I think it all went horribly wrong with this JNU issue because the possibility of the doctored videos being put out was obscured by the ruckus over the right to speak against the country as opposed to criticising its institutions.
Those who supported the JNU rally, be they professors, leftists or liberals, largely erred in initially ignoring the so called facts of the matter and flinging the freedom of expression card at the country. The operative phrase became a ‘for or against sedition’ equation. it was a no brainer. This lot has probably ended up doing more harm than all the media for enough of whom this story was merely entertainment. Many of us also got caught up in the frenzy because we found it terribly distasteful that anyone would seek and find virtue in confusing the government with the nation.
If that sentiment hadn’t formed the spearhead of the support for the student leader Kanhaiya Kumar there would have been a lot more attention paid to the scary question of ‘truth’ being created by the media for the benefit of the media. In the early stages of 9, 10 and 11 February the rage had built up to a head and we were all divided into ‘say what, you anti-national cretins’ and ‘JNU is a thinker’s varsity’ groups and the feeble bleats of the ‘few’ who said 'hey, these tapes are not for real' were drowned out...or, when finally brought up for air, inconvenient to hear.
This brings us to two factors, both enough to make us cringe and fear the future.
One, things unsavoury did occur that day. Whether the students were trapped by other elements or conned is something I don’t know but there was a tacit agreement to use the cover of the ‘cultural evening’ at the Press Club in Delhi to play foul and the Afzal Guru angle cannot be wished away. The prima facie evidence that the third anniversary of his hanging was celebrated exists. Breaking up the blame and the responsibility for the fracas into crumbs and then distributing it is an option but how does one establish guilt when no student or teacher from JNU has stepped up and put the issue into honest perspective?
One would have thought that the lawyers for Kumar would have issued a minute by minute clarification of what went down.
It has now been ten days. Cannot the people of India get the unvarnished facts? Stuff that is not filtered through TV channels and websites and newspapers and the anchors baying for blood? Does it not amaze you that no one can stand up and give us a chronological account of the goings on 9 February? Not the police nor the government nor the opposition nor the students themselves.
The second fact is the media’s sackcloth and ashes piety that has been best captured by Ravish Kumar on NDTV where for 41 minutes he berates journalism (and journalists including himself) in an orgy of absolution that would have made Henry II proud for his penance in having ordered the murder of Thomas Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury. It is brilliantly masochistic and if one weren't such a cynic one would collapse in tears at the rhetoric. But strip the semantics and there is a nugget of fact in it. Media is conjuring up the truth. So is the government when it changes the colour of Sushma Swaraj’s sari from her Pakistan trip or morphed the pictures in the helicopter porthole when Narendra Modi toured Chennai after the floods.
Indeed, if anything has come out of this ugly event it is that media lies and lies without qualm. The internet has devoured stamina and intent and plagiarism is a cousin to sensationalism.
Together they can manipulate the end-user with abandon. And it is being done. What is truth, asked the jesting Pilate and did not wait for an answer.
He won’t get one here either.
See the nadir we have plummeted to.
Major General Bakshi cries for the cameras and Smriti Irani is waiting in the wings to pick up the slack and swings into a syrupy paean of praise for the men in uniform. .
Ask the old withered men at the OROP strike zone and see what they have to say.