Tuesday, June 29, 2021

How a family of 5 can be seen as 'draining resources of nation' while a family of 153 praised for 'joint family tradition': Indian Journalism

First see the newspaper clipping on the left and then you will realise howmedia has the huge power to create perception.

1. A family with 5-6 children or photo can be used to portray them as 'threat to nation, overpopulating and draining resources of the nation' but another family with 153 members is termed as 'great example of joint family, carrying Indian tradition forward'. 
And, reader won't even notice, how cleverly it happens. That's the power of 'journalism', as it creates perception. How things can be presented or misrepresented, depending on who has the power in newsrooms. How the agenda gets pushed and everyone starts believing it. 

2. This is Surja Ram's family. Report was carried as 'Special' on Family Day in a positive way. All praise for the family with so many members. The report lauded Surja Ram's family with the line, 'even in these times, they stay together'. Pride, 'values'.

3. The reader is so glad to know about the family. But another report about a different family of mere five kids, or caption with a photo [remember the Open cover story] is so negative and reader would accept that too--Bad people. That's how once brain works in accordance with media reports. No questions.

4. Any thing can be cleverly presented in a totally different way. If the person is biased, he can do it. That's the power of journalism. In fact, misuse of the power of 'wielding the pen'. Not as tool to inform, but as a weapon to damage, defame and destroy. 

5. Basically, a journalist or writer must be objective. It means that he should be fair, just and neither pursuing particular agenda, nor going overboard. But this is probably impossible to expect in present times. So just remember this, how any aspect can be presented differently.

The clipping is old, but this is just an example. In fact, images of a man with his children, on a bike have been used to spread hate. A well-known news magazine had even photo-shopped an image to create a false perception, and linked it with 'over-population' in a cover story.

Nothing is wrong in writing positively about a family, but then standards should be same. Fascism must not come wrapped in the attractive label of 'news' or under the garb of 'journalism'. Besides, the victims must know the reality and should be able to identify and distinguish--what's news, what's propaganda. and what's the real agenda.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Leader of Mewat: Chaudhary Tayyab Husain who was elected to Assemblies in three different states and became minister as well

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Chaudhary Tayyab Husain is known for his leadership of the Meo community and for representing the region in Assemblies as well as parliament. 

A prominent politician, he not only voiced aspirations of the people of the region and raised the demands of Meo community, but also took up the leadership role and led from the front, setting up schools, health facilities as well his role in the Meo College.

His father, Chaudhary Yasin Khan, was born in a farming family in Rehna village but with his hard work and determination, reached St Stephen's College and Aligarh Muslim University, then went on to practice law in Lahore before independence.

As leader of Meos, he became their voice. The Brayne* Meo school was set up. His drive to set up 'School every two miles' was an important step. He was a member of Unionist Party and legislator in undivided Punjab's Assembly for a long period, and was a unanimous leader of the Meos. 

After independence, when there was violence and fear, he had brought Gandhi to Mewat and the latter gave a call to Meos to stay. Yasin Khan had joined Congress and was elected as MLA in Punjab in early 1950s.

Carrying the legacy of his illustrious father, Chaudhary Yasin Khan, the son--Tayyab Husain made his foray in politics in post-independent India. First, he was elected as MLA in Punjab Assembly. It was greater Punjab then and this also included Haryana.

Later, he was elected to Rajasthan and Haryana Assemblies. In fact, he was minister in all the three states, a unique record. Meos live in the region that is spread across Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and up to the Delhi's border-viz. Gurgaon. 

Apart from being member of three State Assemblies, a unique feat, he was also elected to Parliament twice. He remained with Congress, though for a while, he was associated with Vishal Haryana Party. He had a long political career.

Tayyab Husain was barely 26 when he was made a deputy minister for health and PWD in Pratap Singh Kairon's government in Punjab. He became Chairman of Punjab Waqf Board in 1965. In 1966, he became member of Haryana Assembly, as the state was carved out of Punjab.

In 1970, his father passed away. After Yasin Khan's death, Tayyab Husain was bestowed the title of Chaudhry of 36 'biradiris' and the 'pugri', this honour came to him. A worthy successor to his father, he continued to guide the community in social, educational and political fields.

In 1971, he was elected to Lok Sabha from Gurgaon seat on Congress ticket. Then, in 1980, he was again elected to Lok Sabha from Faridabad. Besides, he represented the Tavdu seat later. In 1993, he was once again elected from another state--Rajasthan. 

In Rajasthan too, he was made a minister and had portfolio of Agriculture, Health and Rural Development. Yasin Meo College is located in Nuh, Mewat. It was due to his efforts that became a major institution. He passed away in 2008. After Tayyab Husain, his next generation carries the legacy.

READLeader of Mewat: Rare Indian politician who was elected to Assemblies of 3 states

*It was initially named after FL Brayne, the then Deputy Commissioner of Gurgaon. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Persian in India: Once language of court and administration, Farsi survives in the country in a unique way


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

In mid-1980s, there used to be a column in children’s magazine, Paraag, where the editor replied to readers’ queries in detail, but also tried to bring a little humour.

I remember, once a boy had asked, ‘Uncle, why an intelligent person is called ‘aql-mand’ when ‘mand’ means slow in Hindi?. The editor, Kanhaiya Lal Nandan replied, ‘My dear son, it’s Farsi suffix ‘mand’ and by not realising it, you are proving yourself ‘aqal’-‘band’ [mind closed, shut].

The boy was curious, rightly so, because nobody tells that this is Persian, which was for centuries the language of courts and administration in India. In fact, there is so much Farsi in vocabulary in Indian languages that it is an intrinsic part of lingua franca but people don’t even realise it.

From words as small as ‘daar’ [keep, hold], or ‘khaana’ [house] or ‘mand’ [having], each forming hundreds of words — dukaandaar [shopkeeper], dawakhaana [dispensary or medical shop], ehsaanmand [indebted], it is so much present in our speech — even if a person is speaking Urdu, Bangla, Hindi or Marathi, that it is not even noticed.

In 1980s, when I was a young boy, I was expected to learn Farsi, in order to improve my Urdu. I wasn’t too interested but elders would always insist that without Farsi, you can never have good command over Urdu.

My mother felt that if I learnt a bit, I could be able to relate to ‘tough Urdu’ that was written in the past and also understand the poetry of Maulana Rom [Rumi], Urfi, Nazeeri and Hafiz, that her elders often quoted.

For me, the idea that one had to take out time in the summer holidays and spend time on yet another subject, was strange. After all, one barely got two months of summer holidays, and the thought that you have to spend an hour or two out every day from the schedule, was not delightful. Still, I had no choice.

Some of my uncles suggested that I should start with ‘aamad-nama’. However, one of my elder cousin brother, Ahmad Yahya bhai, gifted me Tasir-ul-Mubtadi.

But, when I started, it was the traditional way — rote learning, repeating the ‘sabaq’ in Gulzar-i-Dabsitaa.n that for centuries has been the standard basic text for beginners in the sub-continent.

Many of my friends and young friends in UP, Bihar or other states who had the option to study Persian as third language in certain schools, had ‘the first, second, third book of Persian for each class’.

However, I had to repeat terms ‘Aab-e-Zar’ — Soney Ka Paani, Aawaz-e-Dilkash — Dil ko kheenchne wali aawaaz, Peer-e-Kham-Kamar — Tirchhi kamar wala boodha, initially.

It was a system of training the mind, so that you directly learnt the language — entire sentences and could make out the meaning, without getting lost into the complex maze of tenses and the rules of grammar.

I must say that Hafiz Shah Taqi Anwer, the renowned scholar, gave me ample attention and taught well. In addition to reading and repeating, I had to write it on ‘takhti’ with the reed ‘qalam’.

This routine continued for a few years. Must be around 40–50 classes every year in the summer holidays when I visited Lucknow. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go past all the ‘hikaayaats’ [moral stories in prose form] in Gulzar-i-Dabistaa.n.

Today as I look back, I feel I should have an opportunity to study it in school as well. However, I got a basic understanding, which indeed helped me in Urdu. The Gulistaa.n and Bostaa.n were read more as a tradition, later on.

India has produced huge literature in Persian. Almost every library in old parts of a prominent Indian city or town has racks filled with Persian books. There is also so much religious literature in the form of classical texts.

And above all, the appeal of poets like Hafez and Rumi, that is unparalleled. Urdu ghazal is an extension of the tradition of Persian poetry. Mirza Ghalib was immensely proud of his Persian poetry. He wrote:

Farsi ba-ee.n ta-ba-beeni-naqsh-haai-rang rang
Baguzar az majmua-e-Urdu ke be-rang man-ast

He felt there was an immensely beautiful world in his Persian poetry, compared to his Urdu works that he found ‘colourless’. Unfortunately, he is loved and known more for his Urdu poetry that he didn’t take too seriously.

One of the greatest Persian poets, Bedil, is buried in Delhi and Sheikh Ali Hazee.n in Benares. Till just over a decade ago, veteran poets like Saraswati Saran Kaif in Bhopal and Qasim Niyazi were actively penning Farsi poetry.

In Bhopal, the city I grew up, there were many Persian scholars. It was once a princely state and Persian was the state language till 1858, until it was replaced by Urdu. Nawab Shahjahan Begum was an accomplished poet who has a collection of poetry in Persian too. 

Three hundred and fifty miles away, Lucknow too remains a major centre of Persian. Wali-ul-Haq Ansari continued to write poetry in Lucknow till the last decade. 

People learn the language in households or from elders. Besides, Persian is taught in madarsas and Darul Ulooms and there are Persian departments in umpteen Colleges and Universities. It is also taught in Islamic centres, Sufi darsgaahs and Khanqaahs. 

Lot of people learn it as it considered part of culture, along with Arabic and Urdu or those who appreciate the Farsi shaa’eri [poetry].One of the challenges faced in learning Persian is that we still learn classical Persian in India and there is a disconnect with modern Persian. 

There is need for better books and smarter ways. Especially, the use of audio-visual medium to teach so that students learn the correct pronunciation, because even otherwise there is a tendency to shun ‘eraab’ i.e. ‘zer-zabar-pesh’ [maatras] in printing Urdu, Persian books. 

READ: Once language of court and administration, Farsi survives in the country in a unique way

Saturday, June 12, 2021

How race to 'break stories', create sensation destroys lives: False cases, stern sections, framing youths and implicating due to irresponsible journalism

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Most of us often read, how youths were jailed and after a decade or more, released.

The need is to understand that how it happens. It's extremely necessary that people must know.

It happens because of overzealous and careless media, more than any other 'bias'. 

Now read this: 

Some youth get booked in a case. Papers sensationalize. 'Are they linked to X group'. Cops naturally say 'we're questioning, will probe'. 

But they write, 'links with shady group'. Sometimes, not even '?' or '!' mark, but headline is enough to create anger in city. 

Tough sections are applied against them. Now race for follow-up. The thought that other paper may publish something 'big', so similar such 'question framed', again asked, standard reply 'we're probing this angle too'.

More big headlines, 'they were planning THIS or THAT, had links HERE and THERE', with may be an exclamation mark, but it doesn't matter. Impact is devastating. Certain cops too love this attention, holding press conferences, cameras in front of them, their photos on front pages, local channels.

They get calls from friends, neighbours, 'Aap to chhaye hain' [wow, you are all over on the screens'. And 'cracking a big case' helps in projecting self as a strong cop, also in career. Follow-ups over a week, result in this situation. 

As you see, it may be a simple case but extremely tough sections used because of the pressure created in media. Then, politicians too enjoy, to show 'tough action'. 'Local pressure' and mahaul due to all papers' front pages in regions, is such that anything can be passed off. 20 years of lives. 

Old news but serves as an example. Once people are framed, entire families are destroyed financially, emotionally, physically. Cases may not be perfect, might have loopholes but once registered, the treatment to people, expenses, mental torture, kin rushing to courts and prisons. 

How that's a serious failure on part of journalists, lack of empathy and sensitivity in newsrooms

People in newsrooms don't think of these aspects that it's a crime to create an environment in which people get unfair treatment or get framed, implicated and slapped with cases they don't deserve.

That's more a bad journalism problem. For them, 'it's just a story', a 'big story', that will get them feel 'special', story that will be in their file, claim that we 'covered such things or broke these stories too'. It's not about justice. Minds just act this way.

However, this is is not the main point. The main point is failure of people to see and understand this even after decades and decades. There are cities that don't have a single, small, basic paper that can even go against the 'mahaul' & report objectively. You blame 'system'. No.

It's a unique phenomenon. Just a few people in a newsroom who because of their presence in that space, and their lack of empathy or training, cause huge injustice. When there is nonstop coverage for days, there is pressure everywhere. On lawyers, bars, courts. It has gone on..

But you must marvel at the victims, the society, the people who suffer in state after state, that they fail to even take the most basic steps in dealing with this issue. It's less of a 'biased state' or 'biased police' but more of dirty and cheap, biased or careless journalism.

If you know it, you suffer but your leaders, your leadership in the cities, districts couldn't frame strategy, dealing with such a basic thing all these years. You can't get liars and sensationalists shamed or make them behave or even talk to them over their acts. Then!

Of course, if there is suspicion and evidence take due action, book and deliver prompt justice. But don't let the media misreport, create hysteria. This 'influence' is disastrous. When papers do it, just competing among themselves, it has horrible affect on society. On every institution, everyone.

So 15-20 years later, you publish that the court did not consider them guilty, acquitted, ordered their release, but media houses must introspect that it causes such suffering to people and it's role in abetting injustice due to inherent biases, disproportionate power and newsrooms that have little representation. 

A news in Dainik Jagran: How newspapers give twist, spread fake news and fuel Islamophobia

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Yet another example of bad journalism.

The headline is misleading, totally giving a different angle.

It was not vaccine hesitancy among Muslims. They have given a twist.

Rather, they needed Covishield, as they work in Gulf and in order to return to their jobs they need it, as Covaxin not approved in other countries and they won't get entry. But see the misleading headline. Copy too is pathetic but as you read, you realise the issue.

Each and every day such papers create misconceptions, give twists. So much harm to society through this sort of 'journalism'. Any civilized society or democracy must not tolerate such falsehoods. What's the agenda, after all? 

This goes on for years and years. A person sitting in a district headquarters or a city, a capital or a tehsil, doing this for his entire life.This mindset, that 'come what may', the twist will be given to divide society, pit people, demonize a section, misusing power of print.

Over 8 lakh Indians returned to Kerala from overseas between May 2020 and January 2021. So many lost jobs. Many have to go back to eke out living, for family. Kerala leaders like KC Venugopal had urged Union minister to ensure Covishield dose so that they dont lose livelihood.

At least, think of how damaging it is for own people, lakhs of Indians, and for prestige of country, if not for other reasons. Spreading misconceptions, all the time. And, they are called 'number one or number 2 papers'! Big papers have huge responsibility but they act carelessly and spread such narrative that leads to division in society and anger towards other communities.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Bad economy can't make people see reason, turn them 'humane': Can't checkmate communalism with this bogus theory

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

In wake of Haryana 'maha panchayat'--a huge gathering in support of those arrested for lynching a youth, I must say that the belief that recession, unemployment and failing economy will change people for good and make them see reason, is  wrong. 

Ideological turn is not easy despite financial hardships. There were hate speeches openly given at this conclave, and also the threats. 

This shocking episode was followed by silence of top leaders, politicians and lack of coverage in TV channels and 'mainstream' newspapers. Let's talk about it, point wise.

 1. Who propounded this 'theory' that when people are suffering or they are in a financially bad situation, they will become wise and humane and stop reacting to propaganda? It's a bogus and false theory that has no basis.

2. What history tells us? Where was it seen or learnt?  Is is that you just don't want to accept the level of radicalisation in society and hence make it up! Spare us the gyan that 'economic crises' or unemployment will change situation.

3. False. It's not about poor or rich. People can be manipulated by the constant false narrative that they are superior to others. Or through circulation of dangerous ideas like 'certain groups are encroaching, gaining strength, our misery due to them'. 

4. Daily dose of hate & bigotry, poison spread by their men on the ground and through many other mediums like WhatsApp, is an addiction. Pitting people against another section been witnessed, so many times! 

5. Polls or no polls, this never stops. Just because you don't want to see the mirror, don't want to accept the reality, the level, you try to give yourself and others a false hope that, 'people would get tired of this communalism one day, that when they don't have jobs they will realise'. Then, even more easy to sway!

6. Despite restrictions, tens of thousands gather in support of those who lynched a man, and listened to such hateful speeches. After Asif was lynched, tens of thousands gathered, defying Coronavirus restrictions, in support of the lynching accused. How many editorials were written on the situation Haryana? 

7. Most of the TV channels, newspapers avoid reporting, but to ignore this level of right-wing support on ground, hate speeches shows the horrific situation in the media. Clearly, this is because they are part of it, do not accept the rot. Cunningly conceal, give spin. Accomplice!

8. It's now understood well. To say that these are 'diversions' or 'eye on elections' is nothing but an attempt to hide, your inability to speak on it. That's not diversion because elections or no elections, lynchings and forcing youth to raise certain slogans, beating them or targeting Muslims, continues.

9. It's cowardice--politicians, intellectuals, journalists who are all silent on this. As if they don't know the extent of the real project and its aims. As far as many centrist and liberal journalists in India. How they whitewash, it's last point.

10. Many of them always divert by saying, 'ah, fringe'. When it's not possible as too many fanatics seen, they keep mum or act like 'sages', giving advice--ignore.  Or write by balancing, bringing others. Not more expected. No question of 'acceptance', that a major problem exists. 

Without hard work on ground or real movement, society can't change on its own. Once there is ideological shift to such an extent due to propaganda for decades, it can't be 'humanized' on its own. Either a big leader is needed or a revolution. 

A comedian did not utter a joke but was arrested and jailed because cops felt he 'might crack a joke'. However, those who deliver extremely inflammatory speeches, threaten and lynch, don't face prompt or harsh action.

So it all depends on the side of the fence--whether action will be taken or not. Those who spread false info and rumours social media or share fake info that has potential to damage harmony are not touched due to their links in the ecosystem.

It has reached the stage where 'system' is compromised. A slogan that was never made can send youths to jails under harsh sections. But hate speeches that are recorded in gatherings and aired, don't lead to action. Cops later say,  'we are verifying'. 

READ: Failing economy doesn't turn society rational or make people shed bigotry

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Mulla Jan Mohammad: Prominent Muslim leader who played important role in post-independent era


Mulla Jan Mohammad Bengal Muslim leader

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Mulla Jan Mohammad was among the leaders who played a vital role in post-partition era in India.

He was a known personality earlier too. But post-independence, it was a critical period.

Muslim masses who were looking for leaders, as top brass had left them and migrated across the border, found in him a man who was able to pick up pieces, help community pass through the troubled times. 

Calcutta was not just the former capital of British Empire in India, but also, it was a prominent centre of Muslims. Though the top leaders had migrated, shifted to Dhaka, millions of Muslims remained in West Bengal.

The city had been rocked by riots before partition. After partition too, there were riots and killings. In this situation, leadership was needed. There was communalism apart from anxiety, apprehensions, institutions were facing several serious issues. 

Among prominent leaders, Badrudduja Sb decided to remain in India. It was only until 1955 that the situation improved, well. So either the 1950 situation, that had once again heightened fears of Muslims in Kolkata, or the later disturbances in 1960s, Calcutta had the figure of Mulla Jan Mohammad, who became a symbol of hope and reassurance for Muslims. 

Mulla Jan Mohammad had seen Ali brothers, the rise of Muslim politics and its fall, the consequences. He was a strong man, known for principles, steadfast, honest and self-less. Hence, he was termed Khadim-e-Qaum.

In 1961, Jabalpur riots shook the nation. The series of riots in cities in Eastern India, Kolkata, Rourkela, Jamshedpur, again hit the region. In these circumstances, just like in 1950, he remained active and also  oversaw relief and rehab measures.

Either the 1963 and 1965 riots in Kolkata or the Ranchi, Jamshedpur and Rourkela incidents, that were clearly planned riots, horrific killings and large-scale destruction took place. He was instrumental in taking the politicians head on over the riots.

Calcutta Khilafat Committee (CKC) is one the most well-known institutions of Muslims. Mulla Jan Mohammad was its president. Also, his association with Islamia Hospital and serving the institution must be written with golden letters. 

Following any riot in Kolkata, he would hit the street, take the lead, go out in the city, meet authorities, would also ensure rehab and relief. Disturbed by the series of major communal riots, Syed Mahmud took the lead and meetings of Muslim leaders, scholars, clerics were held.

Once again Mulla Jan Mohammad played a key role in formation of the All India Muslim Majlis Mashawrat. Apart from Syed Mahmud, Maulana Abulhasan Nadvi alias Ali Miyan, Mufti Atiqur Rahman Usmani, Ebrahim Suleiman Sait, Maulana Manzoor Nomani and veteran leaders were present.

The need for social, intellectual, community leadership is always needed. More so, in desperate times. Later too,Mulla Jan Mohammad mooted idea that there must be tours to riot-affected cities and areas.This was accepted and hence leading Ulema planned the tour. 

The visit to Ranchi was a major success. Individuals who can unite, bring others on one platform, have community's trust, show way, keep others motivated and can act, are required in every society. Interestingly, the Peshawar-born Mulla Jan Muhammad, became 'Mulla' because Maulana Azad a regular visitor used to call him 'Mulla' lovingly.

"Ever since I can remember, from the time I was a student, I saw Mulla Jan Mohammad was always involved in community issues, redressing them and doing social leadership. He dedicated himself to serving the community", writes Abdul Aziz, in a column in Halaat-E-Bengal. 

"The relationship was mutual, as top Muslim leaders of the country too kept him close. Despite his relations, he never let politics and politicians enter the institutions and damage them, and this is true for all these institutions viz. Islamia Hospital, Calcutta Khilafat Committee and Mohammedan Sporting Club", he further writes. 

"The Calcutta Khilafat Committee came into existence around 1919. The Islamia Hospital was built a few years later. All his life, he remained attached to the hospital and rendered yeoman's service", writes Maulana Talha Bin Abu Salma Nadwi, in an article. 

"In 1967, Mulla Jan Mohammed went for Haj. When he returned and came to know that hospital authorities had fixed 'aath annah' fee for outdoor patients, he was so angry, sat at the gate of the hospital, with this stick and returned the amount to each person who had come to the hospital and paid it", he mentions in the article. 

[There was another person Khan Bahadur Sheikh Mohammad Jan, who was a different person though he also lived in the same period. He was a businessman, Congress leader and owned two newspapers. Some people get confused and a separate post would be written about him, later]

Saturday, June 05, 2021

How Communist party vote declined in India: Political parties, opposition and CPI, CPM strength


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Communist party was once the rising party in Indian politics. 

That's long ago. But after independence, there was a time, when there were apprehensions among establishment that Communist movement may sweep across the country. 

Huge rallies were taken out in several cities. The sentiment was there and hence, Congress was worried about it. 

From parts of Bihar to UP, Andhra Pradesh to cities with mills and workers, there was Communist affect.

Today it's difficult to imagine how Homi Daji could win from Indore. Or that Sher-e-Bhopal, Khan Shakir Ali Khan, kept winning and getting elected from Bhopal seat to Madhya Pradesh Assembly till 1970s.

So, from Bhopal to Indore, Kanpur to Allahabad, cities in Maharashtra and regions in several other states had the influence of Communist parties or their leaders who were regionally strong. Earlier, there was a period when the party got split. Its vote share was affected.

But it remained an important player because it was getting vote in certain states. Under Jyoti Basu, West Bengal went on to become a Communist citadel. In Kerala, CPI became strong. Besides, in other states, there were pockets that had Communist influence.

In the 1951-52, the first Parliamentary election, Communist Party of India (CPI) got 3.3% of popular vote and managed to win 16 seats. It hadn't contested on too many seats then. But the party was gaining strength throughout the decade.

The next election witnessed, a surge in its popularity. It got 8.9% vote. CPI won 27 seats. This was emergence as an important block in the House. However, the best performance was yet to come. The party did even better in next election.

In 1962, the CPI got almost 10% vote. [9.9% to be precise]. This was an achievement. However, the party suffered a setback, as there was the split. Either it was purely ideological or the China Vs USSR, the party was divided in India. 

CPI(M) and CPI, the two parties emerged. Later on, the former became strong in Bengal under Jyoti Basu. The latter found a foothold in Southern India, Kerala. At national level, their consolidated vote share declined.

The Communist movement too lost its pace. Still, due to strength in West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala, the coalition with other parties in several states, the Communists had a hold in Indian politics. In fact, Harkishan Singh Surjeet played a key role in formation of governments at the Centre.

In the late 1980s, the formation of National Front, then the 1990s when United Front was at the helm, Communists' support was important for these governments' formation. Again, when there was Congress' resurgence led by Sonia Gandhi, Communists' strength was important for UPA. 

In 2004, CPI (M) contested just 69 seats but got a nation wide 5.66% vote and won 43 seats. It's vote share was third, after Congress' 26.5% and BJP's 22.16%. CPI (Marxist) had got more votes than SP and BSP. CPI had 1.4% vote in this election. 

In 2009, it was 5.33% and 1.43% for CPIM and CPI respectively. But 2014 was the year of disaster. CPI(M) got barely 3.25% votes. CPI could fetch merely 0.78% votes. And, in 2019, BJP came to power on it's own. CPI (M) performance was at its worst, just 1.75% vote. CPI got 0.58% vote.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Lessons from Indian Politics: Drastic decline in Indira, Rajiv Gandhi's popularity in different eras after huge mandate in 1970s, 1980s


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Indira Gandhi was at peak of popularity after 1971, who could have imagined situation changing so much in few years that she'd have to impose Emergency. 

Rajiv Gandhi had got a huge mandate in 1985. In year or so, at pan shops, one could hear jokes on his language and the oft-repeated, 'hamne dekha hai, dekhenge, kara hai karenge' & 'zimmew(d)ari' jokes. How?

Remember, there were no channels to keep an eye round the clock, that could oppose or criticise. 

Just one DD and its evening bulletin that was more of a mouthpiece and was airing just those positive things and Rajiv was doing things smartly, yet, his image was crashing. 

No IT cell. There was no such concept, no channels. But long list of top Opposition leaders at national level who were constantly in attacking mode.

1. Ayodhya movement, things VHP did, Hindi press aggressive reports to 'prove' that indeed there was mandir, VP Singh, all. But, even earlier, barely a year & when the smartly dressed Rajiv was giving speeches, touring world, people had grown bored, wary. That was real mystery

In seventies, there were not just JP, Raj Narain, Morarji, Charan Singh, Fernandes, but in Rajiv's era too, such a long list. Like it or not, two top leaders of UP parties, are not active-vocal despite their cadre always waiting for their leaders to show. No consistency.

Fact-based, real and strong vocal opposition? Leaders who speak on important issues, on regular basis, it's missing. Some of the top leaders in Oppn limit themselves to issuing statements on days & anniversaries. Then, their Twitter accounts handled by 'professionals'!

Consistency is the key. In 70s-80s, regional satraps were vocal, even if they spoke in English or regional languages. N India too had many leaders. Many voices. That's how momentum built. Not that Tejashwi lose Bihar & wait 3-4 years. Agle election se pahle bolenge. 


2. Now, coming back to how this counter-narrative is constructed. Journalist Shyam Meera Singh, who openly says that he was once a 'bhakt' and later realised how was cheated, spoke at length about this journey in 'Spaces' on Twitter.

He gave example that whenever he speaks to elderly relative but latter comes with strange points on any issue, almost all of them coming from Dainik Jagran. Yes, the same paper that tried to debunk stories about bodies near bank of Ganges and that also published one story 'particular slogan raised' to defame or break a movement--farmers' or students. anyone.

So he gave example of Jagran that has a huge readership, and it's there since eighties. It's a 'mainstream paper' in North India, and it is not considered a mouthpiece. But it does the job more than a mouthpiece, an active supporter. Socialists, other parties, SP, RJD or BSP they were never serious about media. 

3. Congress story we know. BJP understands power of media. Organiser or Panchjanya were there. Dailies like Swadesh & Tarun Bharat in different states. Even when they got in a position to manage most TV channels & national papers, they strengthened own existing ones never shut them down. 

Jagran & others were influential in 80s and they remain so even today. In one state, one paper on a given day, can deflect all with one story. In MP, Jagran was already there. They bought Nai Dunia too. It's not that they have huge circulation. 

But on a given day when in newsrooms, all papers kept on table, if a 'different' story is published even in small paper, it has affect, others forced to follow. You have none. When there are mainstream papers affecting mind, terming any other party's rule as 'Jungle Raj' and the other as 'Sushasan', it works. 

Those leaders of Opposition parties who today rue that media is no longer talking for days and weeks about 'jungle raj' in a state or region, forget that they never invested in creating or running own media. Had there been other channels or big papers as rivals, won't be one sided.

4. 'Socialists' remained in power in UP-Bihar for decades but were happy with media houses like Jagran groups. Who had stopped them to set up own media houses? In Southern states, parties have channels & newspapers aligned to opposition too, hence, possibility of criticism. 

By giving directions to go slow and by stopping 'follow up stories' from the next day, it can be ensured that the issue doesn't become big. The potential for a story to become a symbol of state failure and leading to anger or movement, is brought down by a few phone calls. 

You can't control people's mind to such an extent if there is other side too shown in TV, papers etc. Actually, Temple movement in 80s, division in society won't have been possible had 5 major papers in entire N India, not actively become part of movement. 

This part of India--the North, has huge political power due to number of MPs. Hence, the role of Hindi newspapers is important. They ensured that Indian public shifted from centre towards right, through consistent reporting in a manner that people came towards BJP on all issues--Bangladeshi infiltration, Artcile 370, Temple.

5. It's basic for any movement or party to have their own supported groups in media. Every party needs to reach to people. Since 1800, every reformer or leader tried to start a paper, either Raja Ram Mohan Roy or Maulana Azad, Gandhi or Maulana Mohammad Ali.

READ: How Congress' failure to understand 'media power' caused its decline

The right-wing understands power of communication, importance of media, how to reach people. It takes even a weekly of 2,000 or 5,000 seriously, doesn't shut it down. It ensures the weekly reaches each panchayat or main reading room of town or places where people can take it forward.

Even a daily paper that has a circulation of less than 10,000 but published from capital, one counter-narrative story, forces other papers too to think over that aspect. But if you don't have trusts, not even most basic investment to support your own people and run papers, it's a tragedy.

READ: How fake news is planted in newspapers, role of vernacular media in misinformation