As India gets ready for its annual budget exercise, amid hints of its likely to be a populist one on the eve of a general election, M.J. Akbar, editor-in-chief of The Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle, writes in the Khaleej Times:
“The Common Man is getting a budget; does the Common Man have a face? Actually, yes. That brilliant Times of India cartoonist, R.K. Laxman, has given us the emblematic face of the Common Man. I chanced upon a Laxman original of Mahatma Gandhi in a friend’s office, and it struck me that Laxman’s Common Man, who has appeared for decades on the front page of the Times, is a variation of Gandhi. Gandhi redefined India and Indian nationalism, took it away from the grasp of elites and handed it over to the Common Man for safekeeping. Six decades after his death, the Common Man is getting one budget out of five. I suppose the Common Man should be grateful for small mercies.”
Photograph: courtesy The Tribune, Chandigarh
Update/ the full article: Queue and collect
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The media has been a key player in Raj Thackeray‘s hate campaign against “outsiders” in Bombay. In giving him the oxygen of publicity, in editorialising news, in fanning the flames by repeatedly showing file pictures, in not dealing with the issue with balance and proportion, the media has come under scrutiny from the Union cabinet, from independent analysts, and from sections of the media itself.
Thackeray himself has used the local Marathi media adroitly in turning this into an “us versus them” issue. He has written a signed article in Maharashtra Times (of The Times of India group), he has responded to an open letter in Lok Satta (of the Indian Express group), and he has kept his media conferences out of bounds to English and Hindi media (whom he sees as antithetical to the local interests he is championing).
The veteran journalist Jyoti Punwani has some fine questions on all this:
# Should a newspaper offer its pages to a politician who has been promoting hatred against other Indians on the basis of region and language, and whose followers have assaulted unarmed innocents on that basis?
# If that politician uses the space offered to him to justify and further his hate campaign, should the newspaper carry his piece without any strong editorial rebuttal alongside?
# As a political leader entitled to invite to a press conference journalists of his/her choice, based on language/region? In that case, what should be the response of journalists, especially those invited?
# Should TV cameras telecast incidents of violence during communal riots again and again without specifying that these are file pictures?
# Finally, how should the media report on the acts of a politician leading a hate campaign based on region and language?
Read the full article: Lending hate campaigns a platform