids in Bhopal. Farm-loan waiver, unemployment allowance for unemployed youth (the promises for which are still pending).
Now you cannot frighten us with the veil of media. Earlier when I used to pick up the Indian Express it wouldn't matter to me whether a report is by Ravish or Rahul or someone else... but with the advent of social media, I can look at 50 tweets of Ravish and make an impression. Aaj aap benaqab ho gaye hain, sabhi patrakar (Today the masks are off all journalists ). Isliye aaj aapki pratishtha jo daaon pe lagi hai, iske kaaran lagi hai (That's why if your reputation is on the line, it's because of that).
But you have made an image of me as someone who will censor. If someone is casteist, you have no problem.
And the final nail in the coffin to the question:
Q: What was not possible for your government even with 282 (seats)
A: Getting the Indian Express to be objective in criticism of Modi.
Game, Set, Match over.