Inside Modi’s India

Mentioning Modi’s name in ‘negative news’ is a crime in India. A senior journalist Abhishar Sharma of ABP News was ‘suspended for 15 days for this ‘crime’ and yanked off the air in the middle of his telecast. Journalists are expected to stick to the teleprompter. Who in his right mind is going to tell the world what is going on in Indian Occupied Kashmir where a bloody freedom struggle is raging. All the Kashmiris want is freedom from India and that is being denied to them in spite of a UN Resolution that gives them the right to a referendum.

Telecasts are mysteriously disrupted. Advertisements dry up. Hate lists are drawn up of journalists who are to be attacked for airing news and views even remotely critical of Modi and his ministers. Modi may be the first Prime Minister in India’s history never to have addressed a press conference. Obviously he does not want to answer questions. A strong government team monitors content advises how and what news is to be aired and identifies those who need to be ’taught a lesson”. All this in a country that calls itself the world’s largest democracy.

Modi’s government is a government that calls the press ‘presstitutes’ and secular for them is ’sickular’. The media in India under Modi is being blatantly muzzled through all kinds of threats—this is the view within India. Secularism is part of the Indian constitution.

Modi’s interviews are all carefully orchestrated events. The interviewers are tail wagging drooling Modi fans. Mob lynching of Muslims, growing intolerance, three missing millionaires, dubious deals, the demonetization disaster and events like the Gujarat massacre are never mentioned by the starry eyed listeners. A question about the atrocities being committed in Kashmir would cause an explosion even though this issue is the 800-pound gorilla in every Indian room and directly or indirectly behind most of the violence in India because of the hate and rage filled youth it is creating.

This is not to say that Modi does not want publicity. He does—and badly. But the publicity he wants is his own projection with a complete blackout of all negative news. His supporters the radical Hinutva brigades enforce whatever Modi wants so that he in turn does what they want—an unholy alliance if ever there was on. The murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh is a grim reminder of what can happen to anyone not toeing the line. This is how Modi wants to be seen as a strong leader in total control. Never mind the means to this end.

Unfortunately, the Indian media is not the only media reporting on what is happening inside Modi’s India. The UN came out with a strong report on the human rights violations in Kashmir. The Indian Army is being seen as a brutalized force committing the worst possible atrocities on Kashmiris. It is not just subservient to the political leaders it is nauseatingly obsequious and the games it is playing on the LOC and through Afghanistan are obvious to all. Its ageing Commander in Chief periodically hurls threats, talks of mythical ‘surgical strikes’ and ignores what his men are doing as well as the insider attacks and suicides that plague the force under his command. The emphasis is on celebrating anniversaries of victories that never were and events that can be conveniently blamed on a neighbor. The 26/11 event anniversary coming does not warrant celebration or observance—it warrants deep introspection of the policies being pursued—policies that leave others with no options.

There are, however, rational voices within India asking for sanity to prevail. They want an end to media persecution. They want a review of policies especially the Kashmir policy and the policy on future relations with Pakistan. How long before these voices are silenced?