RSS on DD: Sign of Times?
The Prasar Bharati Broadcasting Corporation was founded in 1997, during the then Janata Dal government, wherein both AIR and Doordarshan were separated from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, towards giving it greater autonomy. The Shunu Sen Committee and the Sam Pitroda Committee furthered these efforts. However the fact remains that to this day the Prasar Bharati is being managed by the I & B ministry through the back door.
Information and Broadcast Minister Prakash Javadekar, in his interview with Karan thapar on Headlines today, had recently said that he is ‘philosophically’ and ‘ideologically’ in favour of doing away with the I & B Ministry as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mantra of ‘less Government, more governance.’ to bring about greater autonomy to Prasar Bharati.
How is it then, that the same I & B Minister holds meetings with theDirector General (News) of Doordarshan, on a daily basis at 9.30 am , which was reported by a senior DD official?
Is it a sign of autonomy or interference, as this has never been the norm before. Not even during the time of Indira Gandhi’s government.
And if such meetings are indeed held daily, how can he say that he was not aware that DD was planning to telecast live, the speech of Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief on Vijayadashmi, the founding day of the organization. This happened to be shortly before PM Modi’s ‘Man Ki Baat’ on AIR. Modi later tweeted praising Mohan Bhagwat and his speech.
The argument given is that the speech was telecast live for its newsworthiness. Agreed, for all the newsworthiness it has, it should have been covered in a section of one of the news bulletins, in the right context and for the right duration.
In fact Javadekar has counter questioned on why it has not been done before. Why had the Congress put a blanket ban on the organization in the past, and not allowed any of its programmers being telecast. Well then it did not happen during the time of Atal Behari Vajpayee either.
The twice banned organization, RSS, it seems, is not a politico-religious organization, but caters to people from all sections, and is involved in social reform. It claims to reach and help during natural calamities and conduct various social work programmes. But it has been infamous for its role in the Gandhi assassination, Babri Masjid demolition, Godhra riots, to the more recent ‘love jihad’ doctrine. Does it bear any solidarity to the high principles of nation building it claims. Its role in the struggle for Indian independence is conspicuous by its absence, neither does it believe in the symbols of Indian nationalism, e.g, the tricolor or the national anthem
The speech itself was interesting, which was attended by many BJP leaders,like Nitin Gadkari and Devendra Fadnavis. In between the window dressing of saving the environment, consumerism, the so called RSS version of unity in diversity, inclusive development, and the call for not buying Chinese goods, there were also mentions of the jihadi activities going on in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and their threat in Bihar, Bengal and Assam, showing the real face of the organization. In between slight mentions of Gandhi and Ambedkar, there were adulations to “Guruji” Golwalkar”.
Though DD allowing the telecast may not be a threat in itself, as there are other points of views expressed on DD as and different private channels too, there is definitely a chance of brainwashing the already spongy minds of the general public, and adding fire to the growing fundamentalist, right wing mindset. Well the difference here between the private news channels and DD is that the latter is funded by the taxpayer’s money. For all the justifications that are being given, it is obvious that this telecast is plain propaganda.
The Modi government is doing what its predecessors have done in the past. Using its powers to benefit themselves as well as all the factors that helped them win elections. Is it payback time? Or is it well timed for the assembly elections to be held in the states of Haryana and Maharashtra, where the cadre has vouched to send 60000 pracharaks for volunteering in the campaign.
Congress has been no saint when it comes to misuse of the public broadcaster, for its own agenda, the epitome of which was reached during the unfortunate emergency. Besides the BJP spokespersons are also reminding the critics of how Jawaharlal Nehru invited the RSS to participate in the 1963 Republic Day parade, and how Lal Bahadur Shastri invited them to work as traffic police, as there was a shortage of personnel during invasion by Pakistan in 1965. But there is no doubt whatsoever about the divisive nature of RSS, as the statement of Mohan Bhagwat himself that “The cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva”, indicates.
The news of the plans of the program being telecast came a day in advance (when the I& B Minister was probably in deep pretend slumber), and many protested through social media but to no avail. Prominent among them being historian Ramachandra Guha and journalist Siddharth Varadarajan.
The dust seems to have settled in on this issue. Either that, or the media has implicitly avoided any more controversy, just as it did after the infamous ‘one small incident’ reference by Arun Jaitley. Narendra Modi and his newly formed government is slowly moving from its honeymoon phase to a learning phase, or rather, learning from its mistakes phase. Hopefully they won’t repeat such feats in the future by perhaps not allowing the broadcast of the speeches by VHP and Bajrang Dal, and draw a line in the right earnest. Or is it a sign of times to come.
News has been contributed by our Political author Manasi Gandhi