CENTRE for POLICY ANALYSIS

CENTRE for POLICY ANALYSIS

“Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex” - Karl Marx

ARTICLE


Coverange of Ayodhya Sparked "Convenient Collective Amnesia"


The noise was all around us. The news was buried, if at all. For days, most of India’s media were tripping over themselves to bring us the preparation. When 5 August dawned, there was no stopping them. Their excitement over the Ram temple in Ayodhya, where the Babri mosque had stood till the evening of 6 December 1992, paralleled that of the organisation which had orchestrated the deeply-divisive Ramjanmabhoomi movement. To mark the day, anchors were fitted out in saffron lest the message was lost on the masses.  

For Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose love for spectacle is legendary, this was the grandest parade of them all. From the moment he touched down at the airport, fitted out in shimmering saffron, the media torpedoed him at viewers as if he were a hero. He strode as if savouring victory on a battlefield-and battlefield it was given that thousands of lives were lost during the Ramjanmabhoomi movement and communal riots. Without betraying any sense of irony, he presided monarch-like over the event, as if he owned the movement. He later told a select audience that an allegedly "centuries-old desire" of Hindus was being fulfilled. "This day is a unique gift from the law-abiding India to truth, non-violence, faith and sacrifice," he claimed unblinkingly. Every word stood for its opposite.  

THE HINDU RASHTRA PROJECT:  

The ahistorical and dangerous parallel between India’s struggle for Independence and the Ramjanmabhoomi movement that his party's parent organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) spearheaded was deliberate. He was seeking respect for the blood-stained movement by recasting it in the framework of the pluralistic movement for India's freedom. The bhoomipujan, in his allusion, was throwing off the yoke of the secular and democratic republic-Nehruvian India, as it were-just as the freedom movement had thrown off the yoke of the British empire.  

Indians whose primary identity now is that of aggressive Hindu, who have tied their nationalism to the Hindutva agenda, who revel in making those unlike them second-class citizens found satisfaction in the 5 August event. For Modi and his political machine, it was yet another elaborate spectacle in a rather long list of them which fill up the moment, generate excitement and drama, but offer little to improve the lives of millions of Indians in a tangible way.  

Those few hours of 5 August, with relentless visuals, Modi's speech, and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's words, mark a cleaving of post-Independence India-the old one that sought to be secular and multi-cultural, the new one that does not even pretend to honour the opening words of the Constitution.  

For Modi, Bhagwat and their followers, Hindu Rashtra became a reality that day unmindful of what India's 170-180 million Muslims and millions of Hindus who frown at the temple project, should make of it. A section of the Congress party's leaders chipped in with Lord Ram's sterling qualities, abandoning India's secularism in the political sphere. Only the CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury issued a statement that pointed to constitutional issues.  

Bhagwat or Hindutva patriarch LK Advani presiding over the bhoomipujan would have meant a fitting end to the 30-year-old cynical Ram Janmabhoomi movement. As India's Prime Minister took his aasan, he fused the RSS agenda with that of the Government of India. On Friday, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath cemented it by refusing to attend any ceremony for the mosque rebuilding on grounds that he is "a Hindu". Indeed, India moved eons away from the time former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru refused to grace the Somnath temple programme in his official capacity.  

Through this, the media was unmistakably in high-decibel cheerleading mode. The morning papers, with a few honourable exceptions, poetically lauded the event-striking a witless contrast to 1992 when most had represented the Babri mosque's demolition as a "shame". Television anchors were beside themselves with unbridled joy. One channel invited Swapan Dasgupta, once an editor and now a BJP member and Rajya Sabha MP, to offer detailed "intellectual" justification for the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and the 5 August event. Another channel had an anchor exulting about Ram dhun sung in schools and invited a BJP spokesperson to sing a Ram bhajan. Figuratively, India had turned its back on the lines "Ishwar Allah Tero Naam, Sabko Sanmati De Bhagwan" in Gandhi's favourite "Raghupati Raghav Rajaram".  

WHAT NEWS DID THIS NOISE DROWN OUT?  

Plenty, it appears. One, in those uninterrupted live broadcasts, breathless panel discussions, newspaper headlines and most online clickbait-ish banners, there was stony silence or barely a whisper about the sullied site of the "grand" temple or the blood that was spilt in the communal riots that the temple movement sparked off in the early 1990s. The bhoomipujan was at the site of sacrilege and illegality, which even the Supreme Court of India acknowledged when it called the demolition a "barbaric" and "criminal act". The highly-problematic aspects of that judgement found no mention in the mainstream press. The movement and rath yatra that left a bloody trail across India found no mention either.  

Of course, there was no recall of the head priest who was found murdered months after the demolition, ostensibly for his opposition to the rath yatra and politicisation of the Ram temple, or that the men and women who helmed the demolition had yet to stand trial in the criminal case. There was convenient collective amnesia of these aspects among those who did stories about the reign of the first Mughal, Babar, which ended nearly 500 years ago. All of this and more was erased from the popular narrative.  

Two, 5 August marked the completion of one year of reading down Article 370 of the Constitution, of peremptorily bifurcating Jammu & Kashmir into two Union Territories, placing it under an unprecedented blockade and turning it into a symbol of the unmasked majoritarianism of Modi Sarkar 2.0. The saturation coverage from Ayodhya meant that Kashmir's tryst with Modi 2.0 got little space. It was, for Modi and the "Modified" media, last year's triumph. The government wanted no spotlight on the plight of people or the mess there; most media obliged.  

Three, the Galwan Valley face-off with China all but vanished from news. The breathless build-up to the bhoomipujan and live telecasts with over-the-top commentary meant that serious issues about India's territorial integrity and foreign policy hardly got news space. A document detailing the face-off was uploaded and then taken down from the Ministry of Defence website. It's safe to say, in UPA times this would have been a scandal and the media would have kept at it without respite.  

Four, Covid-19 stories too were pushed out of news space. Leading up to 5 August, India's count in the global tally was the highest ever with more than 52,000 cases-a quarter of all cases in the world that day. India now has more than 2 million cases and counting, more than 41,000 deaths and counting, in a war against the virus that Modi had declared would be finished in a few short weeks. That an elaborate religious event was organised with state resources in the middle of a pandemic did not outrage the media.  

Five, millions of migrant workers who were all over the headlines and news spaces after the Indian government and media suddenly discovered them in the last week of March barely got a mention. Their wellbeing, their work and wages, their tryst with the pandemic lay forgotten.  

Six, the economy continues to sputter without a clear direction for revival, the Rs. 20 lakh crore stimulus package yet to make any impact, pre-pandemic unemployment figures that were the worst in 45 years turning poorer with unprecedented economic contractions and lay-offs, rising fuel and food prices denting household incomes by the day. News about the economy and heated discussions about the Modi government's listless response should have dominated news space. However, the Ayodhya event was brought centre-stage with drama, spectacle and Modi.  

As the "festivities" concluded in Ayodhya, the country's financial and commercial capital was struck by a raging storm that brought record rain and flooding to South Mumbai. There was widespread damage; the signage atop the Bombay Stock Exchange was battered and tumbled. Fittingly figurative, as it were.  

The ceremony at Ayodhya was a RSS event. Modi transformed it into a Government of India spectacle without so much as a blush. The media made Modi celebrity of the day and the Ram temple almost an emblem of the country. Noise masked news all the way.  

The author is a senior journalist and columnist who writes on politics, cities, media and gender. The views are personal.    

ARTICLE

  • The Taj That is India
  • The BJP and Triple Talaq
  • Rohingya: A People Condemned!
  • GLOBALISATION IS THE NEW COLONISATION
  • 9 Key Qs Raised on First Day of Aadhaar Hearing in the Supreme Court
  • A Critical Analysis of Delhi's Human Development Index
  • 3 Army Divisions For 300 Terrorists In JK But No End to Violence: Certainly the Answer Does Not Lie in Force
  • TWO CENTURIES OF BHIMA KOREGAON
  • 'It is Not the Left But the Congress That's the B-Team of the BJP'
  • Kasganj: A Story of People's Unity Fractured by Engineered Hate and Violence
  • Invisible Children Of Delhi
  • India 81 in Corruption Index, Amongst the "Worst Offenders"
  • Economists Hit Out Against Move to Privatise Public Sectors Banks
  • Tripura Trades Decency For False Eldorado
  • Syria's Bloody War
  • Pakistan And China Fill Space In Maldives Willfully Vacated By India
  • The Big Private Crop Insurance Scam: Farmers Par Premium of Rs 482, Receive Rs 5 as Insurance!
  • US Attack on Syria Violates International Law, Total Hypocrisy
  • Death Penalty Is Not The Answer To Sexual Violence: Implement Justice Verma Committee Report
  • Walls on Every Side: Trying to Get Data in India
  • The Ascent of Multi-Politics In Malaysia
  • Why the Objections to Marxism are Mistaken
  • The Rise and Fall of the Malaysian Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim
  • BDS Has Placed Israel on Notice
  • CURTAIN RAISER: ELECTIONS IN PAKISTAN
  • Can We Promote Peace in India, Today?
  • Burying The Two-State Solution
  • Corruption And Class Rule
  • Is Ethnic Cleansing Coming to India
  • Our Real Heroes
  • Confronting Journalism's Misogynistic Trolls
  • ASSESSING THE RETURN OF AN UNLIMITED PRESIDENCY
  • After 17 Years of War, A Peace Movement Grows in Afghanistan
  • Taking Play Seriously: Time to Make Sports A Fundamental Right!
  • Law Commission Publishes Consultation Paper on Sedition
  • Foreign Policy: Between Folly and Foibles
  • Suu Kyi's Continued Denial And Bangladesh's
  • Economy Crumbles as Fuel Prices Skyrocket, Household Budgets Hit
  • Rupee's New Low: A Dangerous Drift
  • Are We Still Ruled by The British?
  • From Anti-National to Urban Naxal: The Trajectory of Dissent in India
  • Learning the Power of Lies: Facts vs. Falsehoods in the Age of Trump
  • The Indian Economy is in a Tailspin
  • China Walks a Tightrope on The Uighur Muslim Issue
  • Is Ram Mandir a Mere Election Strategy of the BJP?
  • The Harsher Counters of India's Drug Legislations
  • BJP's Election Strategy: Data is the New Opium
  • Geographical Indication - India's Untapped Resource
  • Climate Change to Make Prediction of Furious Storms More Difficult
  • Mountain echoes for India
  • Maldives: Has the Wheel Turned Full Circle?
  • President Sirisena Needs to be Reached Sooner Rather Than Later
  • Plastic Pollution in India
  • Prejudice by Any Name
  • 29 Years After Fall of Berlin Wall, Europe Has 1,000 Km of Walls to Stop Migrants
  • The Leftover Women of Afghanistan
  • Harmony of Music and Politics of Silencing
  • The Economics of Policy: Prohibition and Free Water Supply
  • Threat to Democracy in the Age of Social or Anti-Social Media
  • Intellectual Property- A Vital Discipline
  • What Happened in Britain, and What's Next
  • Assembly Debacle: BJP Got Taken in by Its Own Fake News
  • India: Secular Democracy or Hindu Rashtra
  • Adani is Byword for Government's Climate Inaction as Australia Gears for Elections
  • How The Modi Government is Killing Off MGNREGS
  • The Year of the Gazan
  • Assembly Polls: Ten Crucial Takeaways Ahead of 2019
  • The Real Effects of Fake Propaganda on Migrants
  • Why NGOs in Pakistan Are at The Brink of Extinction
  • Dogged by Brexit
  • In My Own Voice: Citizenship Amendment Bill And You
  • Oil Giant Shell Finally Faces Its Day In Court For Complicity In Rapes And Murders in Nigeria
  • The Geopolitics of Pulwama
  • Shah Faesal Cuts Through Calls for Blood and Lays Out a Roadmap for Kashmir
  • Modi's ABC: Avoiding, Burying, Confusing
  • The Kashmir Question: A 'Made in India' Problem
  • Opposition Must Take a Stand Against the War Politics of Hindutva
  • 'Patriotism' Made Easy in Times of 'WhatsApp Elections'
  • Urban Poor Have Set Agenda for 2019 Elections
  • Will the US End Up Putting Sanctions on Every Country That Doesn't Bend to its Will?
  • Minority and Indigenous Women Human Rights Activists More Prone to Harassment UN Report
  • Tribute to Speaker Rabi Ray (1926-2017)
  • International Participation is Necessary Where State is Part of The Problem
  • Italy Takes Belt and Road to The Heart of Europe
  • The Legacy of Shaheed-e-Azam
  • In My Own Voice: Heroes or Hiroshima
  • The Modi Years
  • Election in Israel: A Race to the Bottom
  • Why Bangladesh Overtook Pakistan
  • Digital Monopoly Platforms, Modi Regime and Threat to Our Democracy
  • Elitism and Development
  • Jawaharlal Nehru and Organised Religion
  • A Brief History of the IUML and Kerla's Muslims
  • The Immunisation of Human Rights
  • How Can India Win The Struggle on Poverty?
  • The RSS's Chanakya Neeti
  • Diversity, Belonging and Multiculturalism
  • The Chinese Ambition
  • The Role City Govts Can Play in the Health of Citizens
  • Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew: Forgotten Warrior of Our Freedom Movement
  • Fighting Climate Change, Building Resilience
  • Mridula Sarabhai(the orignal anti-national)
  • Right to Education: A Dream Half Forgotten
  • Decoding One Nation One Poll
  • Tunisia Heads for Polls Amidst Economic Slowdown, Squsbbling and Crack Down on Islamic Extremist
  • Lynchings, Litchis and No Water: What the International Media is Saying Abount India
  • Blood in the Nile
  • Will the BNP Ever Again be a Major Political Force in Bangladesh?
  • 'Real Estate Brokers' Cannot Dampen The Palestinian Spirit
  • The Indian Liberal's Conundrum
  • Hope For Democracy in Sudan
  • In Depth: Water Crisis Looming Across Tamil Nadu
  • Missing Secularism in New Education Policy
  • Religion, Nationalism And Insurgency in Balochistan
  • Dim Lights, Closed Blinds: History Lessons From a Party in Power
  • Loan Waivers Need Better Designing to Prevent Farmer Suicides
  • Makimg Best Use of Sri Lanka's Strategic Location
  • FDI in Coal: Look Who's Coming to the Party
  • Weapons and the Never Ending Space Race
  • Thirty Years the Berlin Wall Brought Down
  • Reclaiming the Opposition and Political Space in India
  • An Interreligious Conference to Build Bridges in Sri Lanka
  • On 'Correcting' History and Akbar's Invasion of Kashmir
  • The Evolution of the 'Nobel Prize' in Economics
  • Close Coordination Between Turkey and Russia in Syria
  • Sri Lanka's Election Time Promises Costly to Keep
  • The India Economy and The Cobra Effect
  • Fascism: Is Liberal Use "Trivialising" This "Destructive Phenomenon?"
  • Treating the Poor as Development Guinea Pigs
  • A Not sp 'National Education Policy: Analysis Reveals Exclusion in Education Sector
  • University Fee Hikes Pave the Way for Selling Public Assets
  • The Truth About Middle Class 'Revolutions?
  • 50 Years of US Arms Trade: The Lasting Impact on West Asia
  • India Abjures Secularism in Bangladesh's View, Will Regional Cooperation Take a Hit?
  • Amidist Resistance to "De-Tribalisation", A Look at Why Jharkhand Polls are More Critical Than They Appear
  • The Dangerous Game of Citizenship: BJP Creates Divisive Agenda Through NRC
  • Revealed: US Losing Aghan War Due to "Fatally Flawed" War Strategies and Lack of Clear Objetives
  • 'Politics and Prejudice': Can Dalit-Bahujans and left Progressives Join Hands?
  • State Power's Attempts at Rewriting History
  • Afghanista's Tumultous Fourty-Year Journey
  • Nepal: Citizen's Needs Remain Sidelined as Turbulent Game of Politics Continues
  • "Enough is Enough": Secular India Revolts Against a " Majoritarian State"
  • Looking at Cuba's Revolution 61 Years On
  • Soleimani Murder Set to Spiral Out of Control, US Expected to Pressure India Under LEMOA
  • The Rise of Digital Media and The Viral Phenomenon of "Nowledge"
  • Thus Spake JP: Beware the Writing on the Wall
  • Sri Lankan Government Must Pay Attention to Problem-Solving in the North
  • Drowning Nation Clutches at Military Might?
  • India's Neighbourhood First Policy Crumbles
  • A Gobal Assault by the Far-Right
  • Delhi Riots: Historical Patterns, Complicity of Forces Point to Planned Violence
  • Behind The Protests Defending Public Education
  • Putting The Judiciary on Trial
  • "Sanctions Are a Crime": During Coronavirus Pandemic, Sanctions Against Iran, Venezuela Causing Medical Shortages
  • Social Messiahs or Smart Entrepreneurs?
  • Justice Gogoi Joining Rajya Sabha Points to a Constitutional Crisis
  • A Russian "Plays Long Game" Firewall for Venezuela Against US Sanctions
  • RSS and the Question of Morality
  • Establishing COVID-19 Hospitals in Record Time
  • A New "Medical Internationalism" Needed: Cuba At the Pandemic Frontlines Even As Wealthy States Neglect Healthcare
  • Why They Suffer: The Human/Animal Conflict
  • More Books and Snowy Mornings
  • Statesmanship Required to Avert Constitutinal Crisis in Sri Lanka
  • Combating 'Hate Virus': Communal Forces Divide in times of Global Pandemin
  • How Biometric Authentication Has Excluded MAny From The Public Distribution System
  • Lessons From Iraq: Before Trump Sues China, US Must pay for Unjust War on Iraq
  • The American War System And The Global 'War of Error'
  • Demilitarising Patriotism in The Covid Fight
  • Muslims Need a Fair Media
  • Sri-Lanka: Shock of Covid-19 Wanes, Nationalist Sentiments Rise as Elections Approach
  • Covid-19 in Brazil: A 21st Century 'Reenactment' of the 19th Century Yellow Fever?
  • Iran's Fuel Tankers for Venezuela Sail to Safety Under 'Chinese Shield'
  • US Protests Bear Lessons For Sri Lanka
  • India and Nepal in For A Prolonged Standoff?
  • The Fifth Schedule: Tribal Advisory Councils and International Perspectives
  • The Asian American Response to Pandemic-Era Racism Must Be Cross-Racial Solidarity
  • Is Police Brutality Exclusive to the USA?
  • Libya's Future Seema to Rest on Arrangements Between Russia And Turkey
  • China's strategic Mind And Method: "Long-Term Planning" Behind Country's Geo-Political Moves
  • Returning Migrants: A Boon For Rural Industrialisation?
  • Why Refugees in Greece Are Afraid of the Word 'Camp'''
  • Black Lives Matter Movement And Its Lessons For India
  • US Provocations Trigger Tension in Sino-American Relations
  • Inclusive Representation Required In Sri Lanka's Decision-Making Bodies
  • Humanists At Risk: Demonising Dissent, Infantilising Society
  • Putin Anticipates 'Cascading Tension', Hints At Need To Rest World Order
  • Why the Neoliberal Agenda Is a Failure at Failure at Fighting Coronavirus
  • Covid-19 Underscores Importance of Local Planning
  • BRI Drive Post-Covid-19 Global Economic Recovery', Claims China
  • Are We Mainstreaming or Simply Trivialising Biodiversity?
  • Is Iran's Influence in Iraq Waning?
  • Green Economic Recovery: A Firm Commitment Required
  • Ease Of Doing Business VS Human Development
  • Provincial Councils The Best Option For A Peaceful Sri Lanka?
  • Revisiting the GDP Paradox
  • Coverange of Ayodhya Sparked "Convenient Collective Amnesia"
  • Prashant Bhushan And The Case of Contempt: "An Example of How Not to Write A Judgment"
  • Strengthening the Capacity of Gram Sabhas
  • Far Right Authoritarian Leaders Have Intensified The Pandemic in Their Countries
  • Congress And The Hindutva Campaign: "The Middle Path is Fast-Disappearing"
  • Trump Faces Backlash at Attempts to Suppress Mail-In Voting
  • Meeting the Covid Challenge to Define Our Nationhood
  • Capitalism's Political Problem: In Constant Conflict With Democracy
  • Anti-CAA Movement: How The 'OutSider' Discourse Dismisses Dissent
  • Centre Shirks Responsibility, "Abandons States" For Political Gain
  • Healing the Health System
  • Emerging Challenges for the International Labour Organisation
  • After Ayodhya, Kashi-Mathura On Temple Politics Agenda?
  • Unlike Today's Farm Bills, Even Britishers' Champaran Agrarian Bill Underwent Legislative Scrutiny
  • Science in Industry and the Academy
  • The US Supreme Court Has Never Been Liberal
  • Coronavirus Pandemic and Recessions: Disastrous for 'White Collar' Jobs
  • What Does Justice Mean Today?
  • Bihar's Political Ennui Can Only be Overcome by the Left
  • Gender Budget: Kerala Leads the Way, The Centre Should Follow
  • The Fight for Right to Information
  • Will Swing Voters Make Bihar Elections a Closer Contest Than Anticipated?
  • AMY Coney Barrett Sworn in as us Supreme Court Judge: Major Victory For the Right Wing
  • Thailand Protests - Youth Demand Greater Democratic Freedom
  • Unemployment a Key Issue in Bihar Elections
  • Capitalists Hungry For Land in Developing Countries Are a Threat to Indigenous Communities
  • Signals From Bihar: BJP and Left 'Sure Winners', Congress 'Neither Here Nor There'
  • Trump Lost But May Continue to Wield His Weapons of Destructions
  • Healing Divisions Post Election is The Challenge
  • 8 'Fruitless' Talks Later: XI Refuses to Budge, Modi in 'No Mood to Ruffle Feathers'
  • A Biden Presidency Hails The Return of The 'Ancien Regime'
  • Locating Nehru's Place In History
  • Why The BJP Has Shifted Focus From 'Congress Mukt Bharat' To Regional Parties
  • As People's Distress Grows, BJP Government is Busy Else where
  • The West Asia Trump Leaves Behind
  • Ambedkar's Vision Stands In Agonising Contrast to the Babri Masjid Demolition
  • Diversity in Nation Building: Recognising the Role of The Minority
  • Farmers Turn the Spotlights on Big Business
  • America's Vaccine Paranoia
  • Afghanistan: Despite US-Taliban Agreements, Peace Remains Elusive
  • ‘MOVE UP OR MOVE OUT’: THE ENTRY OF CORPORATES WILL RENDER THE SMALL FARMERS DEFENSELESS
  • DESPITE DIFFERENCES, AGRICULTURAL WORKERS RESIST NEW LAWS WITH FARMERS
  • JUDGES’ LAPSES
  • ONLINE VIOLENCE GROWS AGAINST WOMEN JOURNALISTS
  • THE YEAR THAT WAS: PEOPLE’S RESISTANCE BUILDS AGAINST HOSTILE GOVERNMENT
  • Kisan Protests Are More About Survival of the Peasantry
  • CENTRAL VISTA PROJECT: “CIRCUS AND THEATRE” IN LIEU OF “BREAD AND JOBS”?
  • FARM LAWS WILL LEAD TO RISE OF NEW ‘MIDDLEMAN’ - THE CEOS OF THE OLIGARCHY
  • REPUBLICANS MUST GET IN LINE, THEY CREATED THIS MONSTER
  • Kamalji - Goodbye My Friend!
  • Condolence Message for Mr Kamal Morarka
  • Global dynamics in 2021
  • Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan: Muslims for Composite Indian Nationalism
  •