By Dr. Suma Singh
India @70 – as a nation we are celebrating the various facets of the historic seventy years of life as an independent nation. The story however is a mixed bag of hits and misses, tales of indomitable spirit and success which have brought smiles on our faces and tears in times of adversity. But in these seventy years, we have also managed to create a media industry that seems to believe it is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. Primetime on leading channels has become more of agenda warfare and propaganda. Interspersed with nationalistic jingo, our television anchors have taken up the cause of being the first on the line of control and seem to display raw patriotism more than our defence forces.
Post Uri tragedy, electronic media seems to have decided that war is the best form of revenge, and the entire media machinery is devoted to the cause of whipping war frenzy, what with talk of a war-room in South Block. The few sane voices which have appeared on the various shows have been muzzled by the vocal power of the anchors and warmongers. Call for a military reply to the dastardly attack is not taking into consideration the ground reality. We may have one of the largest armed forces in the world but they are bogged down by the chinks in the armour like the outdated and poorly maintained weaponry and a large number of fighter planes and ships that are not serviceable, according to a report in 2014 by IHS Jane, a defence publication. The larger issue is how war may take us back by a couple of years and derail the economic achievements of the last twenty-five years.
Another exasperating story on primetime in leading English news channels was the issue of banning Pakistani artists from the Indian entertainment industry. The argument was taken to ridiculous extents when a prominent news anchor wondered why the heartthrob of millions across both sides of the border, Fawad Khan, would not tweet to condemn the dastardly attack on the army camp in Uri when he made crores in India. Firstly, can you imagine a Tendulkar or Bachchan Sr. tweeting and condemning any action of the government and defence forces on the ground of humanism?! The backlash they will face will be led by the same electronic media and anchors. Secondly, people-to-people contact is the need of the hour, more so as it makes us appreciate the common roots the two nations share. If a jihadi factory has emerged in Pakistan it is largely to be blamed on the educational system which has painted all Indians as kafirs and nurtured generations of youth on anti-India propaganda. India should not fall into the same trap and become a nurturing ground for hatred as this will backfire on us given our large minority population.
As Indians, Uri and Pathankot hurts us but we cannot be swayed by pure emotions and allow media to set the agenda for Government responses and decisions. To quote Albert Einstein “Nationalism is nothing more than an idealistic rationalisation for militarism and aggression” and this seems so apt for the nationalism which electronic media is whipping up today. War makes for good TRPs but at what cost? Electronic Media must behave in a more constrained responsible manner and reasonable voices must be heard out.
Dr. Suma Singh is an Associate Professor at the Department of Economics, Mount Carmel College, Bengaluru