[To read the full book "Why the Vajpayee Government lost the 2004 Lok Sabha polls", open https://www.amazon.in/Vajpayee-Government-Sabha-polls-analysis-ebook/dp/B08PRW5BNH/ The below is one chapter of it.]
The 24-hour private TV channels, both Hindi and English, which are horribly anti-BJP, anti-VHP and anti-Sangh Parivar, had a lot of credibility at the time of the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, and for a few more years after that. They, or at least some of them like NDTV, have lost a bit of it now (around 2020). But at that time, they had far more credibility than now. This was so because, though they were full of hatred for the BJP and its then ideological allies like the Shiv Sena, VHP and company, they did not generally openly attack them. Of course, the exception was during the Gujarat Assembly polls in December 2002 when they openly became the pillar, or even de facto mouthpieces of the Congress and reported horribly anti-BJP. But otherwise, they had a lot of credibility.
In Tamil Nadu, in those days too some of the media was controlled by the major local Dravidian parties- the DMK and the AIADMK. For TV channels, the DMK has and had the Sun TV and the AIADMK had the Jaya TV. Neither Sun TV nor Jaya TV have any credibility. Nor do any of the newspapers of the Dravidian parties. If Sun TV attacks AIADMK or its then supremo Jayalalitha, it has no major effect on the common man who knows very well that Sun TV is nothing but the mouthpiece of the DMK. Similarly, if Jaya TV attacks DMK or its chief M Karunanidhi (1924-2018), it also has no major effect on the common man, since he knows that Jaya TV is the mouthpiece of the AIADMK.
[After the devastating bomb blasts in Coimbatore on 14 February 1998 when the DMK was ruling Tamil Nadu, the Opposition rightly alleged that the DMK Government turned a blind eye to the activities of terrorists despite being fully aware of them. The charges seemed to have rattled the ruling DMK combine in Tamil Nadu, and fearing electoral repercussions, it roped in actor Rajnikanth (1950-) for damage control. In repeated telecasts on the DMK-owned Sun TV, the celluloid superstar blamed the BJP and Jayalalitha for fomenting trouble. He said the blasts were the handiwork of those interested in an AIADMK-BJP government at the Centre (after the February-March 1998 Lok Sabha elections). https://www.opindia.com/2019/03/how-the-congress-party-and-its-allies-supported-terrorism-in-the-1998-coimbatore-blasts-case/]
But why then did the Hindi and English TV news channels have credibility? Why did their criticism of the BJP, VHP and the Sangh Parivar find takers, and how did their reporting change the view of some of the masses? Why did the images of BJP leaders take a beating when these TV channels like NDTV, Aaj Tak or Star News attacked them in 2004? Why had “Narendra Modi’s language” become a standard reference and not “Kapil Sibal’s language” or “Sonia Gandhi’s language” in 2004?
The reason is simple. The methods of attacking (BJP and the Sangh Parivar) of these channels. NDTV, both Hindi and English, was (and still is) nothing but the de-facto mouthpiece of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), at least as far as opposition to BJP was concerned, as we will see in another chapter. But NDTV still succeeded in maligning not only the BJP, the VHP and other organizations of the Sangh Parivar but also the pseudo-secular then allies of the NDA like the TDP, the Trinamool Congress and the JD(U) and in glorifying the CPM, which murdered some of its opponents brutally in both Kerala and West Bengal in those days, as was boasted by CPM leader M M Mani in Kerala in May 2012. Let us look at the strategy of attacking BJP of NDTV and other channels.
‘The Big Fight’ was one of the most popular programmes of NDTV. Earlier, Rajdeep Sardesai anchored it, but after he quit NDTV in April 2005, Vikram Chandra (1967-), another staunch anti-BJP man, anchored it for a few years. Rajdeep Sardesai is not a Communist but as anti-BJP as any Communist. ‘The Big Fight’ almost always resulted in loss for the BJP or like-minded persons and win for the opponents. Not just ‘The Big Fight’ but in almost all other debates on NDTV, both English and Hindi, result was the same. This is because the strategy of NDTV was carefully planned. (As of June 2006, and even now its roughly the same.)
In any debate, the number of people belonging to the Hindu school of thought was always less than the number of people belonging to the opposite ideology. The Hindu participants in any debate, are, so to say, overwhelmingly outnumbered. If in any debate, there were 3 participants, then two of them were always anti-BJP people and each other’s allies. If all 3 participants talk for one minute in any debate, then the BJP is attacked for two minutes and the BJP participant gets one minute in which to answer the charges made by the other two and make charges on the other two. The anchor, of course, was horribly anti-BJP be it Vikram Chandra or Rajdeep Sardesai, or the Hindi anchor Dibang (though least biased among all NDTV journalists in those days). And thus it was minimum 3 against 1. In a debate on the Gujarat riots in November 2007 after Tehelka’s ‘sting’ operation in late October 2007, NDTV made it 6 against one, pitting 6 people against the lone BJP participant B P Singhal! [Link for Tehelka claims: http://www.gujaratriots.com/index.php/2008/09/tehelka-lies/]
The Hindu participants invited by it were also only from the BJP which being a political party has to take a very moderate stand, and the BJP is the weakest link in the Hindutva chain. For example, on the Godhra carnage, BJP has to say, “RJD- Congress are defending the real culprits of Godhra.” And it does not say, “Congress is white washing the sins of 2,000 fanatic Muslims who killed 59 karsevaks in Godhra including 40 women and children.” The BJP participants also many times seem to be political opportunists, who have no ideological commitment to defend the Hindu cause. Not everyone in politics is dedicated or committed to the Hindu cause. Some are miles away from the ground and do not have any contact with the BJP supporters and they do not read weeklies like ‘Organiser’ (which is the English weekly of the RSS school of thought).
This is what happened in ‘The Big Fight’ broadcast on NDTV English on 17 and 18 January 2004 on NDTV on the subject ‘India Shining’. The participants were Kapil Sibal of the Congress, Arun Jaitley, the then Law Minister of the BJP and Sitaram Yechury (1952-) of the CPI(M). Now what was the locus standi of Sitaram Yechury in this debate? There was absolutely no reason on earth why he was invited in this debate except for the fact that he made it 2 against 1, or rather, 3 against 1 because Rajdeep Sardesai was also staunchly anti-BJP. CPM leaders and Congress leaders never attack each other in such debates. Both Sitaram Yechury and Kapil Sibal united against Arun Jaitley and never spoke a word against each other, nor were they meant to. CPM and Congress leaders were always meant to attack the BJP or any of its allies unitedly. In the above-mentioned debate all three of them concentrated their attacks on Arun Jaitley but he was more than a match for them. Being one of the best debaters in the country, Arun Jaitley steamrolled over both Kapil Sibal and Sitaram Yechury.
In April 2004, NDTV Hindi did the same thing. This time, in Hindi, they called Kapil Sibal and Sitaram Yechury and Ravishankar Prasad (1954-) of the BJP. This was when the feel-good factor and the ‘India Shining’ campaign had already peaked and was going down. Though a good debater and later the national spokesman of the party, Ravishankar Prasad could not match the combined strength of the CPM-Congress combine and the anchor Dibang who was also against the BJP. Ravishankar Prasad kept valiantly fighting a difficult battle against both of them, but did not attack NDTV for its pro-CPM anti-BJP stance and did not charge NDTV with putting 2 against 1. [But later, in late 2007 this writer saw him allege NDTV of bias against both BJP and Narendra Modi during a debate on the Gujarat Assembly elections of December 2007.] But at one point in that debate in April 2004, he finally said one sentence in Hindi,
“Aapne to mujh par in dono ko chhod diya hein lekin mein in dono ka saamana karunga.” (You have let both these people loose on me, but I will face/counter both of them).
But again, there were factors like sheer lack of confidence and ability to understand the evil designs of the CPM and NDTV which made the BJP suffer for many years. Ravishankar Prasad is one of the few good debaters in the Hindu Right side, and now, with the demise of Arun Jaitley in 2019, this writer will rate him as the best debater for the Right ideology people. But he did not question the locus standi of Sitaram Yechury and condemn NDTV repeatedly for putting at least 2 against 1. The problem of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar is not that they are too fanatical, but that they are far too soft, give up too easily, are very defensive and have a massive lack of self-confidence to take on the biased section of the media (though in the recent years they have improved a lot).
In August 2004, Manishankar Aiyar (1941-) of the Congress, the then Union Petroleum Minister insulted the great freedom fighter Swatantryaveer Savarkar (1883-1966). In that month, during the debate on Savarkar, NDTV invited Congress spokesman Devendra Nath Dwivedi (1935-2009), and Mridula Mukherjee, a woman from the Jawaharlal Nehru University who was a professor of history there, i.e. a staunch Communist, a BJP person and Kumar Ketkar (1946-) of ‘Loksatta’ (A Marathi daily, the Marathi counterpart of ‘The Indian Express’) and of course the debate was anchored by Rajdeep Sardesai. That made it 4 against 1 with all 4 of them targeting the member of the BJP. Kumar Ketkar many years later became a Rajya Sabha MP of the Congress. He also attacked the BJP along with the Marxist Professor, the Congress participant and Rajdeep Sardesai. The BJP participant lost that debate despite being an ideologically committed person, perhaps because he also did not realize at that time that NDTV is not a normal TV channel but the de-facto mouthpiece of the CPI(M) as far as anti-BJP ideology is concerned and its intention is to attack BJP and insult freedom fighters and national heroes like Swatantryaveer Savarkar. And in that debate, Swatantryaveer Savarkar was insulted once again.
As another point in its anti-BJP, anti-Hindu strategy, NDTV always invites weak Hindu-minded persons versus strong anti-Hindu persons. As we have seen, it never invited people of organizations who would take a firm position e.g. of VHP. For example, during a debate in November 2004 on the arrest of the Shankaracharya of Kanchi NDTV 24 x 7 (English channel) on its programme ‘The X factor’ at 10 PM at night invited Swapan Dasgupta (1955-) and Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan (1954-). Now Jayanthi Natarajan is from Tamil Nadu and she spoke against the Shankaracharya. She was a spokesperson of the Congress Party. So logically, there should have been a BJP spokesperson to counter her. But NDTV deliberately put Swapan Dasgupta against her. No matter what he said, Swapan Dasgupta was not the spokesman of the BJP, and he cannot be. To weaken the Hindu case, deliberately a non-BJP member was invited since Dasgupta is not of any Hindu organization like RSS, VHP or BJP, though he was sympathetic to the BJP and was against the Shankaracharya’s arrest.
Another pathetic example was a debate on NDTV Hindi’s weekly programme ‘Public Platform’ which was the combination of everything that NDTV does. There were Satyavrata Chaturvedi of the Congress, Chandan Mitra (1955-), senior journalist and Editor of ‘The Pioneer’, JNU’s staunch Communist Purushottam Agrawal (1955-) and The Hindustan Times’ Editor Vinod Sharma, in July 2004. Except Chandan Mitra, all 4 other participants were horribly anti-BJP. (The anchor Abhigyan Prakash was also anti-BJP). Deliberately, sentences like ‘Now what will happen to the Ram Temple issue’ were put on TV screens by NDTV and the BJP was attacked for its Ayodhya stance with Satyavrata Chaturvedi of the Congress saying that the BJP’s aim was never to build any temple but only to get the votes. And it was a case of 4 ¼ versus ¾, since Chandan Mitra could be considered as a politically non-committed person as he was not a member of the BJP then (as of July-August 2004, later he had joined the BJP and then left the party to join the Trinamool Congress). Chandan Mitra was repeatedly asked about the role of the BJP in the Ram Mandir issue and the party’s stance. He finally said, “If there was a BJP man here, it would have been easier to understand the party’s stance.”
SAB TV had a programme called ‘Khula Manch’ every Friday night and Sunday afternoon. That channel rightly invited the right people. The channel invited two journalists- ‘The Pioneer’s Editor Chandan Mitra and Editor of ‘Outlook’ (Hindi) Alok Mehta (1952-). This was in December 2003 after the BJP’s win in the State Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The anchor asked Alok Mehta,
“When it comes to M F Hussain painting a nude picture of Goddess Saraswati, Left parties call it freedom of expression. Now Taslima Nasreen’s book “Dwikhandito” has been banned by the Left Government in West Bengal just like in Bangladesh. The low GDP growth rate is called the ‘Hindu rate of growth’ despite socialist economy. And in Gujarat, the only state where there is a Hindu-minded government; there is double-digit GDP growth rate. What then about the ‘Hindu rate of growth’?”
Alok Mehta replied,
“See, I am not the spokesman of these Left parties. I cannot be asked the Left parties’ stance. And as for the ‘Hindu rate of growth’ I do not consider it as appropriate.”
Similarly, in that programme Chandan Mitra also could not explain the BJP’s stance.
But Chandan Mitra was asked the BJP’s stance on the Ram Mandir issue on NDTV in July 2004 as if he was the official spokesman of the BJP. He said, as mentioned above, that if there was someone from the BJP it would have been much easier to understand the party’s stance. He should have said, just like Alok Mehta:
“See, I am not the BJP’s spokesman. If you have invited a Congress spokesman in Satyavrata Chaturvedi, then you should have invited someone from the BJP. I am not going to and I cannot clarify the party’s stance. I am a journalist.”
NDTV did the same again in the same month (July 2004) when they invited Anand Sharma of the Congress, Digvijay Singh (1955-2010) of the JD(U), a CPM man and as an ‘independent’ voice, Yogendra Yadav (1963-), who is a staunch anti-BJP man. They talked of the Gujarat riots condemning and maligning Narendra Modi and equated them with the 1984 riots. Now, Digvijay Singh of the JD(U) was just as anti-Narendra Modi as the Congress and NDTV knew it and hence deliberately invited him so that Modi would be maligned and condemned. And hence, Narendra Modi was not defended at all, and was soundly trashed by all 5 participants including the anchor.
Another point that should be noted is that whenever TV debates go on, NDTV puts rhetorical questions on the screen. The participants in the debates do not know when the debate is being recorded what sentences will be put on TV screens when the debate is broadcast. For example, in October 2003 NDTV had a debate on Ayodhya in both Hindi and English with the question posted on the TV screen, “Do people really care about Ayodhya?” Now, reading it the meaning conveyed is, “People do not care about Ayodhya.”
As for NDTV’s ‘weak vs. strong’ policy, on the Ayodhya debate in October 2003 there were invited Tarun Vijay (1956-), Editor of weekly ‘Panchjanya’ (Hindi weekly of the RSS school of thought) for the Hindu position, and Babri Masjid Action Committee’s Syed Shahabuddin (1935-2017). Now with a religious leader like Shahabuddin, there should have been someone from the Hindu religious organization, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), to argue the debate for the Hindu side, since the RSS is a cultural organization, not a religious one and has not had any role whatsoever in the Ayodhya issue. The same was also done in English by the same channel when it invited the Editor of the English weekly ‘Organiser’, Seshadri Chari (1953-).
SAB TV, the neutral channel, always invited the right people in those days. For Ayodhya, it invited VHP’s All India Secretary Dr Surendra Jain (1954-) who brought a fanatic Muslim like Aziz Burney (Editor of ‘Urdu Sahara’) to his knees on the Ayodhya debate. But NDTV never invites VHP leaders like Dr. Jain because it knows exactly that VHP leaders argue well and are aggressive and take a much hard-line stance. And hence NDTV deliberately invited people like Tarun Vijay and Seshadri Chari, both of whom are simple and not cunning at all. And NDTV kept placing rhetorical questions like “Is Ayodhya really relevant?” or “Should we waste our time debating Ayodhya?” etc. to hurt the Hindu cause.
NDTV does it all the time. Another point to be noted here is that TV debates are designed to provoke Hindu-minded people. The debate between Vinay Sahasrabuddhe (1957-), Abhishek Singhvi and Asghar Ali Engineer (1939-2013) on NDTV in April 2004 mentioned earlier is a good example of this. The debate was whether the Congress government of Maharashtra targets Muslims or not. It is very difficult for the BJP participant to say in such a debate, “What ‘Muslim targeting by the Congress Government’? It is the Muslims who often target others in all states including BJP ruled states, like in the Godhra carnage, because they often start riots.” The Savarkar debate of August 2004 was also designed like this.
The points mentioned above are only the case of TV debates. TV channels, especially NDTV, also indulge in propaganda in various other ways. NDTV English reported in August 2005 “BJP turns MP saffron”. The local NDTV correspondent slammed the BJP for this. Of the many ways of attacking BJP, the correspondent’s reporting is another way. The NDTV correspondent in the above case reported a lot of decisions taken by the BJP government of Madhya Pradesh and accused it of turning Madhya Pradesh saffron by making ‘communal’ policies. As another case, when the UPA Government revoked the POTA law in 2004, Hindi NDTV asked its correspondent to report the matter. The correspondent reported the repeal of the law and then talked of ‘targeting of Muslims’ because of it and said at last, “Looking at the present scenario, the decision of the Government to repeal POTA seems correct.” Thus the TV channels’ correspondents also speak anti-BJP.
Another very important incident worth mentioning here is this. NDTV Hindi invited, the day the POTA law was repealed by the UPA Government in 2004, at 8-30 PM in its programme ‘Khabron ki Khabar’ Brinda Karat (1947-) of the CPM (whose real younger sister Radhika Roy [1949-] runs NDTV) and the then Union Law Minister Hansraj Bharadwaj (1937-2020) of the Congress. The CPM (which was anti-everything in those days) opposed the new law which replaced POTA too. “The new law brought in by the UPA Government which replaced the repealed POTA also was too strict” was the position of Brinda Karat. And this time, NDTV did not even invite anyone from the BJP to argue in favour of continuation of the POTA law. They should have done not only that but also invited someone from the VHP who would say that POTA is also too soft and a law stricter than POTA is needed, since other nations like US and UK have even stricter anti-terror laws, if they could invite someone from the CPM who would say that the new law which replaced POTA too was too strict. And among other things, in that debate NDTV’s Vinod Dua (1954-) asked Brinda Karat why the Opposition was then protesting, and she replied, “They have still not been reconciled to the defeat in the Lok Sabha elections” and attacked the BJP and there was no one from the BJP to even defend it.
NDTV while reporting the Lok Sabha polls of 2004 reported on Bihar that, “RJD has the electoral planks of secularism and Bihari pride.” Pray good NDTV. How can either be poll planks? The only poll plank of the RJD was casteism and communalism, by having a Muslim-Yadav combination. Winning through casteism (and also communalism, getting en bloc Muslim votes) and also partially through election rigging till the 2005 Assembly elections was the only way RJD won elections in those days. But to sink to such levels to defend the RJD is something only NDTV can do, not even other TV channels like Aaj Tak or Star News sunk to such levels.
Look at what Hindi NDTV did in ‘Khabron ki Khabar’ on 22 May 2005. NDTV invited Congress’ Pawan Kumar Bansal (1948-) and the BJP’s Vijay Kumar Malhotra (1931-) was on the phone line and they also invited ‘Panchjanya’ Editor Tarun Vijay. The debate was on the NDA’s boycott of Parliament. They deliberately invited Tarun Vijay since they thought that he would speak against Parliament boycott of the BJP and make it 3 against 1 once again, i.e. the anchor Vinod Dua, Pawan Kumar Bansal and Tarun Vijay all against Vijay Kumar Malhotra who was on the phone and not in person. That Tarun Vijay argued in favour of the Parliament boycott is another thing, and that still both V.K.Malhotra and Tarun Vijay lost that debate is a further different thing.
What NDTV could not have forgotten in May 2005 was that the Nanavati Commission report on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots submitted to the then Home Minister Shivraj Patil (1935-) on 9 February 2005 was hidden by the UPA government and not released, something which both Tarun Vijay and V.K.Malhotra did not say to corner Pawan Kumar Bansal. They should have dared the UPA to release the report and said: “Release the report, we will take back our boycott.” But the simple BJP people and the cunning NDTV men let the UPA eat the cake and have it too. They allowed UPA to hide the report and also earn brownie points for the NDA’s boycott with both the media and the BJP leaders failing to point out how the Congress MPs in the 13th Lok Sabha (1999-2004) behaved in the Opposition when the Vajpayee Government was in power. The same Congress leaders and MPs stalled and disrupted Parliament by forcing repeated adjournments on the flimsiest of pretexts and boycotted the then Defense Minister George Fernandes (1930-2019) for nearly two years in Parliament, and instead of being targeted for it, they went scot-free and instead made the NDA take a beating for its boycott of Parliament despite the UPA hiding the Nanavati Commission report on the 1984 riots.
It is much more difficult for people to argue in a debate from phone or even videophone. And hence NDTV often invites BJP leaders from phone and Congress leaders in person as was seen in the above debate where Vijay Kumar Malhotra of the BJP was invited through phone to take on Pawan Kumar Bansal of the Congress.
NDTV also concocted lies in February 2005 that the Nanavati Commission report has acquitted the Congress as a party, but has found evidence against Sajjan Kumar. Justice Nanavati said in an interview that he hadn’t absolved the Congress at all and that NDTV’s reporting was ‘guesswork’. [Link: https://www.rediff.com/news/2005/feb/17spec1.htm]
As we saw earlier, maligning Hindu leaders for ‘bad’ language and letting Congress leaders go scot-free on the issue, on which they were 100 times guiltier than the BJP, is another plank of NDTV. The false and concocted opinion poll on Gujarat saying there was a ‘fear factor’ is another thing. Now among the NDTV’s methods, another is the choice of options. The same day (22 May 2005) on the same programme NDTV asked the question:
“Now what should the NDA do?” Options given were:
(a) Continue boycott
(b) Apologize and withdraw boycott
(c) NDA boycotting or not makes no difference.
Now, people are generally prone to say, “Take back boycott”. And hence NDTV added, “Apologize” and withdraw boycott. Why apologize? For what cause? And to whom? But because of this designing of question and answers, 19% people said ‘a’, 48% people said, ‘b’ and 33% people said, ‘c’.
The right question from a neutral point of view with the correct options would have been- “Is NDA’s boycott justified?” with options–(a) Yes (b) No or (c) Can’t say. But the manner of framing the questions and answers was deliberately to hurt the NDA and hurt it did.
To make the point even clearer, after the US recognized (?) India as a nuclear state in June 2005, NDTV which was as horribly anti-US as a mouthpiece of the CPM would be, said in the same programme ‘Khabron ki Khabar’, “Now that the US has recognized India as a nuclear power, what should be India’s stand?” Options given were-
(a) Thank you very much, great favor (Bohot shukriya, badi meherbani)
(b) We don’t need the US’ certificate
(c) US recognizing or not makes no difference
Now this again makes people vote NDTV’s way. Because of the term “Badi meherbani” (great favour) people generally avoided option a. And both options b and c were of the Communists. And as a result, results were
(a) 8 %
(b) 48 %
And with this foreign policy of the CPI(M) India will be doomed even more. The Communists’ policy of non-alignment is also wrong. Instead it should be all-alignment. But if a state like the US recognizes India as a nuclear state, should we not even thank that state? Should we say, “We don’t need your certificate”? But again, the adroit Marxists got away with their horribly anti-US stance because of their cunning strategy.
The same continued for many years. After the Vadodara riots in May 2006, the same programme once again cast options which were all anti-BJP. The options made it sound as if Muslims were butchered in Vadodara. And in November-December 2007, they had a question in Khabron ki khabar before the Assembly polls in Gujarat, where their Enemy Number 1 Narendra Modi was on the field: "Modi ke raj mein Gujarat ka vikas kitna hua hein?" (How far has Gujarat's development gone under Narendra Modi?). And the options were:
1- Sirf shaharo tak (Only till cities)
2- Sirf amiron tak (Only till rich people)
3- Sirf kagaj par (Only on paper)
What a set of options! This is like asking-
"What is NDTV?
1-Channel of looters
2-Channel of murderers
3-Channel of rapists"
The option "Gujarat has progressed everywhere, in urban as well as rural areas, to rich as well as poor people, to all sections of the society" wasn’t even there. What to comment on it.
They did the same after the victory of the NDA i.e. the BJP-JD(U) alliance in Bihar in November 2005. The options were all anti-NDA and made it sound as if the NDA survived because of that win, otherwise it would have disintegrated.
The media and almost all TV channels did the same thing even after the release of the film ‘Fanaa’ starring actor Aamir Khan (1965-) in 2006. The truth is that this film was not banned by the Gujarat Government where Narendra Modi was then Chief Minister. [Link: https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/controversy/story/20060612-protests-against-aamir-khan-in-gujarat-set-cash-registers-ringing-for-fanaa-785136-2006-06-12] The theatre owners themselves closed the theatres and chose not to screen the film because of public anger against actor Aamir Khan, because of his comments against the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river. [Link: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/cant-compel-someone-to-exhibit-fanaa-says-sc/articleshow/1621397.cms] But NDTV kept attacking BJP and raising questions like- ‘Aamir Khan or BJP, who do you support’ as if the BJP Government had banned the film ‘Fanaa’! The film that was actually banned was ‘Da Vinci Code’ that was banned in Congress-ruled Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and the in the DMK-Congress combine ruled Tamil Nadu, despite being cleared by the Censor Board, which was protested by some Christians. [Link: https://www.hindustantimes.com/india/punjab-bans-the-da-vinci-code/story-WCbfOLqszsQfQubDyW4PMK.html] The ban could possibly have been on the orders of Sonia Gandhi who was alleged by many to be the then ‘Super Prime Minister’, but NDTV and CNN-INN (Rajdeep Sardesai’s channel at that time) were not livid because of that.
As for the film ‘Fanaa’, CNN-IBN of Rajdeep Sardesai wrote on TV screens –‘The Fanaatics’ i.e. that channel called the BJP a party of fanatics for ‘banning’ the film ‘Fanaa’ starring Aamir Khan. The truth is completely different. The Congress’ own Gujarat unit also protested over ‘Fanaa’. It is just that the people were against it and hence the theatre owners decided against screening of the film. And as for Aamir Khan, the TV channels only showed repeatedly one of his statements in which he asked for rehabilitation of project-affected families. Aamir Khan also sat on the dharna of Medha Patkar and supported the Narmada Bachao Andolan, which went to courts for stalling the increase in height of the dam, the raising of the height of that dam would have arrested Gujarat’s water and power problems. [Thirsty Gujarat was actually waiting for that since the early 1960s. Ultimately, the success in raising the dam’s height indeed achieved that, Gujarat became power-surplus and saw a great improvement in water supply.]
The weak-kneed UPA government of the Congress also bowed to this demand and its then Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz (1937-) who was a Congress MP of the Rajya Sabha at that time, and a native of Jammu and Kashmir declared suspending of the raising of the height of the dam [which was at that time to be raised from 110 metre to 121 metre] with immediate effect on 15 April 2006. [Link: https://www.rediff.com/news/2006/apr/15soz.htm] This was after a fast by Medha Patkar (1954-) of the Narmada Bachao Andolan in the first week of April 2006 on this issue. [Link: https://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-medha-breaks-fast-refuses-to-end-it-1022205] It is only when the Gujarat unit of the Congress itself put tremendous pressure on the UPA that the UPA reversed its decision of stalling the dam project. [Link: https://www.outlookindia.com/newswire/story/no-decision-to-review-naramada-dam-height-centre/384920] The then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi himself had to sit on a fast, a 51-hour hunger strike in April 2006 to protest against Saifuddin Soz’s decision of 15 April 2006 of suspending the raising of the height of the dam, and he called Saifuddin Soz as ‘ignorant’ and a ‘first-timer, who was unaware of the details of the project and had created problems with his intention to halt its construction.’ [Link: https://www.hindustantimes.com/india/modi-fasts-for-narmada-dam-calls-soz-ignorant/story-Un69sEZorw67oVelt1E66M.html]
NDTV also has a programme, “We’ve got mail.” Before the Lok Sabha 2004 polls a reader wrote, “Your bold stand against communalism deserves to be congratulated.” This was duly reported by NDTV. NDTV had no bold stand against communalism. It had a bold stand against the BJP. Prior to the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress, to get a firm hold over the Muslim vote bank, included Syed Shahabuddin of the Babri Masjid Action Committee in the party. What secularism is the Congress talking of if it has Syed Shahabuddin in the party? But none of the TV channels like NDTV, or newspapers found it worth criticizing the Congress for this. In fact, the very day he joined the Congress in 2004, Syed Shahabuddin said in his first TV appearance on NDTV that ‘After the Babri demolition of 6 December 1992 I said that both parties- BJP and Congress are equally responsible for this. And I say the same today.’ So much for his party discipline, he blamed his own party as much as its opponent for the Babri demolition.
NDTV functions carefully as pointed out earlier. After the horrific, mind numbing Godhra incident, in which 58 people were killed then and one later to make it 59, of whom 25 are women and 15 children including babies and toddlers, by a well-armed mob of 2,000 Muslims in a well-planned attack on 27 February 2002, the TV channels defended, rationalized and/or justified the attack and insulted the dead karsevaks. Vir Sanghvi (1956-), a staunchly anti-BJP man, and then Editor of ‘The Hindustan Times’ wrote an article in his newspaper criticizing the “secularists’” reaction to Godhra and condemning them for rationalizing the incident. Mr. Sanghvi says in that article titled ‘One way ticket’:
“There is something profoundly worrying in the response of what might be called the secular establishment to the massacre in Godhra. Though there is some dispute over the details, we now know what happened on the railway track. A mob of 2,000 people stopped the Sabarmati Express shortly after it pulled out of Godhra station. The train contained several bogeys full of kar sewaks who were on their way back to Ahmedabad after participating in the Poorna Ahuti Yagya at Ayodhya. The mob attacked the train with petrol and acid bombs. According to some witnesses, explosives were also used. Four bogies were gutted and at least 57 people, including over a dozen children, were burnt alive.
Some versions have it that the kar sewaks shouted anti-Muslim slogans; others that they taunted and harassed Muslim passengers. According to these versions, the Muslim passengers got off at Godhra and appealed to members of their community for help. Others say that the slogans were enough to enrage the local Muslims and that the attack was revenge.
It will be some time before we can establish the veracity of these versions, but some things seem clear. There is no suggestion that the kar sewaks started the violence. The worst that has been said is that they misbehaved with a few passengers. Equally, it does seem extraordinary that slogans shouted from a moving train or at a railway platform should have been enough to enrage local Muslims, enough for 2,000 of them to have quickly assembled at eight in the morning, having already managed to procure petrol bombs and acid bombs.
Even if you dispute the version of some of the kar sewaks - that the attack was premeditated and that the mob was ready and waiting - there can be no denying that what happened was indefensible, unforgivable and impossible to explain away as a consequence of great provocation.
And yet, this is precisely how the secular establishment has reacted…
…And yet, the sub-text to all secular commentary is the same: the kar sewaks had it coming to them.
Basically, they condemn the crime; but blame the victims.
…Why then are these poor kar sewaks an exception? Why have we de-humanised them to the extent that we don't even see the incident as the human tragedy that it undoubtedly was and treat it as just another consequence of the VHP's fundamentalist policies?
The answer, I suspect, is that we are programmed to see Hindu-Muslim relations in simplistic terms: Hindus provoke, Muslims suffer.
When this formula does not work -- it is clear now that a well-armed Muslim mob murdered unarmed Hindus - we simply do not know how to cope. We shy away from the truth - that some Muslims committed an act that is indefensible - and resort to blaming the victims…
… When everybody can see that a trainload of Hindus was massacred by a Muslim mob, you gain nothing by blaming the murders on the VHP or arguing that the dead men and women had it coming to them.
Not only does this insult the dead (What about the children? Did they also have it coming?), but it also insults the intelligence of the reader. Even moderate Hindus, of the sort that loathe the VHP, are appalled by the stories that are now coming out of Gujarat: stories with uncomfortable reminders of 1947 with details about how the bogies were first locked from outside and then set on fire and how the women's compartment suffered the most damage…
…There is one question we need to ask ourselves: have we become such prisoners of our own rhetoric that even a horrific massacre becomes nothing more than occasion for Sangh parivar-bashing?” https://www.virsanghvi.com/Article-Details.aspx?key=611
At that time (in February 2002) NDTV-Star News had collaboration. NDTV reported Godhra as if it was an accident. NDTV said, “At least 57 feared killed and 43 injured as Sabarmati Express set on fire.” Months later, when in July 2004, the then Railway Minister Lalu Yadav announced a committee to probe into the incident, NDTV Hindi reported again as if it was an accident:
“The Banerjee Committee has been constituted to probe the reason of the Sabarmati Express catching fire…” as if that is a great mystery. My dear NDTV, the fire was caused due to Muslims setting it!
After the Banerjee Committee gave its report in January 2005 predictably whitewashing the heinous crime of Muslims of Godhra and calling the incident as an ‘accident’, NDTV never condemned it. Lalu Yadav had appointed this committee to whitewash the crime of Muslims, and use this report for campaigning in Bihar before the Assembly elections there in February-March 2005. In January-February 2005, Lalu campaigned in rallies in Bihar saying “BJP-RSS ke logon ne Godhra mein 59 logon ko jalaya, bola Musalman ne jalaya…” [BJP-RSS men burnt 59 in Godhra, said that Muslims did it.] The Congress Party officially fully defended the findings of the Banerjee Committee and said that Godhra was an accident, with its national spokesmen Anand Sharma and Abhishek Singhvi in the forefront. This is real defending of the heinous killers. Many Congress leaders went a step ahead, going to the extent of accusing BJP-RSS-VHP of killing 59 in Godhra, like Lalu. NDTV never opposed this, rather it showed Lalu making this allegation in his rallies on TV, giving it more publicity.
NDTV and for that matter most other channels have also tried to spread casteism in the Hindu society and that too blatantly deliberately. Deliberately concocting lies for separating Dalits from the Hindu mainstream is unpardonable and has been deliberately done by the ‘liberal’ media for further weakening the Hindu society. There is absolutely nothing wrong in highlighting a genuine case if it is really caste-based. But outrageous lies have been spread, and crimes which had nothing to do with caste have been projected as caste-based.
There was the famous Best Bakery case, which was a post-Godhra riot case, where a mob had attacked a Muslim-owned bakery in Vadodara in March 2002. All 21 accused tried were first acquitted in Vadodara in the trial court on 27 June 2003 as well as by the Gujarat High Court on 26 December 2003. [Link: https://www.rediff.com/news/2003/jun/27guj.htm] While acquitting the accused, the trial court had feared that the police may have arrested innocent people. The judge quoted one of the witnesses Lal Mohammed Shaikh, who resided close to the bakery. Shaikh had told the court that he and 17 members of his family were rescued by some of the accused. The judge was critical of the police for harassing innocents found at the site of a crime.
In May 2003 in the trial court in Vadodara, the ‘star’ witness in this case, Zaheera Sheikh had not made any statement against the accused. Later from July 2003 onwards, she started saying that all accused are guilty and that she was forced to say that they are not guilty in the court in May 2003 due to ‘fear for life’, ‘threat by a BJP MLA of Gujarat’. Then on 3 November 2004, she did another U-turn and said that her statement in court in May 2003 was right and that ‘activist’ Teesta Setalvad (1962-) forced her to lie from July 2003 to name innocent people as guilty, and had tutored her and that she could no longer lie any more. [Link: https://www.rediff.com/news/2006/feb/24gujarat1.htm] She also said that she was forced to name innocent persons as guilty under fear from Teesta Setalvad. When Zaheera Sheikh turned against Teesta Setalvad in November 2004 and insisted she had not signed any affidavit before the NHRC seeking transfer of the Best Bakery Case outside Vadodara, the NHRC discovered that the 600-odd pages of documentation filed by Teesta Setalvad’s Citizens for Peace and Justice did not contain a single signature by Zaheera. [Link: https://www.rediff.com/news/2005/apr/28guest.htm]
We must remember that on 26th December 2003, the Gujarat High Court ruled that the acquittal of all accused in the Best Bakery case by the trial court on 27 June 2003 was right. It asked why it took Zaheera Sheikh one month and eight days after her statement in court on 17th May 2003 to change her statement that all accused are innocent? [Link: https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/bakery-rap-on-cops-activists/cid/966668] Also, in an interview to Aaj Tak in early July 2003 she said: “Hamein jaan ki parvah nahi hai kya?” (Will we not care for our lives?) which was in a manner which indicated that she was tutored to talk like this. It appeared that a person truly scared for his life would never talk as openly and candidly as Zaheera did on Aaj Tak.
This U-turn of 3 November 2004 by Zaheera Sheikh was a slap in the face of all anti-BJP, anti-Narendra Modi people. NDTV was stunned by this, and it somehow had to discredit this statement of November 2004 of Zaheera Sheikh, and hold Teesta Setalvad as ‘innocent’ of the charge of having tutored Zaheera Sheikh. Among another ploy of NDTV, here is what it reported after Zaheera Sheikh changed her stance on 3 November 2004. NDTV Hindi while reporting said on 4 Nov 2004:
“Now we can’t say whether she changed her statement under fear or because of greed of money.”
So both ways she was lying, wasn’t she? And fear or money means indirect reference to the BJP. Gujarat BJP threatened her or bribed her, isn’t that what NDTV said without directly saying it? This is how NDTV functions. The possibility that she was telling the truth and that all accused may indeed be innocent, and that Teesta Setalvad may indeed have tutored her into making false charges against the accused and the BJP Government was not mentioned by NDTV at all. And most other channels were also the same in their reporting.
As another of NDTV’s ploys, they invite only one person of one ideology and no one to counter him when they want to spread that person’s ideology. After this statement of Zaheera Sheikh, NDTV Hindi on 4 November 2004 interviewed ex-Gujarat Congress chief and the then Union Textiles Minister Shanker Sinh Vaghela (1940-) alone and asked him his position on the issue. This interview they showed repeatedly throughout the day in their news bulletin. That is, Vaghela’s attacks on the BJP were shown, and his allegations that the BJP bribed or threatened her were shown, while the BJP’s objections were not shown at all and hence only one thing was conveyed to the viewers.
To further the point, let us look at NDTV’s coverage after the release of the 2001 Census report in September 2004 which reported that the Muslim population was growing at 36% as against 20% growth rate of the Hindu population and as a result some said at that time, that by 2061 Hindus would become a minority in United India (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh together). This Muslim growth rate was then reduced from 36% to 29% on grounds that there was no census in Jammu & Kashmir in 1991 and Assam in 1981. NDTV then invited two ‘secularist’ minded ‘experts’ on the issue explaining the ‘real story’ interviewed by Rajdeep Sardesai. Finally at the end Rajdeep Sardesai said, “So there is no danger of India becoming a Muslim-majority state by 2061?” “No” came the strong reply from the other person. Now here there was no one from the Sangh Parivar or from any other organization of the Hindu ideology to counter this charge. The truth is something else. That was no genuine interview of an expert but a deliberate design of NDTV to spread canards. Deliberately, Rajdeep asked the pre-planned question to get a firm “No” as an answer. There was absolutely no one from the opposite camp (VHP-BJP-Shiv Sena) to explain the danger of India becoming a Muslim-majority country by 2061, or by 2200 or by 2300 if not by 2061. The agenda of NDTV and ‘secularists’ was promoted through that interview.
Thus, as mentioned earlier, to spread its agenda, NDTV invites only one person and none from the opposite camp. I have never seen only a BJP man or a VHP man being invited alone in any programme except ‘Takkar’ (NDTV Hindi). In April 2004 at 10 pm on ‘The X factor’ English NDTV invited Amar Singh (1956-2020), national general secretary of the Samajwadi Party and no one else. NDTV wanted to paint the Samajwadi Party as a true party of Muslims and anti-BJP to the core. Rajdeep Sardesai made feeble allegations on him and it was clear that his aim was to malign the BJP and help the SP. Amar Singh condemned the BJP and rubbished the BJP’s charges and the debate was held with no BJP man there at all. Rajdeep did make a feeble attempt to question Amar Singh with the allegation that the Samajwadi Party also supported Kalyan Singh (1932-) who was the BJP’s Chief Minister in Uttar Pradesh when the Babri Masjid was demolished in December 1992, but it was as if Amar Singh was invited alone just to answer this charge. The debate on whether SP-BJP had a tacit understanding was going on with the SP rubbishing the charge and maligning the BJP.
Similarly, the then Governor of Bihar, Justice (Retd) M Rama Jois (1931-) in his Republic Day speech in Patna said on 26 January 2004 that, “A sense of insecurity has gripped people of Bihar. There is fear in their minds. People of other states are afraid of sending their wards to the state. The situation needs to be changed.” [Link: https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/states/story/20040209-governor-rama-jois-r-day-speech-on-bihar-sorry-state-790967-2004-02-09] RJD chief and the then de facto Chief Minister of Bihar Lalu Yadav alleged that this was a BJP conspiracy to malign the state but the truth is different. The truth was that the RJD government had made no speech for the Governor by 25th January night to be read out for the 26th January and hence the Governor had to make his own speech. This was clarified by Raj Bhavan, Bihar in a letter of clarification in Organiser in its issue of 29 February 2004. But almost the entire electronic media including NDTV, ‘Aaj Tak’ and Star News were on Lalu Yadav’s side. NDTV Hindi while reporting the matter backed the RJD chief Lalu Yadav and said at the last, “This Governor has also been the VHP’s lawyer earlier.”
On the debate over this issue all channels simply invited the RJD chief Lalu Yadav from Patna through videophone. And thus they gave him the chance to talk all he wanted and put forward only his position and allowed the Governor to be condemned. This, they did not do themselves but allowed Lalu to do unrestricted. They did not invite anyone from the BJP or the NDA, not even NDA allies like the JD(U) to defend the Governor. They did not even interview the Governor separately to give him a chance to put forward his stance or clarification. Luckily, Raj Bhavan, Bihar clarified in a letter to weekly ‘Organiser’, which I read. The TV channels simply did not give any chance to the BJP-NDA (or the Governor himself) to defend the Governor. This is what most of the TV channels did for many years after that, and some continue to do even today. But luckily, now due to the social media, the facts can be put out far more easily by the other party.
In February 2004, there was a crisis in the NCP with senior party leader and General Secretary and former Lok Sabha speaker P A Sangma (1947-2016) revolting. Both NCP chief Sharad Pawar (1940-) and Sangma ‘expelled’ each other from the party. And the fight over the symbol and flag of the NCP went to the Election Commission. Star News wanted the EC to side with Sharad Pawar. And hence it reported that several shops in Pune had made flags and symbols of NCP worth lakhs of rupees which would go waste if the EC sided with Sangma. They also interviewed shop owners who said that they wanted the EC to side with Pawar so that they would not suffer losses. Thus Star News tried to get public support for Sharad Pawar. Perhaps it forgot that there would be many such shop owners in Meghalaya and Manipur (where Sangma was very popular) who would want the EC to side with Sangma.
There are as many as 2 crore i.e. 20 million illegal Bangladeshi Muslims in India. [Link: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Two-crore-Bangladeshi-immigrants-illegally-staying-in-India-Centre-informs-Rajya-Sabha/articleshow/55457903.cms] Assam has a large number of them and is in danger of becoming a Muslim-majority state within a few decades with Muslim population being 34.22% in 2011. Former Intelligence Bureau chief and IPS officer, T V Rajeshwar (1926-2018) who was appointed as Governor of Uttar Pradesh by the Congress from July 2004 to July 2009 had said in 1996 that: "There is a danger of a third Islamic state (after Pakistan and Bangladesh) being formed from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam's areas. The Muslim population is increasingly alarmingly in these areas". But the Marxist NDTV is of course not in favor of deporting the Bangladeshi Muslims back to Bangladesh and wants them to be given Indian citizenship and allowed to roam India. Hence it reported in April 2006, about 10 days before the elections in Assam about the ‘migrants’ in Assam. (Mind the word ‘migrants’ and not ‘infiltrators’). Its report reported the ‘problems’ faced by the migrants. NDTV showed videos of ‘poor’, ‘half starved’ Bangladeshis who said on camera that politicians never help them but only want their votes. NDTV reported as if they are oppressed people deserving shelter in India. NDTV did not see the ‘condition’ of other Bangladeshis in Assam who are far better than the locals. It made it sound as if all Bangladeshis are half starved and poor. And of course NDTV forgot the statement of the then Governor of Uttar Pradesh on the danger of rising Muslim population in these areas- particularly West Bengal and Assam.
There are more than 2.5 lakh Kashmiri Hindus who have been forced out of Kashmir and have to live as refugees in Delhi and Jammu and in the most pitiable conditions. In January 1990, hundreds of them were killed and the rest were made to flee the state after being given 3 options- (1) Convert to Islam (2) Die or (3) Leave Kashmir but leave women behind. They chose the 3rd option but took their women with them. NDTV duly bothered about the Muslim refugees of Gujarat in 2002 living in refugee camps. That there were as many as 40,000 Hindus also living in refugee camps in Gujarat in 2002 driven out of their homes by Muslims in Gujarat even after Godhra was conveniently ignored by almost the entire media. Kashmiri Hindus who were prosperous in Kashmir live in the most pitiable conditions in refugee camps in Jammu and Delhi. But in 2003, NDTV did a story on a Kashmiri woman, who was living in Delhi. According to NDTV, “She is earning 10 times more in Delhi than she did in Kashmir. But she would still prefer Kashmir.” NDTV reported as if all the 2.5 lakh Hindus of Kashmir live as kings in Jammu and Delhi and in Kashmir they live mediocre lives! Watching that report, no one would feel any sympathy for the Kashmiri Hindus and feel that they are far better off in Delhi and are unjust in demanding homes back in Kashmir. NDTV never bothered to report the pathetic state in which the refugees live in the camps.
In December 2005 a CD of BJP General Secretary (Organisation) and an RSS pracharak Sanjay Joshi (1962-), showing him in poor light was circulated. And many or most of the news channels of course declared him guilty and held the RSS guilty too. ‘The Times of India’ also wrote an editorial dated 27 December 2005 in which it said, “RSS claims of morality hollow” and held Sanjay Joshi guilty. Alok Tiwari, a staunch anti-RSS, anti-BJP man wrote in his weekly column in ‘The Hitavada’ in February 2006:
“The media has not condemned the RSS despite swayamsevaks caught on camera indulging in immoral acts.” And held Sanjay Joshi guilty in the matter and the less said of TV channels the better.
And what did these people do when Sanjay Joshi was given a clean chit? [https://www.oneindia.com/2006/03/30/sanjay-joshis-cd-forged-police-1143729437.html] A TV channel, India TV, still tried to hold him guilty even after the forensic lab report of Hyderabad clearly stated that the man in the CD is not Sanjay Joshi and that the CD is not genuine. It reported, “The Madhya Pradesh police have given him a clean chit under pressure from the Madhya Pradesh government which is of the BJP…” ignoring the forensic lab report completely. [Link for the forensic lab report saying that the CD was fake and not genuine: https://organiser.org/2006/04/09/31789/general/rcdf9582b/ ]‘The Times of India’ and Alok Tiwari did not write apologizing for holding Sanjay Joshi guilty earlier either!
‘Aaj Tak’ also reported before the Lok Sabha 2004 polls in its news strip that, “Tamil actor Rajnikanth will not support any party in the coming Lok Sabha polls in Tamil Nadu” when he clearly declared support to the AIADMK-BJP combine and said that he was impressed with the Prime Minister’s plans to link the rivers of the country. [https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/my-vote-is-for-bjp-front/article27596284.ece] Perhaps, ‘Aaj Tak’ feared that true reporting would result in gain for the AIADMK-BJP combine since he had a large fan club, and they would all follow him in voting for the BJP-AIADMK. ‘Aaj Tak’ perhaps forgot that the people of Tamil Nadu have the Tamil media to fall back on.
What other possible explanation could there be for ‘Aaj Tak’ lying through its teeth and claiming that he said that he would not support any party when he declared his support to the BJP-AIADMK?
[To read the full book, open https://www.amazon.in/Vajpayee-Government-Sabha-polls-analysis-ebook/dp/B08PRW5BNH/ ]