By Devika Bedi
Out of twenty-nine states and seven union territories in India, there are not many that are not facing significant political trouble. While the state of Jammu and Kashmir is in perpetual administrative uncertainty, West Bengal is facing a Gorkha agitation. Assam was recently declared “disturbed” before AFSPA was extended there. Now it is Tripura’s turn. Tripura Chief Minister Mr Manik Sarkar’s Independence Day speech, recorded on August 12, had content that was apparently “not fit for broadcast” on Doordarshan.
Censorship: ‘undemocratic, autocratic and intolerant’
Prasar Bharati did not find the content of the speech “suitable”. “The collective decision taken at Delhi advises that the broadcast may not go with its existing content. AIR/Prasar Bharati will, however, be more than happy if the chief minister agrees to reshape the content making it suitable to the solemnity of the occasion and sentiments of the people of India at large,” said Assistant Director of Programmes Mr Sanjiv Dosanjh.
The BJP remains the centre of discussion for being allegedly responsible for this censorship. Further, it has been accused of using State TV for propaganda. Mr Sarkar has called Doordarshan “undemocratic, autocratic and intolerant”. In addition, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury blamed Prasar Bharti for succumbing to “dictatorial centralism” employed by BJP. Moreover, Yechury urged for a united opposition against the BJP government. “The followers of those who… sabotaged the freedom movement, were servile to the… British… are striking at the root of the unity and integrity of India”, asserted the chief minister.
An excerpt from the speech: “conspiracies and attempts are underway to create an undesirable complexity and divisions in our society; to invade our national consciousness in the name of religion, caste and community, by inciting passions to convert India into a particular[sic] religious country and in the name of protecting the cow. Because of all these people, minorities and Dalits are under severe attack”.
Freedom undermined by Doordarshan
Media, being the fourth pillar of democracy, is enshrined to inform, make aware and interactively communicate between the state and the people on grounds of trust and hope. Such instances create opacity around the public sector. They may lead to (minor in juvenile stage) revolts from the opposition parties and/or from the voters at large.
What happened on 14th August, as an effort to get the Chief Minister’s speech “re-shaped”, must be regarded as a polemical injustice. The unfolding of the imbroglio swathed electronic (TV) and online media (Twitter, primarily). Sitaram Yechury posted multiple tweets aiming at the government with the conviction that the government wants people to have a unilateral point of view.
Saved by the Internet
Nevertheless, BJP’s alleged actions to curtail Manik Sarkar’s speech have been futile. The speech was made public on social media. It also became an advocacy tool for the opposition leaders against the ruling government’s alleged silencing of anti-establishment views. The Internet, yet again, has served as the vehicle of change and transparency where voices are heard and supported. Fuelled by all these debates, the Indian polity is experiencing a paradigm shift in how dissent and criticism are treated.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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