When jingoist news anchors took on treacherous humanists on primetime

Rahul Shivshankar and Arnab Goswami were at their nationalistic best on primetime debates over the Uri attacks

WrittenBy:Kshitij Malhotra
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In the wake of the terror attack in Uri, Kashmir, Monday night presented an opportunity for sections of the mainstream media to flex their nationalist muscles. At the forefront, as expected, were Times Now and NewsX, who grabbed this opportunity with both hands to conduct hyper-jingoistic debates and run wishful hashtags (#PakImploding on NewsX), topped off with menacing banners like Times Now’s “It’s payback time, Pak”.

Amidst near-declarations of war against Pakistan, both channels took potshots at domestic targets as well. Flanked by images from the funeral of the 18 slain soldiers on one side and pictures of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students Umar Khalid, Shehla Rashid and Rama Naga, and Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) politburo member Kavita Krishnan on the other (with the caption “will back ‘traitors’, won’t eulogise braves”), NewsX editor-in-chief Rahul Shivshankar looked sombrely into the camera. He informed his viewers that “there remains a very influential minority, who enjoy the support of some mainstream political parties, who have not thought it necessary to pay homage to our saviours”. Condemning the “spokespeople for insaniyat [humanity]”, Shivshankar wondered whether “it is their case that India’s jawans have no human rights and therefore, don’t deserve any advocacy”. Shivshankar repeatedly raised the question why the “humanists” had not expressed grief over the martyred soldiers on social media.

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Rama Naga, former general secretary of the JNU Students Union (JNUSU), did not seem surprised at TV channels using JNU students as targets. “They will try to project that students at JNU don’t speak about these things,” Naga told Newslaundry. “We have released a statement [on the Uri attacks] and so has our party.” Naga had shared a Facebook post in which his organisation, All India Students Association (AISA), had condemned the attack on Uri Army Camp and extended “condolences to the families of the soldiers who have been killed”. The post is 11 hours old, a few hours after NewsX ran the show, so perhaps we can expect Shivshankar and company to acknowledge the same. Knowing them, however, we probably shouldn’t hold our breath.

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Meanwhile, Kavita Krishnan alleged in a Facebook post that Times Now “marked the ‘X’ on my forehead yet again last night, counted the words in my posts on violence in Kashmir”. The segment in question was featured on The Newshour’s debate number two last night, but the show had not been uploaded on the Times Now website or YouTube channel at the time of writing this article.

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Speaking to Newslaundry, Krishnan expressed her incredulity at the line taken by news channels. “Why exactly are they thinking that hate-mongering towards Indian activists is going to be any answer to a terrorist attack,” she asked. “If they really think that war is the answer, then I think let them go sign up and join the army and put on a uniform.” The reason she and others were being targeted, Krishnan said, was because “we are not demanding a nuclear war on Pakistan, and we’re not doing that because we’re not crazy”.

Calling the channels’ coverage “unethical” and “stupid”, former vice president of JNUSU Shehla Rashid felt that scouring Facebook posts of JNU students was arbitrary. “Umar Khalid is not an MLA, he’s not an MP. So how do you suddenly handpick him and ask him why he’s not speaking about a particular issue?” she asked. Rashid also pointed that senior government ministers, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, were also silent on a number of important issues. “The PM is silent on the gangrape incident in Mewat, he’s silent on the unabated violence going on against Kashmiris. The Home Minister is silent on why Khurram Parvez was not allowed to go to a UN summit and then he was arrested, why Jignesh Mewani was detained,” she said.

Krishnan believes that the “macho posturing” on TV does nothing to hamper terrorism and instead doesn’t allow tough questions to be raised. “On the Uri attack, what we really need to ask is what was the government doing?” Krishnan said. “You can’t even secure your own military base and you’re telling us that national security means that we have to kill and maim Kashmiri children on the streets of Kashmir.”

With some news channels pandering to their nationalistic audiences and cheerleading the government’s hawkish tendencies, it’s probably too optimistic to expect them to raise such questions.


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