Rajdeep Sardesai has released his latest Friday (August 26) blog-buster ‘An open letter to Anna Hazare’. I have always maintained that there are two Rajdeeps, one on TV and one on his blog or print. The latter one usually surfaces from deep contemplation. I have promised that I’ll often be there to rehash Rajdeep. In this case let’s start with the last para of his latest post: “Post-script: I have framed a picture of our meeting earlier this week. The caption reads: "When zero met hero!". India is not Anna, nor is Anna India, but you are now an icon for millions. Please don't allow a personality cult to shadow your ultimate gift of common sense.” What usually amazes me is fake humility, more than fake journalism. But let’s give the benefit of doubt to Rajdeep. The zero meets hero would have suited Kapil Sibal a lot better. We will come back to his open letter a bit later in this post.
I agree, India is not Anna and Anna is not India. That is a stupid statement from a woman in a frenzy. Why don’t journalists ask the question: Is Manmohan Congress and is Congress Manmohan? So why is the constant claim of MMS being clean offered as a defence for a corrupt Congress? As the head of govt if this man can’t even take responsibility for what goes on under his leadership events such as the Anna protest will come about. MPs will be gheraoed. The media should have condemned MMS strongly over the Ramlila crackdown and demanded his resignation. They should have condemned the PM strongly over corruption and demanded his resignation. The media should have demanded the PM’s resignation over Anna’s arrest. They did not. If anarchy is about to visit India it is not the making of Anna Hazare. It is the making of the PM without a conscience, a corrupt govt that has lost touch with people and a media that has been a slave to powerful forces. The shamelessly slavish media wouldn’t even dare ask the Congress or the govt on the truth about Sonia Gandhi or her illness etc. If Rajdeep were an ordinary citizen and watched some of the news channels he would know the media could well be party to any anarchy that might come about. Inadvertently, Rajdeep himself owns up to some of the lies media peddles and absolute fixation with powerbrokers. Now let’s understand the notes in his latest blog in this context. (All quotes in blue)
You (Anna) have worked tirelessly for more than two decades in exposing corruption in Maharashtra but Ralegan Siddhi is a long way from Delhi which is perhaps why television channels hadn't featured your contribution prominently till now. An opinion poll we did just a month ago suggested that more people had heard of yoga guru Baba Ramdev than a tireless fakir-like crusader from a Western Maharashtra village.
Bravo! So I wonder if Rajdeep thinks India is Delhi and Delhi is India. This is one of the cruel truths about our media. Almost all of their reports, be it politics, education, schools, colleges, police are about Delhi and few more metros. Why Ramdev? If I had conducted a poll like CNN-IBN I can guarantee more people would have heard about Barkha Dutt than they would have about Anna Hazare. Are the reasons so hard for Rajdeep to see? That their poll samples are pathetic! Anna Hazare is not a TV hugging campaigner. Ramdev is on TV probably more than Rajdeep and many other media celebs put together. Shamefully and conveniently Rajdeep’s channel has consigned the rest of India to ‘Citizen Journalists’ to report on and proudly tom-toms it as a great innovation in journalism. CJ is a good idea, but that innovation doesn’t take away the fact that the media doesn’t give a damn about the rest of India, which is why the immense response that Anna Hazare has generated has come as a shocker for many media crooks. More importantly, the intellectuals who frequently appear on TV simply cannot digest the fact that a simpleton from Ralegaon Siddhi has brushed their nonsense away with his sincerity, courage and focused campaign.
You've even shown that the Marathas, a community that has failed to conquer Delhi since losing the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, can indeed take the national capital by storm. But in every battle there must come a time when you must call a halt. That time may well be approaching.
I’m not exactly a history expert but what has this got to do with Marathas? If the campaigner was from Indore would Rajdeep be invoking the history of Holkars? Or if he were from Mysore would he be citing the failures of Tipu Sultan? Or if he were a muslim would Rajdeep say that the Moghuls have once again conquered Delhi? This is how Rajdeep cites caste and community and divides the country as does the media in general. One particular channel turned the Anna campaign into the Ramlila crowds V Dalits & minorities. Such was the impact that Dalits and minorities carried out a rally in Delhi’s Connaught place area on Wednesday night causing a complete traffic mayhem. This is how our news media is dangerous for unity and the democracy of India. CNN-IBN’s Lokmat group editor, the vicious Nikhil Wagle, has been consistently tweeting messages to incite religious divisions in the crowds at Ramlila and the public in general. That’s Rajdeep’s own backyard member.
Ram Lila is not Mumbai's Azad Maidan nor is it the village square in Ralegan Siddhi. This is not some battle to stop the local thug from shutting his liquor shop. Here, there are multiple agendas that require dexterous negotiation and not mere sloganeering. The sight of gangster Abu Salem's girlfriend Monica Bedi parading Mumbai's streets with an Anna cap should convince you of the dangers of reducing the fight against corruption to a well-choreographed prime time TV spectacle.
Fantastic! Who else to warn Anna Hazare and talk to him about ‘turf wars’ than Rajdeep? The idea is, go back to your village you village-idiot, places like Ramlila or Azad Maidan are not for you. These are for greater men and women who usually appear on CNN-IBN. The ones who believe have the right to set the multiple agendas. The NAC types who draft spurious bills to be presented in the parliament. The best part is about Monica Bedi. Hello? Who made Monica Bedi a media celebrity? Who are the ones who talk about Rahul Mahajan’s swayamwar as lead story? Have you forgotten all that Rajdeep? Monica Bedi has appeared for the protests voluntarily but it’s the media who promoted her on their channels. I am under no illusion if CNN-IBN had the chance to interview Ajmal Kasab they would be thrilled to devote an hour to him.
The frenzy being built up in the media by hyper-ventilating news channels and demagogic acolytes could easily transform a genuine people's movement into a lumpen expression of mob fury. It's a transformation that could end up destroying the hard-earned credibility of your struggle.
Imagine the extraordinarily malicious campaign that Rajdeep & Co. carried out on CNN-IBN against Ramdev during the first week of June. I could very easily say that media campaign emboldened the govt to become a lumpen expression of state fury. You never know what can happen with mobs, but so far the crowds at Ramlila and other places in the current agitation have been largely peaceful. It could well be that the goons floating around could well be plants of the movement's adversaries, just like media threw a spanner in the works of Ramdev. It is when the media has their own agenda that great concerns confront them – in this case another channel that has grabbed eyeballs. TimesNow maybe. Rajdeep even came up with his own 5-point strategy to end the current crisis. Is that the job of a news man? Someday, Rajdeep must wake up to the fact that the media actually throws a spanner in the works many times. Remember 26/11? In such a situation it’s a bad idea to throw a Sardesai in the works.