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Yes, Arnab, we are a “shameless bunch”, പക്ഷെ ലജ്ജ താങ്കളിൽ നിന്നും പഠിക്കാനില്ല!

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Posted on September 01, 2018, 3:24 pm


Jaykhosh Chi­dambaran (90 lycean)

This is not some­thing I would ordi­nar­i­ly write on a pub­lic page, but times are such that if not now, when?

My friends and acquain­tances in and from Ker­ala have played a huge role in shap­ing my way of think­ing, which is the only thing I am proud of hav­ing achieved in this life­time so far. I was intro­duced to this brand of the argu­men­ta­tive cit­i­zen when, in my mas­ter’s class in Mani­pal, I stud­ied along­side a group of Malay­alis, many of them men (who can be sex­ist, stub­born and insuf­fer­able at times). In their com­pa­ny, many of us devel­oped our crit­i­cal think­ing abil­i­ties and learnt to voice our opin­ions with­out fear of cen­sure. We were study­ing pol­i­tics, cul­ture, soci­ety and media, and there was so much to be under­stood. To have come from a shel­tered back­ground where you were expect­ed to fol­low rules with­out ques­tion or argu­ment, could only make you con­form or suf­fer iso­la­tion if you reject­ed that way of think­ing. This was an entire­ly new expe­ri­ence: dis­cuss, debate, dis­agree, but stay friends at the end of it. Heat­ed exchanges took place in class, which would car­ry over out­side the class, and then at the mess over lunch, then at Side Shack dur­ing tea and at Press Cart dur­ing breaks between class­es. It was beau­ti­ful.

It took me a few years after grad­u­at­ing from Mani­pal to under­stand what made a major­i­ty of Malay­alis this way. They car­ry a unique iden­ti­ty that no oth­er region­al-lin­guis­tic com­mu­ni­ty can lay claim to. It is not just lan­guage that binds them, but also the val­ues of crit­i­cal think­ing and polit­i­cal debate. Some of the most cre­ative work I have had the good for­tune to expe­ri­ence comes out of this nar­row strip of land.

It isn’t sur­pris­ing why, though. Ker­ala was an entre­pôt for ideas along with trad­ed goods, since ancient times. The Muzuris port in the Mal­abar trad­ed with Romans, Per­sians, Greeks, Egyp­tians etc. Lat­er, spice trade forged strong links with Arab and Phoeni­cian traders. Those who don’t under­stand the atten­tion that Ker­ala has received from the Gulf coun­tries are not famil­iar with the his­tor­i­cal links between them and Ker­ala, which pre­date the for­ma­tion of India.

It is through Ker­ala that the world’s major reli­gions entered the Indi­an penin­su­la in ancient times: Judaism, Chris­tian­i­ty (in var­i­ous denom­i­na­tions), Islam, which found fol­low­ers in Ker­ala. The arrival of these philoso­phies fos­tered a form of syn­creti­cism that grew organ­i­cal­ly and which con­tin­ues to sus­tain, in a way that the rest of India should learn. There is per­haps no oth­er state in the coun­try that can set an exam­ple for Indi­a’s claim to diver­si­ty like Ker­ala can. And this diver­si­ty forms the bedrock of its iden­ti­ty as much as does its lan­guage.

The Malay­ali peo­ple fierce­ly pro­tect their right to think, their right to believe, and their right to voice an opin­ion. Through inde­fati­ga­ble efforts at cre­at­ing a cul­ture of pub­lic debate, they have devel­oped a rea­son­ably com­mon vision for their state. Labour rights, land reforms…

No voic­es are dis­tinct­ly heard in any large Indi­an fish mar­ket. It’s a vibrant and dynam­ic place though, where noise pre­dom­i­nates ratio­nal dis­cus­sion. Amidst the cacoph­o­ny and pan­de­mo­ni­um, the fish mer­chant, by virtue of years of vocal train­ing, man­ages his deci­bels to super­sede the pub­lic chat­ter. If there is one place that marks a strik­ing sem­blance to a fish mar­ket dynam­ics, through its tone and tim­bre, it’s Arnab Goswami’s Nation Wants to Know at Repub­lic TV!!

Fish mer­chants do work for prof­it and are vocif­er­ous but com­pas­sion­ate souls with­out any mali­cious intent. Even if they arrive at least on a dilut­ed con­sen­sus on the price; lest a full con­sen­sus, the trans­ac­tion is done. But here is the con­spic­u­ous dif­fer­ence in an Arnab show! While a fish mer­chant opens his trade with­out any pre­con­ceived notion, Arnab has a pre­med­i­tat­ed agen­da, often prej­u­diced and con­form­ing to the slant­ed polit­i­cal dis­course of his pro­mot­ers and their cronies.

Ever since lan­guage was invent­ed by human beings in their evo­lu­tion­ary jour­ney, its pre­dom­i­nant social func­tion was that of com­mu­nion. Lis­ten­ing is an inte­gral part of that process. But by some inex­plic­a­ble pro­gram of nature, the pan­el dis­cus­sion par­tic­i­pants in an Arnab show nev­er lis­ten, because they are con­stant­ly inter­rupt­ed by the anchor him­self, whose fac­ul­ties are, unfor­tu­nate­ly ill devel­oped for lis­ten­ing to a full sen­tence. The con­se­quence is noth­ing but an ever increas­ing crescen­do of white noise and con­fu­sion which, the hap­less view­ers are forced to endure!!

Accord­ing to con­ven­tion­al jour­nal­is­tic prin­ci­ples and media ethics, only the news should be pre­sent­ed, undi­lut­ed and objec­tive­ly to the gen­er­al pub­lic. It’s in the domain of the view­ers after lis­ten­ing and exposed to a vari­ety of view points to form their own con­clu­sions and deliv­er judge­ment about the top­ic of dis­cus­sion.

The days of such unbi­ased report­ing are over, espe­cial­ly in an Arnab show where he screams, heck­les, shouts, retorts hys­ter­i­cal­ly by throw­ing counter ques­tions, humil­i­ates and by fre­quent­ly inter­rupt­ing any­one voic­ing dis­si­dent views. He resorts to aggres­sive tac­tics like ad hominem remarks so as to sub­ject the dif­fi­dent pan­el to his ulte­ri­or motives.

The entire nation knows where his parochial loy­al­ties lie now after adorn­ing the helm of Repub­lic TV, giv­en his pro­mot­ers polit­i­cal affil­i­a­tions. Instead of the fire­brand jour­nal­ist he was,committed to social caus­es, cham­pi­on of plu­ral­ism and expos­ing polit­i­cal scan­dals, he has shame­less­ly reduced and dis­graced him­self into a spin doc­tor of the rul­ing right wing rad­i­cals, whose realpoli­tik man­i­festo is a homo­ge­neous, ultra nation­al­ist Hin­du nation.

As a result, top­ics relat­ed to micro and macro­eco­nom­ic poli­cies of the incum­bent BJP gov­ern­ment, direct­ly affect­ing the com­mon man fea­ture less in his news hour debates. The demon­e­ti­za­tion fias­co, chron­ic unem­ploy­ment and decline in indus­tri­al and man­u­fac­tur­ing out­put, soar­ing petrol prices, farm­ers sui­cides, lynch­ing of Dal­its by Sangh Pari­var hooli­gans, threats to sec­u­lar democ­ra­cy and plu­ral­ism, alarm­ing depre­ci­a­tion of rupee are not nation­al issues to his Chan­nel.

He is more con­cerned about cul­tur­al nation­al­ism, whether Con­gress par­ty is play­ing dirty pol­i­tics in Ker­ala flood, whether it’s prop­er for Navjot Singh Sid­hu to hug a Pak­istani army chief, church con­spir­a­cy against a para­noid Modi, Zakir Naik’s anti­na­tion­al hate cam­paigns, cast­ing couch, why cow is a holy ani­mal and moth­er to cow wor­ship­pers to the valid­i­ty of chant­i­ng Bharat Mata Ki Jai etc etc. And he claims to be a seri­ous jour­nal­ist!!

His per­son­al integri­ty and pro­fes­sion­al ethics are ques­tioned when his erst­while employ­er Times Now have lodged a court case against him for steal­ing intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty. An FIR was also filed against him for abet­ting the sui­cide of an inte­ri­or design­er in Alibaug over non-pay­ment dues.

In a lat­est episode of his hys­ter­i­cal rants, he slammed the peo­ple of Ker­ala, suf­fer­ing from a worst nat­ur­al dis­as­ter in over a cen­tu­ry as “shame­less bunch” beg­ging and dis­tort­ing facts on finan­cial aid from oth­er sov­er­eign nations, espe­cial­ly the UAE. It’s quite unfor­tu­nate that he is igno­rant of the basic dif­fer­ence between vol­un­tary aid and beg­ging. He is con­vinced that Ker­alites have tar­nished the image of India as an eco­nom­ic pow­er, self reliant on finance!!

This is inter­est­ing when 400 mil­lion peo­ple of India don’t have a choice of what to eat for dai­ly meals but whether to eat!! And India’s cur­rent GDP per capi­ta is 126th in the world. Also for him, it doesn’t come under the def­i­n­i­tion of shame­less when in India, there is open defecation,when peo­ple are mur­dered for eat­ing beef, cows being wor­shipped as moth­er, drink­ing cow urine, hon­or killing is still ram­pant in rur­al communities,when west­ern media reports ridicu­lous com­ments by BJP min­is­ters includ­ing the Prime Min­is­ter on ancient Indi­an sci­en­tif­ic accom­plish­ments.

Is he frus­trat­ed with abysmal­ly low per­for­mance of BJP in Ker­ala? Doesn’t he know that the Human Devel­op­ment Indices of Ker­ala are at par with West Euro­pean nations? And most of the non-eco­nom­ic fac­tors like lit­er­a­cy, pri­ma­ry health care, edu­ca­tion, infant mor­tal­i­ty ratio, san­i­ta­tion and hygiene, polit­i­cal aware­ness etc are the best in the coun­try? And can boast as one of the best work­force in the world?

Or is he com­plete­ly unaware that Ker­alites believe that a dog bark­ing at the Sun, caus­es no harm…?

His stature is now of a pet­ty politi­cian than that of a dig­ni­fied jour­nal­ist.

He is case study of what jour­nal­ism ought not to be…

The nation wants to know his real agen­da…!!