“Manhandling of a political activist is national news for days together. Hacking to death of an RSS worker hardly finds a place in the media. Why? Is it because the victim of beating in Delhi belonged to the CPI and the one in Kerala to the RSS? The CPI worker was suspected of shouting slogans seeking ‘Bharat Ki Barbadi’ and the RSS man hacked to pieces was guilty of saying ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai.’” – Balbir Punj
In the last four days, the media went overboard pressing all the juice out of the incidents in JNU and Hyderabad universities. It seemed that the media itself was involved and partisan between the contending forces in the controversies that have wrecked these institutions in particular and the student communities in general. Look at the media coverage of violence happening on the two sides of the political divide. For instance, in the JNU incidents, we saw media going to great lengths about attacks on Leftist students by the security forces and in the clashes between the two sides among the students.
The reports in the media on the events that happened in the Patiala House courts were extensive, with most publications putting on the front page a BJP MLA beating up a Communist activist. But the highlighted portion was the lawyer who claimed that he was a BJP worker beating up some journalists. There can be no two opinions that journalists covering any event need to be looked at as neutral observers reporting to the people what was happening. Even if some people feel that media persons were partisan in their reports, that is no excuse for them to beat up the Press. The persons dressed as lawyers beating up the media people wholesale is condemnable and need to be acted upon by the police that should have actively intervened to protect the journos.
Well, by that same token, the media also must play by fairness in its reporting. The reports and display should conform to a value system that puts fairness beyond political predilections. Violence is one thing that the media can highlight without preferences as it undermines the very basis of settling differences through discussions and compromises.
But the role of the media, while covering recent incidents of violence on the part of political activists, has been so unfair, that it can be termed only as disgusting. On Tuesday last, TV channel screens and front pages of most of the ‘national dailies’ were full of details and visuals of a BJP MLA beating up a left activist. There was all round uproar and statements galore condemning the incident. A day earlier, 27-year-old Sujith was hacked to death in front of his parents by about 10 men, alleged to be CPM workers. The gang did not spare even the aged parents of Sujith.
His father Janardhanan and mother Sulochana, both daily wage workers, suffered injuries when they tried to save their son. His elder brother was also injured in the attack. The brutality of the recent attack on Sujith reminds one of the daylight murder of BJP State Yuva Morcha Vice-President K. T. Jayakrishnan, a primary school teacher. He was hacked to death, in front of his students at Panur, near Thalassery on December 1, 1999.
Now see the contrast. Manhandling of a political activist is national news for days together. Hacking to death of an RSS worker hardly finds a place in the media. Why? Is it because the victim of beating in Delhi belonged to the CPI and the one in Kerala to the RSS? The CPI worker was suspected of shouting slogans seeking ‘Bharat Ki Barbadi’ and the RSS man hacked to pieces was guilty of saying ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.
The killing of a large number of RSS workers and even of Communist leaders opposed to the Marxist party line has been a day-to-day affair in both Kerala and West Bengal for a long time. In several cases, RSS workers have been attacked in their house or even in public places or in school classes in front of students. The rioting in Marad some years ago was a combined operation of both Marxists and Islamists. But the media seemingly does not highlight it. There is clear evidence of a media under leftist influence in the reporting of major violent political events.
It isn’t a mere coincidence that wherever Marxists are using high-handed means in political action, violence is seen as inevitable. In West Bengal when they were ruling continuously for 35 years, the Marxist cadres used widespread violence to threaten not only political opponents but also common people who refused to toe their line or refused to accept diktats of the Marxist district leaders. The runaway success of the Trinamool Congress in 2011 was the result of public reaction to the Marxist violence. In Kerala, particularly in North Malabar region, the Marxists used to rule the roost for decades till the RSS alone dared to challenge their hegemony. History here and across the whole century of Marxist political action is witness to the ‘justification’ of the self-appointed followers of Marx, Lenin and Mao who advocate use of violence as a weapon in their political belt. They now claim to be constitutionalists and believers in parliamentary democracy.
However, those who have to engage with them have had to suffer violence at every step. The pro-Chinese faction among them who are running a parallel state apparatus in eastern India are not the only users of firearms, sabotage and terror in their quest. The other Marxists, despite their public statements of faith in Parliamentary democracy, have left no opportunity to use violence for political purposes. The public revulsion against such violence was largely responsible for their ouster from power in two out of the three states they were in power. This makes them increasingly irrelevant to the national agenda of growth and economic and political justice.
As a result, the Left is increasingly leaning towards Islamist ideology with its own cadre of violence perpetrators and loyalty to Islamist movements elsewhere. This alliance between two forces resorting to violent overthrow of the government and the Indian state, is seemingly behind the scale of reaction to the recent events in JNU and Hyderabad university.
The Jadavpur university demonstrations by leftist students supporting JNU groups that have raised pro-Afzal Guru slogans is strong evidence of Marxist cadres seeking to gain sympathy from Islamist cadres in several states like West Bengal, Kerala and Andhra, the very states where Islamist groups are seeking new recruiters. The Marxist leaders who have come out in favour of the JNU student activists are refusing to condemn the clear pro-Afzal and anti-Indian slogans raised by the student mobs repeatedly. Now, the Jadavpur university-based mobs are also joining them with such sloganeering.
The events of recent days, which the Left took over and turned to its advantage, have praised terrorist Afzal Guru as a martyr and demanded that the Kashmir issue be raised in the proposed India-Pakistan parleys. The emergence of the Marxist-Islamist alliance is a central fact of current perspectives. The bulk of the media, particularly English one, purposely underplays the dangers posed by this alliance. – The New Indian Express, 20 February 2016
» Balbir Punj is a political commentator and Rajya Sabha member. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org