Western Media wrong on spate of issues: Time for Indian Media?


Since I had been to the region some time ago, a school invited me for a talk on Syria, particularly Aleppo, and why Assad was killing his own people.

“This is not true” I said. “Why do you have this impression?”

“Because this is what we read in our newspapers”, one said.

“Even in the Hindi newspapers which my grandfather reads”, chipped in another.

Teachers were worse. Their minds were more firmly made up. They had seen it all on TV, and next day’s newspapers confirmed what they saw at night.

How does one cope with this challenge? I agree that world affairs are not the staple in hundreds of thousands of higher secondary schools in India. But the occupation of Afghanistan, Iraq, war in Syria, bombing of Gaza, the post Qaddafi mayhem in Libya, Ukraine, Trump’s shock victory, Europe bolting from the stable of liberalism, are all events that must, willy, nilly, come into everyone’s focus, even in schools, the better ones certainly. And they will all come through western filters. And on all these issues, a large segment of the western media has been woefully misleading. I shall never tire of repeating myself: now is the time for an Indian, global, multimedia network.

The students I addressed were 17 and 18 years old. Their world view was being shaped by what they watched on TV and read in newspapers. Since there has never been an Indian journalist, leave alone an Indian news bureau, in any of the live news theatres listed above, we are witness to an entire generation in the thrall of the only sources they have for information on global events.

In fact, the world view on show in that school hall, is not a casual inclination towards a way of looking at the world. It has solidified over generations.

Upto the 90s, BBC World Service News and Reuters were the routine sources of world news. The hegemonic embrace of the global media began in 1991 when Peter Arnett of the CNN inaugurated the new, invasive age of the global TV. He beamed live images of Operation Desert Storm in February of that year. This was the first time that a war was brought into our drawing rooms. This was also the first time when the BBC was beaten by cousins from across the Atlantic. I still remember John Simpson driving around Baghdad with his satellite telephone for BBC World Radio. BBC World Service TV was born later.

The televised coverage of western triumphalism divided the world into two hostile audiences – the victorious West and a humiliated Muslim world. This was the base on which hostilities simmered. 9/11 detonated an almighty explosion – the war on terror, which ostensibly brought the West into conflict with many Muslim societies on varying perceptions of terrorism.

Parents of those I was addressing in the school had been fed on this media diet for its understanding of world affairs.

An important fact is often overlooked. Operation Desert Storm and the subsequent Information Order coincided with new economic policies bringing India in line with globalization, then on a gallop. The World Is Flat, declared Thomas Friedman in his bestselling book. He was treated like a local hero by Bengaluru’s IT pundits.

The neo-liberal economic policies rapidly augmented the ranks of the Maruti-plus middle class. To cater to the burgeoning consumerism this class brought in its wake, came the mushroom growth of electronic media.

Both, the media as well as the new middle class found itself out of sync with another reality. The country was gripped by unprecedented social disharmony after the Babri Masjid was pulled down by BJP volunteers on December 6, 1992. This was the period when Manmohan Singh, as Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao’s Finance Minister, was promoting new economic policies.

The new middle class, was looking at the stars. A bonanza was writ on the horizon. He was impatient with the conflation in his mind of the war on terror and social disharmony in India. The Muslim was spoiling the game.

The new TV channels, creatures of globalization, were brazenly imitative of the way the western media covered the war on terror. As I have said earlier, western coverage created a distance between nations – Western and Muslim. Indian coverage distanced 180 million Muslims with a distinct nuance on the war on terror. It strengthened majoritarianism.

I am not for a moment suggesting that all the western media dissembles. They do, however, see the world from their own perspective. For us to swallow everything doled out to us by these sources will cause us to lost sight of reality.

“What nationalism” taunted a scholar recently in London. “You don’t allow travel between yourselves and a neighbouring country you helped create.” I thought this was the usual harangue about a Pakistan policy we have grown accustomed to. But his punchline was devastating:

“And your entire elite, without exception, aches for a Green Card for its progeny, to be parked permanently in the United States of America – what nationalism?”

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

In Defence of ‘Sting Operations’: Battling Cancer of Corruption


A hidden camera, when used in public interest, exposes a truth that’s openly known but difficult to prove. In leaky democracies when confronting those in power with the truth is risky, the hidden camera is a powerful instrument to validate intuitive truths about corruption that citizens accept as a matter of course.

Some of our politicians are unethical in their willingness to accept cash and gifts. A hidden camera, when used for the purpose for exposing the machinery of corruption, is the only way a citizen can ring the alarm bells.

So let’s stop pretending that ‘sting’ operations are morally indefensible when it is carried out in public interest.

In Narada News Sting, Message More Important Than Messenger

The sting carried out by Mathew Samuel’s outfit, Narada News, has exposed an essential truth – corruption is the biggest threat to India’s economic security and sovereignty. In 2001, he had planned Indian media’s first sting, ‘Operation Westend’, which dramatically exposed that corruption and kickbacks do exist in defence deals.

Several allegations have been raised about the integrity of Mathew Samuel and his outfit Narada News. There is talk about vested interests in Dubai allegedly funding this outfit. Let’s for a moment assume that Mathew Samuel may be fronting vested interests aiming at political subversion in India. What if such allegations are true? Does that mean there’s no corruption in India or that some of our politicians aren’t corrupt.

Finally, the tapes showing TMC politicians taking money is not about Mathew Samuel’s integrity. It is quite possible that Samuel, as some allege, might have questionable integrity. But the point really is about TMC politicians on tape gladly accepting money.

One of the most iconic rock bands, Bad Company, got it right when they sang: “Oh, there’s no smoke without a fire, and there’s no heat without a flame.”

External vested interests playing subversion games with some Indian politicians is not the issue. The issue really is about the propensity of some Indian politicians to sell their soul. The corruption standards they set is followed by the bureaucracies they run. Their corruption is the biggest threat to India’s national security because they undermine us – the citizens of India.

Exposing the Truth We Know

The Gandhi family will never be able to erase the stain of corruption of the ‘Bofors Deal’, just as the BJP-led government of 2001 will never be able to escape the embarrassment of targeting Tehelka for exposing how easily the bureaucracy of the Ministry of Defence could be subverted with cash offerings. Long before the sting operation visually exposing the sordid reality of corruption in defence deals, Chitra Subramanium’s iconic reportage for The Hindu had firmly exposed corruption in the ‘Bofors Deal’.

So how are sting operations different from traditional investigative reporting?

Sting operations assume criminality if they are used as a deliberate tool to invade a person’s privacy, or to blackmail an individual or institution.

But sting operations are valid when it is used to expose the greedy hands of some of our politicians when they reach out willingly to grab cash to dole out favours. It is of no consequence whether favours were actually done or not because the idea is not to prove that fact.

The idea is to prove the fact that such behaviour exists – that politicians are willing to sacrifice their integrity for money and the extent of their willingness to dish out favours is directly proportional to the money offered.

Hidden Camera Ensures Safety

Since the Right to Information (RTI) Act was enacted in 2005, at least 45 right-to-information users and activists have been killed and over 250 assaulted, harassed, or threatened, according to local groups. Police often fail to investigate the attacks, under pressure from politicians and contractors with vested interest in keeping the information from becoming public. – Statement by Human Rights Watch, September 2015

In India, exposing corrupt politicians and officials often ends in death. We don’t need a hidden camera to prove that. We need the hidden camera to ensure that we keep this in the spotlight of our public discourse.

It isn’t surprising that the Delhi Chief Minister suggested that the city’s denizens use their phones to transform themselves into corruption watchdogs. He encouraged them to record instances of corruption and share the audio/video recordings with his government for action. The fact that thousands of citizens could potentially transform themselves as digital warriors against corruption forced the corrupt bureaucracy to fall in line.

So let’s stop pretending that stings which expose corruption or even the willingness of a politician to be corrupted as ‘entrapment’.

(VK Shashikumar is an investigative journalist and led CNN-IBN’s Special Investigation Team from 2005 to 2009. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)

(Note: The article was first published on The Quint on March 18, 2016. It is reproduced here with the permission of the author)

Right Angle: Indian Media and Ethics


Having made lateral entry into the field of journalism, I must admit that I was not “polished” by the daily grind of hard work of reporting and sub-editing to move up in the professional ladder. Nor for that matter had I gone to a media school to learn the basics of journalism, though many years later I did become a director and head of a media school. But then, my work there was essentially administrative. The point that I want to make is that though I am a journalist by profession, I do not possess theoretical knowledge of journalism. If I am what I am, that is because of my other educational backgrounds. And yet, as a member of the news management committee of a premier Indian daily and later as an editor elsewhere, I have always believed in the importance of ethics in the media. I have had strong views, but that has never affected my editorial judgment. I have always provided opportunities for “other viewpoints”. I have always made a distinction between news and views. I have always made it a point to ask my reporters to crosscheck facts and not to twist them. I have always protected the “reliable sources”, but I have never exploited this factor to concoct stories. And I have always considered it sacred that one must not betray the sources by publishing or airing their views that they make “off the record”.

Regrettably, I am finding myself to be in a dwindling minority these days in the Delhi-based media. I want to cite in this column this time the number of stories or instances of how ethics is ceasing to be a factor in the functioning of India’s national media (TV, print and social). The media is getting increasingly partisan, its main focus shifting from pointing out facts to building perceptions. As I have always argued, the national media, the Delhi-based media to be precise, has always been more ideological than professional, overwhelmingly dominated as it has been by the “left” and so-called secular elements at the top. Naturally, therefore, the media is intrinsically hostile to the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (assumed to be a rightist party, though actually it is not) in general and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular.

Just see how the national media went to the town the other day claiming that junior union minister Giriraj Singh was given such a dressing down by Modi over his controversial remark on Congress President Sonia Gandhi that the former virtually broke down into tears. Though Singh has contested the claim, just see the sequence of the story. It so happened that few days ago Singh was having some official engagements in Vaishali town in the state of Bihar. After completing his work, he checked into a local circuit house nearby to rest. He then decided to hold a press conference. After the formal press conference was over, some reporters had sat with him for a casual informal chat. “Interestingly as the conversation began, Giriraj sounded a request cum warning: ‘switch off all your cameras and other recording devices. It’s a totally informal chat, not to be quoted, not to be printed or broadcast.’ Giriraj was naïve enough to believe that his words would be taken as a command. Little did he realise that at least one of them had kept his camera running. It’s a different matter though that the minister was assured that his ‘trust would not be breached at any cost’. The minister then loosened up and committed a cardinal mistake – which was making a racist, sexist remark against Congress President Sonia Gandhi. “If Rajiv Gandhi would have married a Nigerian and Sonia Gandhi (form Italy) wasn’t white-skinned, would Congress have accepted her?”

If the above report appearing in website “Firstpost” is right then I am ashamed of today’s journalists. As journalists, we have been party to so many informal chats by ministers and political leaders. But the journalistic ethics never permitted us to “break news”. Will be it be ok if our bed-room talks (critical of Modi, Sonia, or anybody else) are revealed to the public as breaking news? I think that this is a question worth pondering over.

Secondly, at the risk of being the butt of hate mails, let me say that I agree completely with what Singh said. A black foreigner would not have been accepted by Indians as a leader, given our colour prejudice in favour of fair coloured persons. In fact, the Africans should make Singh a hero because he was speaking the bitter Indian truth in their favour. In fact, as my fried Bala Chandran, a veteran journalist, says, “If the whole of US could discuss the winnability of Obama on his colour why not us on Sonia. And here’s a bonus question: would Indira have accepted Sonia if she were Black or still trickier a Pakistani? Journalists are excluded from this quiz, for the minimum qualification is a sound common sense…Coming back to Sonia as Black, a la Giriraj Singh, I wonder whether these frauds would have so much as squeaked if Ramachandra Guha or Gopal Krishna Gandhi ( both are country’s leading “secular” and “liberal” columnists) had posed this question in an edit page piece. Or a Western writer, say Noam Chomsky? I am sure they would hold a seminar on the subject.”

Similarly, take the series of reports in recent weeks that India’s national media highlighted on the so-called attacks on Churches by Hindu fanatics in the wake Narendra Modi assuming India’s most important office. As I had argued a fortnight ago, in their display of intense animosity against Modi, many media outlets went to the town of overplaying such stories, without bothering to check out whether these unfortunate incidents were planned communal attacks or usual criminal deeds. And as it has been found out, almost all these incidents belonged to the latter category. In fact, to get a proper perspective, these criminal deeds needed to be compared with the much higher number of thefts or vandalisation of Hindu temples and Mosques. But then when these facts were revealed, they were totally underplayed. Here I must admit that as I write this, I see a leading daily at least mentioning on its front page today (April 24) that the church attack in Agra city in the state of Uttar Pradesh on April 16 (the daily had carried this story as its lead item a few days ago) has taken a “strange turn” with the arrest of a Muslim youth who has reportedly admitted that he vandalized the place of worship because his love for a Christian girl went unrequited!

Is this news planted to save “devil” Modi and the “fascist” RSS who are hell bent upon driving Christians away from India? But the Police in this case belongs to the government of Mulayam Singh Yadav, arguably “the most secular” leader of India. As far as the publication is concerned, it, as well as its sister concern, a leading television news channel, have excelled always in demonising Modi. This is the publication which had reported Modi’s much-publicised misquote of Newton’s third law, justifying the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002 – “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” As it was found out later by the Supreme Court-monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT), Modi, then chief minister of the state, had never said such a thing. What Modi had said was “A chain of action and reaction is going on. We want that neither should there be action, nor reaction.” But see the twist by the paper and the message it conveyed, which, seen in retrospect, added fuel to the fire.

Similarly, the same paper in 2013 had ridiculed Modi in front-paged report that Modi’s was a “Rambo Act” as he claimed to have evacuated 15000 Gujuratis in the state of Uttarakhand, where at least 1,000 people were killed and 90,000 trapped from flash floods and landslides. But then Modi had never made such a claim; the reporter concerned had filed the story on the basis of what a local BJP worker had told him! Modi became a villain for the whole media and political class for quite some time as he had “politicised a natural disaster”. Subsequently, when facts were revealed, the paper issued a clarification regretting the way the story was put up. But that was three weeks-later. By then the misleading information had triggered a large-scale national debate over Modi’s character.

For last few days, one sees the social media dominated by posts that Kerala Governor Justice P Sathasivam, a former Chief Justice of India, is being further rewarded by Modi as the next chairman of National Human Rights Commission. The government has not decided on the subject, but the anti-Modi brigade has gone hyper on the “probable” appointment of Justice Sathasivam, who again, has been misreported to be the person who as Chief justice gave bail to the BJP President Amit Shah, then accused of masterminding two Police encounters that took away the lives of two notorious criminals unlawfully. The fact remains that the bail was given by another bench involving Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai. On the contrary, Justice Sathasivam was the one who shifted the trial of Shah to Mumbai from Gujarat as per the request of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). But then the myth, his helping Amit Shah, that too when the Congress was ruling at the centre and Shah was a junior politician in Gujarat not dreaming of even becoming the BJP national president one day, continues to charm the anti-Modi brigade in the media.

Such instances are illustrative, not exhaustive. It is not that the national media distorts or twists stories only against Modi, though it is a fact that such twists are more centered against Modi and BJP than against others. See the way it twisted the remarks of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, suggesting that he praised Pakistan for the recent peaceful elections in the state. Sayeed’s real sin for our media is that he, a Muslim leader hailing from the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, leads a coalition government with the BJP.

Similarly, few days back, the story on an “imposter IAS officer” in the country’s premier training institute for civil service officers at Mussoorie dominated the headlines. Most in the media did not bother to check how the lady concerned could be an “imposter IAS officer” if she was staying in a rented room belonging to the security guard and working in the library. If she was an IAS officer, why was she searching for a permanent job in the library? Then, how was she an IAS officer if her alleged identity card as a sub divisional magistrate was issued by Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission? No editor worth the salt bothered to find the veracity of the charge.

Of course, negative news always sells. And it is selling well against the Modi government these days. That is why it is often said that “no news is good news and good news is no news”. True, there are many issues on which one can criticise the Modi government – its failures in not filling up governmental posts, not initiating administrative reforms, not doing anything substantial in education and health sectors and so on. But then our national media has other priorities. It has built up perceptions that nothing is happening in India and that the country is literally burning along ethnic and religious fault-lines. And it has made it obvious that there can never be good news in India until and unless Modi and the BJP are thrown into the Indian Ocean.

(Prakash Nanda is Editor of Uday India, a niche monthly devoted to defence, security and diplomacy. The blog has been reproduced from the website of Uday India. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)

A British who ruined India’s Holi


This Holi season was ruined by a despicable intruder in the Indian mindscape. This villain came in the garb of a documentary film maker. The documentary based on ‘Nirbhaya’s rape’ was filmed under the pretext of artistic license by Leslee Udwin. She pretended that she wanted to carry out psychological profiling of the rapists for the benefit of India.

It is now clear that Udwin’s motive behind her so-called ‘intellectual journey’ was to assault the psychology and self-confidence of the Indians.

Udwin not only indulged in flagrant illegalities by duping the Indian authorities but perpetrated an ‘artistic, journalistic or academic’ fraud on Indians. Firstly she never interviewed the main rapists. The person Mukesh, she interviewed, was driving the bus when the rape was happening. He was an accomplice and not the physical perpetrator. His interview would have been justified, if he was the only person alive, but there are four others including the most brutal one, i.e. a ‘juvenile’. Secondly, the so-called intellectual and her platform BBC is raking money on Nirbhaya’s tragedy and psychologically India’s most calamitous occurrence.

It is now two years since the Nirbhaya incident occurred. Even an inadvertent visitation of the incident wrecks the soul of most Indians. India solidly stood behind its ‘daughter’. The wheels of justice were put in motion. Meanwhile, natural justice visited one of the main perpetrators ‘Ram Singh’, who died in prison under most mysterious circumstances. India had just begun to recover, when this British lady exacerbated the healing wounds of Indians just before Holi.

If Udwin’s purpose had been psychological profiling of rapist, the ‘juvenile’ would have made an excellent ‘case study’. None of her supporters in India, most of them pseudo-intellectuals, questioned as to how personality profiling of rapists can be done by leaving out the main perpetrators and hinging the entire story on an accomplice. It can be assumed that Udwin must have explored the possibility of interviewing the main perpetrators but was unable to ‘net’ any of them, she was however successful with ‘Mukesh’. In all probability, financial and other allurements must have been extended. Other allurements may have included a promise of traction on the international community so that he could escape death penalty. This explains why only Mukesh was on a song in the interview.

Incidentally, one of the persons associated with the production of the documentary, an Indian and a prominent television face, has been under controversy for indiscriminate indulgences. There are any numbers of stories being attributed for the loss of his long held job.

The supporters of Udwin in India seemed to raise their voices in perfect harmony and orchestration. They flogged the hackneyed imperative for ‘freedom of expression’. They ranted against mindset of Indian men and in favour of Indian democracy, both at the same time.

Does ‘freedom of expression’ have any quantitative, qualitative and legal boundaries? If not, then will this author be granted access to make a documentary on the same incident by carrying out a psychological profiling of the ‘juvenile’? Why cannot there be a documentary on ‘Nirbhaya’s case’ before every ‘Holi’ and every ‘Dushera’? Why these intellectuals do not clamour for revealing the name of the ‘juvenile’? Let the supporters of Udwin and ‘freedom of expression’ answer these.

Some voices with their strange logic and contrived anger were heard in the Parliament. One poet-cum-activist took this as an opportunity to vent his political anger. He thundered that the documentary must be seen by all, as it reflected the mindset of Indians. This poet should have realized that every daughter has a father, and if every father (Babul) carried the same mindset, there would have been no India and Indian civilization would have died long ago. Another politician threatened that given a chance, she would lynch the rapists. Well, her medieval wish was soon fulfilled by others at Dimapur.

This poet-cum-activist and Udwin must reflect on India’s history. It is the invaders, who were responsible for subjugation of women, and this includes Udwin’s country. The invaders invariably prized two things, i.e. wealth and women. The women had to be protected and indeed they were in great measure, and that is how Indian civilization survived. Indian men were enslaved and consequently, Indian women were circumscribed. No sooner did the enslavement begin to disappear, women in India, rather the Indian subcontinent made a massive surge, unparalleled, anywhere in the world in relative terms. If India had its Sarojni Naidu and later Indira Gandhi, the rest of the subcontinent i.e. Sri Lanka had Shrimavo Bhandarnayke, Bangladesh had Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Haseena, and Pakistan had Benazir Bhutto. It was all because of the larger, intangible India’s cultural influence.

John Keay in his book “India” says: “that Hindu society continued to challenge the austere morality of both Islam and Christendom well into the fifteenth century is clear from the account of a Russian merchant Athanasius Nikitin, a native of Tver (Kalinin) on the Volga, reached India in C1470, so barely thirty years ahead of Vasco da Gama”.

The poet-cum-activist must realize that it is India which has given so much of respectability to Sunny Leone. It cannot happen without a healthy mindset. He should also know that when idol of Kali is made during ‘Durga Puja’, the first fistful of soil to be used is extracted from the premises of ‘members of the oldest profession’.

Now here is some useful statistics with regards to ‘rape incidents’ reported round the world. Udwin would have found better pastures for documentaries in these countries apart from her own.


Source: http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Crime/Rape-rate#

This is not to deny that the problems in India, mindsets of men do need tectonic change, but there is a majority constituency in India, which is tormented by every such incident. Therefore, the British journalist has no raison d’être for an inaccurate and motivated documentary except for the reason that her purpose is to leverage and probably instigate rapes in India to foment ‘instability’. Rape for some international powers has become red herring. This author in an earlier article “Is rape being leveraged by external players?” had written:

“How and when they were facilitated in this act (allowed to rush towards Rashtrapati Bhawan), is a matter that must be investigated by this new government. Surprisingly, no such anger was demonstrated by the same so called angry-demonstrators, when the Courts declared the beast, who slaughtered the body and soul of Nirbhaya as ‘juvenile’. Was it in deference to his religious extraction?

It now emerges that the intention of these violent protestors had nothing to do with Nirbhaya but to sabotage Putin’s visit at the behest of Russia’s rival powers. This happened when Putin was on a ‘state visit’ to India. The prevailing security situation arising out of the protests was bandied as the reason for shift of venue for the meeting between Manmohan Singh and President Putin from Hyderabad House to 7, Race Course Road, the official residence of the prime minister. This was a diplomatic insult to any head of state.

Would such protests be allowed at the sensitive tri-junction (North Block, South Block and Rashtrapati Bhawan) a day before the US President Barack Obama’s visit to India?…

Readers may fast-forward events to two years later. Mr. Putin again visited India in the second week of December 2014. Coinciding this visit, there was another incident of alleged ‘rape’. Reportedly, the victim was in the forefront of the ‘Nirbhaya agitation’ in 2012. This unsuspecting and hapless girl would have hardly imagined that she could fall victim of the machinations of external powers even if it meant ‘rape’….”

The author would now like to draw the attention and concern of the readers to three critical developments with regard to Udwin’s documentary. It is now quite clear that Udwin was desperate to make the documentary even at the cost of legal and journalistic proprietary. Her creativity is steeped in fraud. She is not alone in this entire game-plan. Even as the controversy of this documentary surfaced, there were several articles in the Washington Post in favour of the ‘juvenile’, in which he was portrayed as a ‘dove’ and an ‘amiable’ being, even as several accounts of his beastly behaviour during that fateful night make it an unbearable rather abominable experience. The Washington Post and the BBC seem to have acted in complete coordination.

Also in coordination have been some Church organizations in Nagaland have stranglehold over educational institutions. The incident of alleged rape in Dimapur had occurred in third week of February 2015. The alleged rapist was taken into judicial custody in Central Jail Dimapur, then where was the need of lynching him. The CCTV footage of the alleged rape is available on the internet and readers may draw their own conclusions. But school girls in uniform as part of the mob could not have happened without indulgence of some externally sponsored groups/organizations. Remember only a few years back, a Chief Minister in Arunachal Pradesh was toppled at the behest of Vatican through Naga MLAs from the Tirap sector of the state, his fault being that he was not facilitating religious conversions.

Rapes and murders in their multitude forms and interpretations are bane to human society. The measure of a country’s civilizational standards is, to what margins it has been able to confine these dark forces.

Do the supporters of Udwin approve the lynching of the alleged rapist in Dimapur? Remember if you do, the only colour on Holi will be that of blood.

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)

Indian Navy ignored during Tsunami for want of media policy


Boxing Day earlier this week reminded me of 26 December 2004, the day the Tsunami trampled Aceh, Galle, Trincomallee and devastated the east coast of India. An air force plane enabled me to be in Galle, Sri Lanka, that fateful day.

Captain Murlidharan Nair, Captain T. Asokan and a host of other naval officers from Cochin were holidaying on the high seas with their families when news of the Tsunami reached them. Families returned home in smaller boats even as reinforcements arrived for the Navy to advance with 37 ships to ports in the eye of the Tsunami.

Galle’s ample harbour was choked with debris, which included giant trees, smashed boats, furniture, doors, household goods and bloated carcasses.

The host country, Sri Lanka were astonished at the efficiency with which Indian officers and men could clear Galle and Trinco harbours. It was a heartwarming Indian show along a vast stretch of the coastline from Indonesia, Sri Lanka to India.

Then something quite extraordinary happened.

A giant US warship docked a few meters at sea, visible from the Galle airport from where I was to be flown to New Delhi. The first passengers to disembark from the warship were two US cameramen. A speed boat brought them ashore where a high platform was in readiness for the cameramen to position themselves.

Then came the marines with gear that would be impressive on film. Americans had arrived on relief duty with great fanfare.

It was dark by the time I reached New Delhi. Next morning’s newspapers were a shock. Across six columns of the Times of India was a photograph of the US ship disgorging marines, engineers, grenadiers. The headline in heavy font was: “American ship brings relief.” Not a word about the Indians.

Here I was witness, yet again, to the triumph of propaganda over fact. Everybody in Sri Lanka knew that Indian ships had arrived the day after the Tsunami hit the coastline. In fact by the time the American ships arrived most of the required relief had already been administered by the Indian Navy. It was a performance the nation could have been proud of. This was the sort of stuff Prime Ministers took special leave to inform their respective Parliaments about. Sadly, no such notice was taken of the Indian Navy.

In this instance there was a total disconnect between soldiers involved in the world’s most challenging expedition and Defence headquarters. In fact the most well informed person in South Block was Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran who could tally the US version from Chanakyapuri and the Indian one from Colombo.

Saran was at this stage managing another issue of some delicacy that the Tsunami had thrown up. The first diplomat to visit him was the Ambassador of Israel. He wanted permission for Israeli pilots to fly a plane to Nicobar Islands to rescue their citizens. What were they doing in Nicobar. The issue resolved itself because the Israelis in Nicobar chose to extend their idyllic holiday once the water level dropped.

Not only was there zero publicity for the extraordinary work done by the Indian Navy, but late comers like the Americans allowed their publicity departments to heap all the credit for the Tsunami management on themselves, the Americans.

This was the period when Indo-US relations were being given the sort of boost that would end up in a huge, strategic embrace after the Indo-US civil nuclear deal. A new term was introduced and promoted by the US ambassador to Nepal, James Moriarty to define regional co-operation between India, US and the European Union. The term was “Tsunami model”. The implication was quite stifling. Regional initiatives would require US, EU endorsement. It has been dropped because it tended to shackle New Delhi regionally rather than confer on it any new authority.

India was ahead of all the other nations eventually involved in Tsunami relief for reasons I have explained at the outset. Boxing Day is plonk in the middle of Christmas, New Year holidays. That is why Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac, George Bush, Kofi Annan – indeed most world leaders were on holiday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his cabinet colleagues and the armed forces could by contrast meet immediately and act.

The question is: why was the heroic work done by 37 Indian Naval ships in Sri Lanka, Aceh, Maldives and India’s eastern coast completely missed out by the global as well as the Indian media?

The reason is simple. The global media, BBC and CNN, will always aggressively promote their own national interests. For India’s achievements to be noticed, New Delhi will have to have a global media of its own. Otherwise the nation will fritter away its prime time programming on trivia, with little plausibility, brought into focus as aggressive debate.

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

Collapsing credibility of Western media: An opportunity for India


Even the skeptics now agree that India shall be a power in the Asian century. To insure this rise to the top India must maximize all its assets. One asset for which it has a reputation is a lively media, a function of a relatively stable democratic order since Independence.

If information is power, it must follow that we start taking steps towards some minimal control over the sources of information. The liveliness of our media, bordering on license, exhausts itself primarily on issues of a local nature. BJP, Congress, dalits, minorities, rape, riots, corruption inflation and so on.

Major powers have to be seen regionally and globally too. This does not mean that we change our style of diplomacy, have ready-made statements on ISIS, the battle for Kobane, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Beijing, Ukraine, SAARC, the sharp right turn in European elections, the dream and reality of shale gas.

New Delhi must not make pronouncements each day, but the country must appear to be engaged in these developments. The impression that these are games only for the Imperial, big league, stultifies us under the colonial canopy. It is interesting that countries without a tradition for a free press – Russia, China, Iran – are making efforts to put across their points of view on International affairs. Iran’s Press TV, China’s CCTV and Russia’s RTV and a host of others are building up a reputation as credible sources of information. They tend to break the monopoly of the global electronic media. Fortunately for these new networks, this precisely is the time when the world is looking for alternative sources of news.

This quest is because of a straightforward reason: diminishing credibility of the Western media barring exceptions. Ironically, their credibility was higher during the cold war.

When war breaks out, the first casualty is always the truth. Since the West has been perpetually involved in conflict beginning with Operation Desert Storm in 1991, a year after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the media has had to do so much of drum beating that it has lost credit in the information market place.

The Emir of Qatar has always been contrary to Saudi interests. During Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in October-November 2001 and the occupation of Iraq in April 2003, Qatari owned Al Jazeera channel was bombed in Kabul and Baghdad for speaking the truth inimical to the House of Saud. Al Jazeera’s viewership grew exponentially.

Neither the West nor the Saudis had a media with sufficient credibility to mobilize the region during the Libyan operation. “The Arab Spring will blow away all the monarchies in the region unless we hang together”, screamed the Saudi King Abdullah. Qatar fell in line. But Al Jazeera had to tell so many lies during the Syrian civil war that Al Jazeera’s stock also sank.

This is the state of affairs in the global media when the world is riveted on ISIS, Ukraine, Boko Haram, Afghanistan and Ebola. These issues appear more incomprehensible by the day. The field is wide open for alternative channels.

Last week I received a puzzling call from Baghdad. The caller, whom I had met during my visit to Iraq two years ago, wanted my insights on the ISIS. He had read my syndicated column which had the sort of information the Iraqi media did not have.

Neither the government sources in Baghdad nor the resourceful clerics in Karbala and Najaf had any idea of what was happening in the ISIS controlled territories in Syria and Iraq. The local media was the government’s doormat. CNN and BBC could not be trusted.

In this state of affairs, independent news is a priceless commodity.

Western and Arab sources suffer from lack of credibility on any West Asian story. The West has vested interests protecting its version on Ukraine and Hong Kong. These versions are challenged by Russian and Chinese sources which, in their turn, are not free from angularities either.

It quite beats me that New Delhi has never recognized the enormous respect in which it is held globally. This is not because of its economic or military clout. It is because of its democratic institutions like the Election Commission. Its early commitment to non-alignment may have gone down badly with Josh Foster Dulles, but among the world’s intelligentsia, its image has been of neutrality. In my interaction with the world’s media, I have always found a ready acceptability for an Indian point of view.

Doordarshan had for a few months organized a comprehensive coverage of the occupation of Iraq in April, 2003. Its credibility had won record TRP ratings. Ministry of External Affairs had received word that Secretary of State Colin Powell had expressed a desire to appear on the programme.

In his first six months, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown considerable interest in foreign affairs. A multimedia outfit with a strong foreign affairs team, would raise Indian prestige enormously. And this, surely is the right time to start.

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)