Watching NDTV is a bit of an old habit. Even at a time when I have gone off TV news to preserve my own sanity, I occasionally tune into the shows hosted by Nidhi Razdan, Sreenivasan Jain and Ravish Kumar. I condemn the assault on NDTV. But is this the first? There has been a systematic agenda to use pliant complainants and plant cases on those who oppose the government. Starting with Activists , then NGO’s and politicians of opposition parties, the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate have been very busy in investigating cases against opponents of the present regime. There is a pattern here – before every State election, a senior political leader from the State is prosecuted. See Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Bihar, Bengal, to name a few. But ask the CBI why there is no progress in the investigation of the mother of all scams – Vyapam? So many deaths, corruption on a scale that we have never seen before, the stink reaching the head of government in the state. And still no charge sheet filed! Clean chits are apparently given to a select few in our country.
In the National Herald case (where again no public interest or state entity is involved ) Subramanian Swamy has been losing most of his legal pleas. So far. On one such occasion, the court passed a 10 page order, rejecting his prayer for conducting, what was essentially a fishing and roving enquiry and warning him not to waste the court’s time. A senior NDTV reporter (I won’t name her) was present when the court order was passed. She looked disappointed and when asked, she said there is “no masala ” in the order and that if Swamy had won, she would have reported it. In the same case, when one of the companies challenged the reopening of income tax assessment orders after a decade, the Delhi High Court, asked the petitioner to raise all the pleas taken in the petition before the income tax authority and directed the tax authorities to consider the same in accordance with law. Every news channel and news paper distorted the order by saying that the court had ordered tax investigations against the Gandhis. Where did news organisations get this from? From an unsigned press note handed over by the government’s law officer, that deliberately distorted the court order. Even when the court order was brought to the notice of several news organisations, no clarifications were issued. Go after the Congress party by all means and you must, because there is SO much to go after. But do not lose your credentials as an independent reporter. Today when NDTV defends itself (and rightly so) by saying “we repaid the loan taken from ICICI “, there are sceptics who are waiting to see if there is something more. Because that is the treatment the media gives to everyone else. After all, so many reputations have been tarnished on unsubstantiated allegations.
I stand with NDTV but that is not enough. To defend constitutional values and freedoms, we have to stand together and lend support to poor adivasis in Chattisgarh, to journalists who report from far flung corners of India without the support of a parent organisation and for whom the Editor’s guild will issue no statement, to lawyers hounded out of Bastar for whom the Bar Council of India will issue no statement, to Kashmiris whom we vilify on a daily basis, to Ex servicemen who were part of the OROP movement but today have several frivolous cases registered against them, to Dalits and Muslims who face everyone’s wrath for being Dalits and Muslims, to students who are being prosecuted because they do what students do all over the world – question and debate and challenge and dissent, to farmers who commit suicide because they are poor and are getting poorer and are now being shot dead, to our right to ask difficult questions and our right to hold people and institutions accountable, to our right to make our own choices – because that is the essence of any democracy. Otherwise raids and arrests will become a daily way of life and Article 21 will be rendered redundant .