It’s time to outrage

Filing an FIR against a journalist is intimidation, pure and simple

WrittenBy:Madhu Trehan
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Outrage. Yes, it’s time to outrage.

Journalist Neha Dixit is facing a First Information Report (FIR) on the basis of a complaint by Bijon Mahajan (BJP spokesperson and Gauhati High Court advocate), Mominul Awwal (BJP Minority Cell) and Subhash Chandra Kayal (Assistant Solicitor General). Dixit’s scathing story on how 31 girls were taken by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha’s pracharaks is replete with documentation, interviews and photographs.

Simple. Steal the children and indoctrinate them. Why are unwelcome Islamic and Christian practices setting the agenda for Hindutva? Hinduism has survived precisely because there is nothing in the Hindu religion that asks its followers to convince and convert people from other religions. After reading apologists’ defence of the abduction of the children, there are only two questions to be asked.

  1. Why are the children not allowed any contact with their parents?
  2. Why could all this “education” not have been conducted while they continued to live in their homes with their parents?

If I have one criticism of Neha’s article, it is the use of the word “trafficking”. The word is generally used for prostitution or forced labour. This is for indoctrination. Slight difference.

History is inundated with authorities the world over abducting children for this purpose. Nazi Germany did it.

Norway is notorious for taking away children from immigrant parents for not following their laws on parenting. Spanking is illegal.

Since 1905 till 1970, Australian officials could take away mixed-race children from their Aboriginal mothers in order to remove all traces of Aborigine culture from them. What came to be known as Stolen Generations, it is a shame that Australians are still living down.

On 13 February, 2008, Kevin Rudd, then Prime Minister of Australia, presented this apology to Indigenous Australians as a motion to be voted on by Australia’s parliament.

“We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.
We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.
For the pain, suffering, and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.
To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.
And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.
We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.”

Numerous films have documented this horror.

There is no greater pain in the world than losing your child. What is the need to take children away from their parents? How can it be justified? And, typically it is the messenger who is getting shot. What in many other countries would be considered award-winning journalism, Dixit today is facing an FIR. Isn’t it ironical that women who try to file an FIR against domestic abuse or rape are dismissed with cool nonchalance?

Once the FIR is lodged, the police are legally bound to investigate the case, bring in witnesses and visit the scene to question people.

What did Neha Dixit do? Did she have an agenda? She did what any journalist would and should do. You get a hint that there is a story to be written. You go there and investigate. You make sure it is soundly substantiated.  The story is not complimentary to the RSS and it is the BJP party workers who filed the FIR against Dixit . The police may not follow up with action against Neha, but this is a message delivered to the whole journalistic community.

What is this message are journalists being sent? Self-censorship cannot be documented but gauging by seeing and listening to anecdotes, it is an epidemic. In Subir Ghosh and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta’s book Sue The Messenger: How Legal Harassment by Corporates Is Shackling Reportage and Undermining Democracy in India, the muzzling of the media is exposed. If you haven’t read it, consider this.

India ranks 133 among 180 countries in the latest World Press Freedom Index. According to Committee to Protect Journalists, 64 journalists have been killed since 1992.

The Chhattisgarh government has tried to force journalists like Malini Subramaniam out of the area.
There is one journalist with a major daily whose beat is defence, who is banned from all press conferences because his reports are not considered ‘positive’. He dare not tell his bosses because they would fire him on the spot. What use is he if he can’t get in?

The Tamil Nadu government reportedly filed nearly 200 cases of criminal defamation between 2011 and 2016. When the recent floods took place, Tamil Nadu journalists were actually giving their stories away to Delhi-based reporters because they said they could not file any stories against Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.

Indira Gandhi threw out an India Today reporter out of a press conference. Nobody needs to be reminded on how she and Sanjay Gandhi treated the press. Rajiv Gandhi, though charming personally and maintained a great banter and tolerance with journalists, he tried to pass the dreadful Defamation Bill when Bofors hit the fan. The press fought back with journalists along with Kuldip Nayar, Khushwant Singh, Ramnath Goenka, Arun Shourie, Aroon Purie and N Ram taking to the streets to protest against the Anti-Defamation Bill.

The public understood how important it was and came out to support the protest. Don’t tell me journalism was different then. There were enough scandals about journalists then too, but not everyone was tarred with the same brush as they are today. By labelling journalists “presstitutes” (an ugly and unfortunate epithet popularised by VK Singh), the public is doing exactly what the establishment wants — discrediting journalists so that even when real stories exposing politicians come out, their credibility seems compromised. The press can simply be dismissed with abuse and epithets.

It is surprising how the youth of today, who are largely pro-establishment, will defend the most inhumane behaviour, find safety in crowd thinking, seek to be followers rather than create original thought, accept that religion is part of politics, and comfortably not question the paradigms set out for them to function within. It’s as though they’re actually at peace with being manipulated.

Today, only those journalists who have confirmed by their performance that they will give a positive spin to the present government, are the ones granted interviews and off-the-record information. The Congress Party was no different when in power. Journalists who don’t have that access are perceived as losers. But, since when did a journalist’s job include that of being a courtier? When access to those in power is denied selectively, journalists cannot inform the public. People get sanitised news.

If it wasn’t for the media that exposed scams tolerated and even nurtured by various administrations, and scandals in journalism itself, the public would not even know they are being taken for a ride. It’s not the first time in history when a population works so hard to delude itself in order to maintain a hero worship relationship with power.

But journalists must fight to question, fight to expose, fight to practice good journalism. It is now for the public to decide whether they will support the true democratic spirit of the constitution. Stand by the journalist, readers, because otherwise there will be no questions raised and you won’t get the answers that the establishment owes you.

These are your choices:

  1. Do nothing. Since “you are the change you want to be”. Nothing will change.
  2. Follow format of herd behaviour. Tweet abuse about presstitutes. Nothing will change.
  3. Support good journalism and journalists across social media. Something may change. Honest journalists will be empowered to practice the profession well when the public supports them. When politicians see that harassing journalists does not make them look good, they may become mature enough to understand journalism is not always politically motivated.

The story is about little girls taken away from their parents. Put yourself in their place. How would you react if your child were taken from you? If you condone or defend this, then hand over your child to the RSS and have no contact with your child. No, this is no exaggerated conjecture. This happened.


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