Friday, February 19, 2016

Why Don’t Channels Clear The Air By Telecasting Kanhaiya’s Speech

Why Don’t Channels Clear The Air By Telecasting Kanhaiya’s Speech
                                                                                            Saeed Naqvi

Arnab Goswami of Times Now Television, runs his show rather like an animal trainer in an old fashioned circus or an Al Capone like gangster, terrorizing his minions, which is what the panelists palely peering out of those windows begin to look like, by the time Arnab is through with them.

It is in this galaxy that Sambit Patra, BJP Spokesperson, has been shining these past few days with incomparable light. Arnab runs a clip showing Kanhaiya Kumar and his friends, raising their hand and throwing their heads back. There are no words, only cacophony. Sambit Patra provides the missing slogans. “Afzal hum sharminda hain; tere qatil zinda hain.” (Afzal Guru, we are embarrassed that your murderers roam free).

Flushed with success from Times Now where, with Arnab Goswami, he had helped viewership ratings sky rocket on the JNU issue, Patra turned up at the India Today Television, to test his luck. He will rue the day he accepted anchor Rahul Kanwal’s invitation.

Shouting slogans in support of Afzal Guru is a powerful allegation against the JNU demonstrators. This has become particularly so for the millions who watch Arnab’s show. This vast viewership is liable to swallow the allegation unhesitatingly simply because it does not have the background. This audience does not know that the anniversary of Afzal Guru’s death has been observed all the three years since his hanging – religiously in Kashmir and in liberal enclaves like Jawaharlal Nehru University.

True, Afzal Guru’s crime was heinous. He was supposed to have master minded the December 13, 2001 attack on Indian Parliament, barely three months after the 9/11 attack in New York.

The Supreme Court judgement handing him the death sentence did not satisfy everybody. The Honourable Court admitted that the evidence was circumstantial, but went onto argue that the “collective conscience of society will be satisfied only if the death penalty is awarded to Afzal Guru.” Critics found it unfortunate that a court of law decided to pander to its assumed notion of “collective conscience” rather than abide by points of law.

The hanging too was most mysterious. Without informing his family, Afzal was secretly hanged and buried in Tihar jail. Since then there is a demand in Kashmir for his remains to be returned to the family. Is it an unfair demand?

In Kashmir, Afzal Guru is not a closed chapter because of the circumstances attending the disposal of the case. But buoyed by political power, this time the Sangh Parivar decided to push for charges of sedition against Afzal Guru’s sympathizers. This is part of a larger game spelt out in an article in The Pioneer published in June 2014 soon after Modi came to power. The author K.G. Suresh is a versatile journalist and a member of the Sangh Parivar think tank. He said: “Augean stables of that hallowed institution called JNU must be cleaned. They have over the years, become dens of secessionism, Maoism and terrorism.” Was it not Subramanian Swamy whose name was being mentioned as the possible Vice Chancellor? He showed his hand the other day when in the context of the current agitation he asked for the university to be shut down for four months. But for the time being sedition charges on the leftist union leader would suffice.

For this line of action to succeed, choreography of the whole Afzal Guru show in JNU would have to be couched in clear cut anti India rhetoric. In this, the Sangh Parivar goofed up in its co ordination with the JNU authorities and the police. First, the Vice Chancellor permitted the show. But when the youth wing of the Parivar, ABVP protested, permission was withdrawn.

The university administration’s indecisiveness became yet another nugget in what to me has been the finest piece of oratory since the days of Prakash Veer Shastri and Atal Behari Vajpayee. In his February 9 speech, Kanhaiya Kumar “left the audience spellbound” according to eye witnesses. It was imaginative of the Indian Express to have published an English translation of the speech under the title “Is this Sedition?”

By now Arnab and Sambit Patra – and sundry other duets – were on the move providing lethal voiceovers to clips showing Kanhaiya and his friends shouting inaudible slogans which were alleged to be anti Indian.

“We shall avenge Afzal Guru’s killers; we shall breakup the country; Pakistan Zindabad and worse.” We have Sambit Patra and Ravi Shankar Prasad’s testimony that this was the anti national fare dished out at the JNU do.

Secure in the conviction that he had won the propaganda war for the Sangh Parivar-ABVP, Sambit Patra sought to push his luck a little further with a different channel – India Today Television.

Rahul Kanwal’s advantage is that he is a reporter as well as an anchor. First, with great craft, he lulled Patra into a sense of false security. How cleverly had Patra been channel hopping armed with the video clip of Kanhaiya’s anti national sloganeering which has been dominating “some channels” Rahul said.

He then led Patra to an in house computer whizkid who, quite expertly, separated the Kanhaiya clip of 9 February, with crisp and clear sound quality from the doctored clip of 11 February where the sound has been deliberately muffled to warrant outside commentary – Patra’s in this case. Rahul’s sifting of the grain from the chaff left Patra tongue tied on live TV. He made cow eyes at Rahul. He looked like Surma Bhopali caught lying within Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra’s earshot in Sholay.

Meanwhile, Kanhaiya in his speech has challenged the ABVP to debate him on nationalism. This is the crux of the matter. Here is a TRP spinner for the channels to pick up. Or atleast the speech can be telecast so that the nation can distil the truth from the concoction the ABVP and the Police have poured into the JNU cauldron.

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Friday, February 12, 2016

A Sanders, Trump Clash: A Dream For Film Script Writers

A Sanders, Trump Clash: A Dream For Film Script Writers
                                                                          Saeed Naqvi

A Donald Trump-Bernie Sanders clash in the US Presidential elections could be God’s Gift to political cinema.

Some outlines for a script come to mind: Clarence Darrow versus William Jennings Bryan, on two sides of the famous Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee in 1925.

Or, the epic battle between Ed Murrow of CBS News and Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti communist witch hunt.

One can pack Trump’s anti Muslim, anti Hispanic invective in the script. But where is Sanders in all of this?

I suspect, the Darrow-Bryan contest will work better. The scene is set in the criminal court of Tennessee. On trial is a substitute High School teacher, John Scopes, for violating the Tennessee Act which prohibits teaching human evolution as enunciated by Darwin. The result was the classical Fundamentalist-Modernist clash focused on whether or not any reality exists outside the Bible.

In a country where evangelicals constitute 40% of Republican voters, a debate on Homo sapiens evolving from apes may yet raise a storm in pockets even today.

William Jennings Bryan, who felt that a study of human evolution was anti Christian, actually contested the Presidential race on three occasions. He was Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of State, later humiliated by the famous Defense Attorney Clarence Darrow. Bryan and Trump come from an abiding tradition of anti intellectualism.

Darrow and Murrow represented the streak in American liberal decency which makes Sanders’ campaign for the Democratic nomination so compelling.

The world changed when the West, led by the US, interpreted the collapse of the Soviet Union not as a victory for freedoms but as the triumph of the Market, of rampaging capitalism.

Nation states, more petrified than elated, allowed themselves to be stitched together as two party systems, beholden to corporate and global finance. Within a short span, every electoral democracy gave out a foul stench of crony capitalism.

Establishments across the board had lulled themselves into complacency. The global media, Murdochized, would manage public opinion in their favour. This turned out to be a delusion. Murdoch today is a bad name in serious media circles.

Remember how new media technologies were being developed in Washington to create colour revolutions – orange, rose, cedar – bypassing local controls. Soon, advanced models of these technologies were available with every West Asian terrorist group. Lightening spread of the internet has opened up a plethora of the new parallel media, more credible than mainstream information sources.

Not just electoral democracies but all other systems of government are now under scrutiny by the people. The result is that two party systems in democracies are being challenged. People are placing question marks on other forms of government too.

When the Tunisian vendor Mohamed Bouazizi ignited the Arab Spring by setting himself on fire in December 2010, ordinary people began to occupy centre stage for the first time in dictatorships. The late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, sensed this settlement at the grassroots. He played the only hand Saudis know: spend money to divert trouble. He rained $135 billion on his people.

Then, step by step, the Syrian and Yemeni theatres were opened up to externalize internal upheavals. Today, the Saudis are riding two tigers from neither of which can they dismount. If they did the ground at home would heave.

In India the electorate demonstrated its autonomy from the two party strait jacket by delivering 67 out of 70 seats in the Delhi state assembly to a barely two year old party called AAP.

Joko Widodo in Indonesia, Pablo Iglesias in Spain, Alexis Tsipras in Greece, Antonio Costa in Portugal, Justin Trudeau in Canada all newcomers, represent a wholesale rejection of new economic policies bringing corruption and economic disparities in their wake. Jeremy Corbyn as the new leader of the British Labour party, and series of electoral verdicts in Nordic and East European counties are also a manifestation of disgust with establishments.

This global trend would tend to suggest that Bernie Sanders, self avowed Socialist, is not a rank outsider anymore. But his popularity among young voters is pitted against the powerful establishments behind Hillary Clinton. And establishments are at this stage being corroded, not exactly toppled. But the process of toppling them is seriously underway.

Hillary has been First Lady for two terms, Senator and Secretary of State. Does her performance as Secretary of State commend her as President? Under her watch, Ambassador Christopher Stevens was brutally killed in the US mission in Benghazi.

There she was announcing to the media “I came, I saw and he died”. She was talking of Qaddafi’s death. This alongside footage of Qaddafi sodomised by a knife.

The next memorable image of Hillary concerns her management of the Syrian crisis. “Get out of the way, Assad” she proclaims with an imperious wave of the hand. And Assad is nowhere close to bowing out.

If voters persist with their quest for the novel, how is Hillary Clinton a repository of any novelty?

And yet, the celebrated intellectual, Noam Chomsky is probably right.

“Bernie Sanders is a decent honest New Dealer.” A “New Dealer” Chomsky explains is “someone who is far out to the left of the field.” Chomsky spots the conflict between the people and establishments doggedly fighting to stay on.

Sanders is unlikely to make it to the White House in the system of “Bought Elections”, Chomsky says. How then has he come this far?

How does Chomsky explain Trump’s popularity? “It is a reflection of depression, hopelessness, concern that everything is lost.” Trump’s propagandist strategy is in line with a history of directing anger “on straw men such as immigrants, welfare cheats, trade unions and all kinds of people who you think are getting everything you are not getting.”

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