‘Misled’, ‘brainwashed’, ‘instigated’: How primetime TV covered farmer protests

‘The prime minister assured that MSP will be given to farmers. What more assurance do you want?’ asked Arnab Goswami.

ByAnna Priyadarshini
‘Misled’, ‘brainwashed’, ‘instigated’: How primetime TV covered farmer protests
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As thousands of farmers marched on Delhi to protest against the farm laws brought by the Modi regime which they say favour corporations over their interests, they were met with teargas, water cannons and lathicharge.

To prevent the farmers from reaching Delhi, the police in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh had blockaded the highways with buses, trucks, shipping containers, and even dug out trenches. But the farmers overcame the obstacles put up in their path to continue their “Delhi Chalo” march for the second day Friday. In the afternoon, they were permitted to enter the capital and hold peaceful protests at Nirankari Ground in the city’s northwest.

Here’s a rundown of how primetime TV shows covered the march.

India Today

On the NewsToday With Rajdeep Sardesai show, the anchor devoted about 20 minutes to the protest, focussing on whether there was a solution to this crisis, and whether it had been mishandled politically.

He had Gourav Vallabh of the Congress and Sanju Verma of the BJP on the panel. Sardesai asked Verma why there was no empathy for farmers and if the government had “misread” their anger. “Why no discussion? Is it that the BJP government believed it to be politically motivated and orchestrated by the Congress party?”

He also discussed how India’s economy had shrunk for a second consecutive quarter, by 7.5 percent. He also talked about the upcoming civic elections in Telangana, especially Hyderabad, asking if they were the “next target” of the BJP’s election machine.

Zee News

Sudhir Chaudhary on his primetime show DNA asked his viewers to ponder why, when the new farm laws applied across India, only farmers from Punjab were worried about them.

He flashed hashtags such as #AndolanmeinKhalistan on the screen, implying a Khalistani insurgent hand behind the protests, and compared the farm laws to the Citizenship Amendment Act. Just as the Muslims believed the citizenship law was against them, he claimed, the farmers were being “misled” into thinking that, under the new laws, the minimum support price for their crops would be reduced.

Coming up with another analogy, he said like the Congress and the NCP in Maharashtra have a common enemy, Modi, and the Akali Dal, afraid of losing its vote bank in Punjab, wants these protests to grow bigger to weaken both the BJP and the Congress.

NDTV India

Ravish Kumar on his show spoke about the uneven spread of mandis in the country, which he said was one reason for the plight for farmers. Citing data from the Times of India, he pointed out that, currently, a mandi covers 440 sq km. Ideally, each mandi should cover 80 sq km. The channel’s reporter, Anurag Dwary, spoke to farmers from Madhya Pradesh about whether the farm laws will help them. The farmers complained how they are sometimes compelled to throw away their vegetables by the roadside because they don’t get decent prices in mandis.

Aaj Tak

On his show Dangal, Rohit Sardana ran taglines such as “Hangama kisano ka ya rajneeti ka, krishi kanoonon pad bhadkaayenge to vote paynge? Sadak par kisan kab tak ghamasaan.”

Sardana asked the Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson on his panel, Sanjay Singh, if his party was instigating the protesting farmers. “The Delhi government fines 2,000 rupees for not wearing a mask or for not limiting the number of guests at a wedding. But you are telling the farmers to come to the capital because you see political advantage in it? Why? Your government in Punjab can tell farmers that we are in the midst of a pandemic, we will appeal to the central government on your behalf and negotiate, instead of letting this turn into a revolution.”

News18 India

Amish Devgan had Virendra Singh Mast of the BJP, Abhay Dube of the Congress and the agricultural economist Vijay Sardana on his primetime show to discuss the farmer protests.

Attempting to explain why the farm laws were for the better, Devgan agitatedly told Dube, “Sardana is not a BJP politician. As an expert on agriculture he is saying this should have happened 70 years ago. The Modi government is implementing these laws, which is why only states ruled by the Congress are protesting against it. Have you asked the politicians to instigate unrest?”

Devgan’s show carried taglines such as “Kya Congress ne kisaano ko uksaya?”, “Kya kisaaono ke kandhon se koi aur nishana saadh raha hai?”, “Annandata ka aakrosh kiska dosh?”

Mirror Now

On the Urban Debate, Tanvi Shukla discussed the demands of the farmers. She opened by pointing out how the police had used water cannons and batons whenever the farmers got too close. “The police had used multiple levels of barricading and security as if they were genuinely on our country’s border protecting us from some enemy,” she remarked.

Expressing concern over the farmer’s agony, she said, “This is our kisan. They are used to hard labour and plowing through and that is what they did. They moved the barricades and they marched until they reached the border area.”

CNN-News18

On News Epicentre, the channel’s political editor Marya Shakil debated whether the farm laws were caught in a political vortex where the Modi government was struggling to gain the upper hand or whether this was a case of a major reform facing backlash from the status quo. She ran taglines such as “Reform Push vs Status Quo”, “Who’s misleading farmers?”, “Uneasy Path to reform”.

Republic TV

Arnab Goswami spared 25 minutes to discuss the second day of the protests. “In the last 48 hours we have witnessed an unprecedented faceoff where some parties and a motivated lobby tried to pit farmers against farmers, government, political parties, and tonight the doors are opened for a detailed dialogue,” he said. The channel ran hashtags and taglines such as #FarmersAbovePolitics, “Center ready for talks, who’s provoking?”

Addressing Syed Aslam of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Goswami asked, “The prime minister, on September 18, assured that the MSP will be given to the farmers. What more assurance do you want?”

One of the panellists on Goswami’s show was Smita Prakash, editor of the news agency ANI, who said the farmers were being “brainwashed”. “People are not foolish, and they see through these games,” she claimed.

Update: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to Sanjay Singh as belonging to the Congress instead of the AAP. This has been corrected.

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