Mani Shankar Aiyar ko gussa kyun aya?

The viral video seems to have been edited to remove the question that got the Congress veteran riled up.

WrittenBy:Ayush Tiwari
Date:
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On May 13, Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar wrote an op-ed for Rising Kashmir titled: On Cloud Nine of Nationalism. Since the article’s publication, multiple media outlets have reported Aiyar’s remarks as his justification for comments he had made against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December 2017, on the eve of the Assembly elections in Gujarat. The Congress leader had then said that Modi’s attacks on the Gandhi family showed that he was a “neech kisam ka aadmi (low-life kind of person)”.

In the concluding lines of his Rising Kashmir piece, Aiyar wrote: “Modi will, in any case, be ousted by the people of India by 23 May. That would be a fitting end to the PM. Remember how I described him on 7 December 2017? Was I not prophetic?” He also lambasted the PM for his “ridiculous unscientific rubbish” on radar technology and for insulting the Indian Navy by alleging that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi used INS Viraat as a “personal taxi”.

The next day, CNN-News18’s Shimla correspondent GS Tomar met Aiyar outside Shimla’s Cedar Circuit House and questioned him about the article. Aiyar defended himself and stood by his words. However, videos of the interaction that surfaced online showed Aiyar abruptly ending the interview by threatening Tomar with his fist.

“You cannot ask me any more questions,” Aiyar says angrily. When Tomar asks another question about the election results, the Congress leader slaps at the reporter’s microphone and approaches the reporter, waving his fist. Tomar moves back. “I’m angry because you misused … you ask me such a question?” Aiyar can be heard saying. “Fuck off,” he adds.

Curiously, the video of the incident put out by Aaj Tak, News Tak and CNN-News18 cut out Tomar’s question that riled up the Congress leader.

Between May 13 and May 15, CNN-News18 released a total of 12 segments on Aiyar on its YouTube channel: 10 of them relating to his op-ed in the Rising Kashmir, and two on his outburst at the CNN-News18 reporter.

One of the multiple clips of Aiyar’s interview with Tomar put out by CNN-News18. While the video title is Cornered Mani Shankar Aiyar loses cool, Aiyar can be seen answering Tomar’s questions calmly.

One of the videos available on the YouTube channel is titled Can Mani Shankar Aiyar Sink Any Lower? Abuses Journalist With Words And Threatens To Hit Him.

At 0:36, Aiyar tells the reporter (Tomar) that he cannot ask any more questions. Tomar asks the Congress leader for his comment on the May 23 results. Aiyar loses his temper and walks towards the reporter, waving his fist. Tomar laughs and backs away. At 0:53, the Congress leader can be heard saying: “Tum mujhse aise sawaal karte ho? [you ask me such questions?]”.

It appears that before declining more questions from Tomar at 0:36, Aiyar had been incensed by something that Tomar had asked. However, in the clips of the incident put out by both CNN-News18 and Aaj Tak (whose mic can also be seen in the video), these questions seem to have been edited out.

The video of the incident put out by News Tak, a mobile journalism platform, is titled पत्रकार के किस सवाल पर भड़के मणिशंकर अय्यर? (Which question by the reporter provoked Mani Shankar Aiyar?). However, the video doesn’t really tell us about the question either. It carries the same cut (3:19 – 3:22) as CNN-News18 and Aaj Tak.

Later, speaking to a CNN-News18 anchor, Tomar explained his interaction with the Congress leader. He said there were six people at the scene besides Aiyar: two officials (who can be seen in the video), two reporters and two cameramen. “He (Aiyar) answered 3-4 of our questions normally, called PM Modi a coward, and then at some point he probably realised he has said too much. That’s when he got furious.”

Tomar said that when Aiyar blamed a section of the media for misinterpreting a couple of sentences in his Rising Kashmir op-ed, he asked the Congress leader to explain the rest of his article on air. The CNN-News18 anchor then asked Tomar whether there were any provocations which made Aiyar react the way he did. Tomar denied any such provocation, but he also did not clarify which of questions annoyed Aiyar.

In a second interview, Tomar stated that Aiyar’s antics appeared to be planned.

An individual present at the scene told Newslaundry that the interview was 10-15 minutes long. The duration of the longest clip of this interview on CNN-News18’s YouTube channel is just over a minute. The News Tak clip’s duration is 3.46 minutes. Requesting anonymity, the individual told Newslaundry that there were two questions that ticked off Aiyar. “The Aaj Tak reporter first asked Aiyar whether someone from the upper echelons of the Congress party had called and asked him not to speak to the media. He got upset and asked the reporter to not make such claims since they were untrue.”

“Then it was Tomar’s turn. He said the NDA is running on the plank of development and has carried out a surgical strike and [Balakot] air strike. He asked Aiyar whether the UPA had done any of these things. And since they claimed they had carried out surgical strikes, why didn’t they say so when they were in power. Aiyar responded that the UPA also carried out surgical strikes and delivered development, but the NDA came to power and bungled it,” the individual claimed. “When he finished this answer, he asked Tomar to not ask anymore questions. What happened after that is on the Internet.”

CNN-News18’s coverage on the entire incident did not reveal that Tomar had asked these questions to Aiyar in Shimla. An article on the incident published on its website makes no mention of the questions that were put to Aiyar. A source within the network told Newslaundry that Tomar had posed four questions to Aiyar, and it was after the fifth question—about the May 23 election results—that Aiyar erupted.

A video on CNN-News18’s YouTube channel that shows Aiyar’s outburst. This video doesn’t show Tomar’s question.

Mani Shankar Aiyar told Newslaundry that clips of the interview available online were edited to mislead. “There were at least six questions which the reporter asked me and which I patiently answered. All of them have been cut out from the clip that is going around. This is what technology is enabling TV to do—not news, but fake news,” he said.

Strangely, CNN-News18’s Sudeep Mukhia told Newslaundry, “No CNN-News18 reporter was involved this incident (sic)”, even though Tomar was referred to as a “News18 reporter” both on the channel and in the article.

This piece will be updated as and when CNN-News18 clarifies Tomar’s association with the channel and why Tomar’s questions were edited out from the videos uploaded online.

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