Today, an audio clip purported to be from Mr. Ravish Kumar, the popular anchor from NDTV went viral in the Social Media circles. Somebody speaking in a voice, that to some extent resembled Mr. Ravish Kumar’s, was criticising the current communal bias in the mainstream TV channels in the country and exhorting the Muslim Community to launch their own TV channel. Many Muslims were impressed and circulated it quite enthusiastically. Dozens of my friends forwarded me this clip and insisted on a response. Our team at Varthabharati looked at it critically and Prima facie suspected its authenticity. Instead of wasting any more time, we sent it straight to Mr. Ravish Kumar, who is regularly in touch with us. He was kind enough to respond as soon as he received it. He categorically stated that it is a fake audio clip and he has absolutely nothing to do with it. Thus, the clip turned out to be a wicked mischief of some Mimicry artist.
Complaints against the Communal and Casteist bias in the mainstream Media is not at all a new phenomenon in the country. Sensitive citizens who cared for the Democratic and Secular foundations of the Indian society have been voicing their concern against this since a few decades at least. Ironically, for quite a long time, it was only the ‘Secular intelligentsia’ that was leading this resistance and engaged in some efforts to raise alternative platforms, while the Muslim leaders were found doing nothing beyond grumbling about the biased media. They were hardly seen in the forefront of any organised resistance against this bias or any efforts to find viable solutions to this challenge.
Talking about a ‘Muslim TV channel’ in general and a ‘Muslim TV News Channel’ in particular (here, let us call it MTVC), has become a passion and fancy with some Muslim circles in the country, since the advent of the Phase – 2 of the Modi – Sha regime. The phenomenon was obviously triggered by those many News Channels in the country, both at the regional and the national level, which totally dropped their masks during this phase and started revealing their ugly face by speaking in an extremely venomous and radically divisive tone and thereby elevated the bias to alarming levels. It is widely acknowledged that this change of stance in the Media has contributed significantly to the rise of hatred and violence in the society. Some Muslim pockets obsessively debating the prospects of a MTVC is an offshoot of this transformation in the Media. Looking at the level of the seriousness of these debates,however, I would rather call them gossiping pockets of the Community.
Significantly, the MTVC issue is yet to go beyond the level of gossips in the community. It has not been seriously debated so far at any level by any serious quarter. Neither any seminar nor even a sober discussion involving Media experts and professionals has been held on this topic so far. Nobody, as far as I know, has initiated any serious effort in that direction at the national level. Even a serious feasibility study is yet to be conducted. Therefore, it is too early to take serious cognizance of this gossip. However, the Community must be cautioned against a few potential dangers hiding behind this gossip being spun around the illusion MTVC.
First of all one should be clear about what is meant by a Muslim TV Channel? What is going to be its role model ? Is it going to be like the Peace TV? the Sudarshan TV? or the Aastha TV? Will it be religious or Spiritual? Or is it going to replace the Sangh Bias, the Brahmin bias, the upper caste bias or the Hindu bias with Muslim bias?
Secondly, does India need an MTVC in the first place? Is MTVC a solution at all to any of the problems the country or the community is facing today? Is MTVC going to fulfill any of our current crucial, needs and aspirations? It is quite obvious that a Muslim TV channel can never be an answer to the challenge the nation id facing today on the Media front. Under the current circumstances MTVC might even end up further vitiating the already rotten Media market in India.
India in fact is need of strong Media houses, Media networks and Media personnel, honestly and reliably committed to uphold the universally acclaimed ethics and values of journalism, without fear or favor, under all circumstance. That is really the solution to a number of issues the country is facing today. India needs honest and truly professional Media houses irrespective of the caste or religion of those who own them or works for them.
The most dangerous aspect of the issue is the possibility of certain unscrupulous elements manipulating these gossips to mislead the Community to serve their own selfish interests. When an idea or a concept strikes popular imagination and mass sentiments are associated with it, there will emerge Veerappans from within the ranks of the community to cheat and rob the community. The community has already witnessed how the thugs sell the dream of – an Islamic Bank or an interest free financial institute or a Shariah compliant Bank and manipulate beliefs and sentiments as a ploy to swindle the unsuspecting innocent masses and amass huge booty. It was in the name of Islamic finance that the members of the community lost over Rs. 5,000 crores recently to gang of a fraudsters in Bangalore.
If the fake audio clip circulated in the name of a credible journalist is any indication, efforts are already on to exploit and mislead the community in the name of Media and many more games will be played during the days to come. Therefore it is time to be alert and watchful. What can we do to strengthen professional and unbiased Media in the country is indeed a crucial question. But the answer to this question should be sought from the true professionals and experts and never from frustrated politicians, jobless intellectuals, job seeking scribes, stupid leaders or scholars masquerading as the saviors of the Community.
Abdus Salam Puthige is Editor in Chief of Vartha Bharati, Kannada Daily.