The Roti Fiasco: How the media communalised a non-issue – Ashok Chowgule

 Maharashtra Sadan at K.G. Marg in New Delhi

Ashok Chowgule“One of the Shiv Sena MPs took a rubbery chapatti and took it near the mouth of a member of the staff, asking him whether he could eat the rubbish that was being served.  The Marathi journalists who had covered the incident live gave no indication that the action of the MP was of a communal nature, and in fact he stopped his action within one minute when the staff said that he was fasting.  However, the English media, when they covered the event some days later, projected that the staff was singled out because he was a Muslim.” –  Ashok Chowgule

The Indian ExpressOn July 23, 2014, the front page of The Indian Express carried an article that claimed that a Shiv Sena MP force-fed a Muslim employee of the caterer of Maharashtra Sadan even as he was observing fast on account of Ramazan.  Given the practice of secularism in India, this report created a furore in the media that wears the badge of secularism supposedly proudly on its sleeve. 

And then there was a competition amongst the secularists to determine who would outdo the other in being more vicious.  And columnists had a field day in being provided what they thought was an easy target.  The event apparently had the necessary ingredients – a bugbear as a political party, and a Muslim as a victim.  The secularists truly salivated. 

However, two days later, The Hoot, a web-based news publication, came out with data that would indicate that the facts were very different than what the secularists imagined.  It is not that The Hoot sent out a reporter out in the field.  It just that the author of the article read the relevant newspapers of the days following the date of when the event actually happened, and talked to the concerned reporters. 

The main revelation in The Hoot report was that the event happened on July 17, that is SIX days before The Indian Express carried the story.  The concerned reporters realised that it was a small incident, and so carried the story in an inside pages, and given the small space that the incident deserved. 

The Hoot report is available here.

And from this report, we can gleam facts which the secular English media does not wish to provide to its readers.  Even since the Sadan was opened for occupancy in June 2013 (a year before the incident The Hoothappened), those using the facilities were complaining about the service.  At the time it was the MPs from the secular dispensation that were in majority – namely the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party.  The complaints were nearly in all aspects of the facilities, and not just the catering service. 

After the May 16 elections, the level of complaints reached a different scaled.  The Congress and the NCP were disseminated in the elections, and the number of seats that they won reduced from 17 and 8 to 2 and 4, respectively.  The Shiv Sena and the BJP increased their seats  from 10 to 18 and 9 to 22. 

There were thus many first-time MPs, who are yet to be provided the standard family accommodation that they are eligible for.  The earlier occupants have been taking their own time to vacate, and so these MPs were housed in the Sadan in single rooms.  Obviously they had to rely on the management of the Sadan to provide for cleaning services and also the food. 

One of the feature of the Sadans built by the various states is that the food happens to be a cuisine from the state. It was like promoting the cuisine in the country’s capital, and the restaurants in the Sadans are visited by the people living in Delhi.  This was not the case in the Maharashtra Sadan. 

The management of the Sadan would not provide for any special requests of those staying at the Sadan – like special food for those observing fasts on a religious day. 

For nearly a month, the MPs were making attempts to cajole the management to make improvements.  These fell on deaf ears.  They asked for a meeting with the resident manager, which was fixed for 9am on July 17.  The manager decided not to be present.  After waiting for some time, the MPs left the Sadan to go to the Lok Sabha, since the session was on. When they returned for lunch at 12:30pm, the manager was nowhere to be seen. 

Shiv Sena MP Rajan Vichare The frustration lead to anger, and some of the MPs went into the kitchen to protest with the staff that was present.  One of the Shiv Sena MPs took a rubbery chapatti and took it near the mouth of a member of the staff, asking him whether he could eat the rubbish that was being served.  The Marathi journalists who had covered the incident live gave no indication that the action of the MP was of a communal nature, and in fact he stopped his action within one minute when the staff said that he was fasting.  However, the English media, when they covered the event some days later, projected that the staff was singled out because he was a Muslim. 

Between the time the incident happened to the time when it was reported in The Indian Express, the management of the Sadan made no effort to rectify the situation. In fact the caterer decided to play a victim and discontinued the service at the Sadan.  Instead of reporting this high-handedness, the editors at The Indian Express decided to make it into a communal issue.  And the other publications and the electronic media also decided to be even more vicious. 

Even after The Hoot report, the media went on its communalisation spree.  

Then there is the incident relating to the remarks by the Telengana state BJP president in context of the appointment of Saina Mirza as the brand ambassador for the newly formed state.  His full statement on the subject was: “We respect and feel proud of what Sania Mirza has achieved as a sports person who Sania Mirzabrought laurels to the country. But you have made a person born in Maharashtra, brought up in Hyderabad and is a daughter in law of Pakistan – as a brand ambassador of Hyderabad. Especially in the context of your recent rule that only people who have their ancestor origins in Telangana before 1956 are eligible for education scholarships, aren’t these double standards?” 

He was speaking about the double standards, but the secular media chose to highlight a few words.  And just as in the case of the Maharashtra Sadan, the objective was the same – to communalise an issue where there is not even a trace of communalism.  The objective is not to sympathise with Sainaji but to try and put the BJP on the defensive.  This strategy does not succeed anymore because of the army of Internet Hindus. 

(For more on the case of Sainaji, please go here.)

Now that the blatant double-standards have been exposed, will the media apologise for what they have done.  Personally, I do not expect it to happen.  You do not apologies to the Hindus in general.  And apologising to the Shiv Sena and the BJP?  God forbid. – Hindu Vivek Kendra, 30 July 2014

» Ashok Chowgule is the Working President (External) of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

 

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