RIGHT ANGLE – Why Foreign Media Must Not be Allowed to Indulge in India’s Internal Matters
Usually, journalists cover news; they are not newsmakers themselves. But, Delhi-based Foreign Correspondent Club of South Asia, popularly known as the FCC, is in news these days as its President and Managing Committee members have decided to become newsmakers. The Club has cancelled an event featuring Film producer Vivek Agnihotri, whose recent film, the Kashmir Files, is a smash hit by breaking many records. It was supposed to be held on the 5th and was well publicized.
In fact, it was a paid event. The FCC was just providing the space for the occasion, which was supposed to be Agnihotri’s interactions with the press. The FCC by no means was promoting the movie; it was just providing a venue to its producer for a few hours, and that too for a price. It is reported that the president of the club, who had agreed to for the event, came under serious pressure from some members representing the international media, including some foreigners and Indians. Apparently, they threatened to give up their memberships of the club if Agnihotri was allowed to use the premise, a central government-owned property taken on rent.
The unspeakable brutality and trauma the Kashmiri Pundits (Hindus) had to endure during the 1990s in the Kashmir valley is what Vivek Agnihotri has tried to bring to the fore through his film. He has shown how the sufferings of the Pundits were totally underplayed in the media and how insensitive the political and intellectual elites of the country were to allow this pathetic state of affairs to go on.
Obviously, such a narrative has been challenged by professional film reviewers and India’s so-called liberal/secular elites, who dominate leading educational institutions and national media. For them, the Kashmir Files is doctored, staged and faked.
Does a movie reflect the truth? As has happened with great historical Hollywood movies, this question will evoke different answers from different people, depending on how one interprets the past events in accordance with one’s political or ideological proclivities. Therefore it is not surprising to see the varying reactions to Vivek Agnihotri’s blockbuster. And that is how it should be in a democracy.
True journalism is that which reflects both the sides of any issue. But, unfortunately, that is not the case with the international media establishments like the New York Times, Washington Post or the British publications like the Economist and their brown coolies in sections of the Indian media, academia and so-called non-governmental organisations. Almost all of them are the bleeding-heart liberals – mostly arm-chair “pacifists” – who always projected the Indian Military as aggressor and Kashmiris as underdogs fighting for their human rights. In fact, under the influence of these liberals, some important national and international publications have even stopped using the term “terrorists” altogether; instead, they now prefer to use the word “militants”.
For these people, in India Hindus are always the aggressors and Muslims are always the victims. They highlight prominently every communal incident in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh since these two states are run by what they call “Hindu nationalists”. But they are totally silent when Hindus are attacked and killed in communal violence or women are raped in West Bengal, Rajasthan and Maharashtra as these states are ruled by “secular parties”.
See the issue of the Economist ( April 30 to May 6) that does not mention the communal incidents in Rajasthan and the abuse of Police power in Maharashtra in arresting a lady member of Parliament and her MLA husband. But it focuses on a Gujarat MLA being arrested and the sectarian violence in Delhi on the day of a Hindu festival .
The less said about the partisan reporting of India by the New York Times, the better it is. Of course, its anti-India tirades predate the advent of the Narendra Modi government in 2014, though these have become much sharper and more frequent since then. Invariably all the editorials of the NYT on India have been highly critical of Modi and his government’s policies, such as the ones on demonetisation, Kashmir, Pakistan, nuclear matters and space missions. So much so that Vamsee Juluri, author and Professor of Media Studies at the University of San Francisco, has identified “Indophobia” in the NYT as part of a racist postcolonial/neocolonial discourse used to attack and defame India and encourages racial prejudice against Indian – Americans. More than China, it is the NYT which opposes India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) or India becoming a Permanent Member of the United Nations.
There is a specific reason why I have given so much space to the New York Times. It is precisely because its India- Correspondent Emily Schmall, the Vice-President of FCC, who, according to a newspaper report, “actually spearheaded the campaign against Agnihotri in the FCC’s WhatsApp groups, and even threatened to resign both from the Governing Committee and the Club as well, if Agnihotri was allowed to hold his press conference at the Club.” Reportedly, she was strongly supported by the General Secretary of the FCC, Sébatien Farcis of French outlet Libération, who, according to Paris-based Indian scholar Akshaya Bakaya, writes “gloriously” about all those who want to break or disintegrate India.
If true, this is a very dangerous development. It is not what they write. These foreign correspondents expressing their views or for that matter indulging in partisan reporting in India is something Indians and the Indian government may tolerate as we are a shining democracy. That in the process they are ruining the credibility of their publications is a different matter. But here, by playing an active role and deciding who should come to the FCC to speak (incidentally FCC had invited in the past Islamic fundamentalist and separatist Kashmir leaders like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, but this time it is denying Agnihotri an opportunity to express his views to the press), they are interfering in India’s internal matters and denying an Indian citizen his right of thoughts or expression. It is totally unacceptable, though brown coolies in the FCC may not think so. It is, therefore, incumbent on Union Home Minister Amit Shah to look at this incident and take appropriate actions.
(This piece has also appeared in Blitz India)