Real News Is Crying Out For Your Attention
The prime time shenanigans of India’s most-watched television channel made even usually restrained lawyer Prashant Bhushan tweet like Donald Trump. A few years ago the BBC calculated that the U.S. President has a “68% likelihood of signing off a tweet with a shriek!”
“Republic TV finally won the Nobel prize for investigative journalism! They managed to take their car next to Deepika Padukone’s car! Wow!” Bhushan tweeted recently.
Bhushan’s tweet was accompanied by a clip of a Republic Bharat reporter’s piercing commentary as her car edged closer to actor Deepika Padukone’s “black wali gaadi, black wali gaadi, black wali gaadi” on Mumbai’s roads.
“Deepika Padukone bataiye kya aap drugs karti hai,” the reporter screams into her mike, reminding me of the husband’s loud vocalisations of road rage directed at bad drivers – but with the windows rolled up.
The news crew know they are actors in this black comedy that plays out every night on the small screen; listen carefully, you’ll hear one of them snickering. Even stand-up comic Devesh Dixit’s spoof of this incident couldn't compete with the urgency and shrillness of the original.
Serious news consumers like Bhushan owe it to themselves to not be distracted by or amplify such headlines. As speaking truth to power becomes dangerous across the world, reporters who continue to go out into the country and bring back stories of what’s really happening on the ground need your undivided attention and patronage more than ever. Don’t dismiss their hard work as ‘negative news’.
As mainstream media is increasingly co-opted by the state to hide dramatic legislative changes and key political developments behind the alleged suicide of a Bollywood actor, Sushant Singh Rajput; the media trial of his girlfriend; and the subsequent questioning of celebrities such as Padukone about an alleged drugs racket, don’t let real news be the biggest loser.
After I graduated with a masters in journalism from a U.S. university in the 1990s, I had two options: stay there or return home. In India, seismic news events break every day. U.S. national news back then was dominated by the debate over gun control and abortion rights. A quarter of a century later, Trump is still plotting to overturn the Roe v. Wade judgment, which legalised abortion in the U.S., and gun violence remains a hot-button topic. The decision to come back was easy. My point is that, in India, there is a daily deluge of real news stories across subjects. Track those that interest you.
I’m gripped by the civil liberties issues that are weighing down our democracy. Like the fact that the Delhi Police is attempting to pin the February riots on students and activists who protested against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 without a shred of evidence. Or how, after two years in jail, charges have yet to be filed against well-known lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj. Or whether Sudarshan TV, with the backing of the government, will succeed in passing off hate speech as free speech in a battle that’s playing out in the Supreme Court right now. Amnesty International India just announced it was forced to stop all work in India after the government froze its bank accounts.
You might be interested in the jobs crisis roiling the country. Did you hear the one about the 27-year-old engineer who’s now digging ditches? Or the one about the former general manager of Mumbai’s favourite Chinese restaurant China Garden? He now works as a helper to municipal dumpster drivers and lives in a discarded container on the Eastern Express Highway. Reporter Labonita Ghosh’s story struck a chord; many former patrons of the restaurant messaged her to say they wanted to help.
Roughly every one in 10 people in urban India is unemployed. We lost 21 million salaried jobs between April and August, according to economist Mahesh Vyas. The under-40 age group was worst-hit. While you’re reading about jobs, make sure to track key economic indicators, and read up on how Covid-19 has changed our world too.
If you read about the three farm bills passed recently in Parliament, you’ll understand why they have the disaster potential of demonetisation. Next month will be four years since that fiasco. Analysts say the farm reforms will do to small and medium farmers what demonetisation did to small businesses. As I write this, farmers are protesting across the nation and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has lost one of its oldest allies. Former BJP leaders are also speaking out against these reforms.
Maybe you would like to try to understand how the pandemic has exacerbated India’s caste and gender violence crisis? A teenage Dalit girl in Uttar Pradesh was raped by four upper-caste men who also attempted to strangle her. A state spokesman called it “fake news”. The girl died in hospital.
Some of you might think I’m being ‘anti-Modi’—a term commonly used to describe people who track real news—but judge for yourself. Devour real news like your favourite ghar-ka-khana.
Read about criminal law reforms and environmental law reforms the government is trying to push through with minimal discussion. Track the accelerated clearances to hundreds of railways, roads, power lines, mines, and other projects in and around India’s wildlife sanctuaries, national park,s and last pristine forests. Follow the global warming story. In the Antarctic, the ice is melting; in India, killer heat waves are rising at an alarming rate.
Okay this is a lot. Take a quick time out.
Did you hear that Real Kashmir Football Club—whose team ranked fourth in last season’s I-League first division—just announced the formation of an all-women’s team that will compete in national tournaments?
“Whenever any sport/club expands itself to include women, it gives itself a chance to challenge insularity and prejudice and stand up for a more suitable world,” says veteran sports journalist Sharda Ugra.
Sometimes, real news is not bad news.
Priya Ramani is a Bengaluru-based journalist and is on the editorial board of Article-14.com.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of BloombergQuint or its editorial team.