Sagarika Ghose writes that in the “opposition-free environment” of Gujarat, it is the media that is the only opposition to the alpha-male of Gujarati asmita, Narendra Modi. And like the masses he lords over, he has ensured that there is a sharp polarisation among the messages carrying his word to them.
Those who sing in his praise get first preference for interviews even if they risk being labelled “fascist sympathiser” or “closet saffron”. Those who don’t, like the English media, are “left-inclined upper class Nehru-style firangis who, ever since the neglect of Sardar Patel by the Congress, have failed to give Gujarat its due.”
The idea is to set up a Delhi vs Gandhinagar battle. The reason, writes Ghose, is that Gujarat 2002, was India’s first televised riot:
“Television images branded themselves so powerfully on the national consciousness that normally apolitical people were galvanized into outrage, commissions and courts gasped in horror and took pro-active steps, conscientious folk found themselves becoming activists and secular society at large got the demon that it collectively and subconsciously yearned for.…
“Seeing” has meant doing. Media images of the riots have spurred a courageous activist movement which has systematically followed cases and provided legal aid. A prosecution and investigation that was simply not neutral was challenged. Witnesses who were being paid off or threatened were provided protection. Perhaps because of this media-inspired activist movement, many of the injustices of 2002 have been realized and fought.“
Read the full column: The politics of seeing