According to PTI, Justice Rana Bhagwandas, the only Hindu judge of Pakistan’s Supreme Court, was not allowed to celebrate Diwali this year. He was placed under house arrest after he refused to endorse the emergency imposed by President Pervez Musharraf on November 3 and issued an order annulling it along with 6 other judges. In Islamabad about a hundred people lit candles and diyas at a coffee shop. A note at the coffee shop read- “Thank you, Justice Bhagwandas and the six other judges, for giving hope to our children. We will always be grateful to you and you will live forever in history.” Diyas and candles were lit by the silent protesters at the entrance of Civil junction where a placard read: “Happy Diwali to Justice Rana Bhagwandas.”
Justice Bhagwandas, who refused to take the oath under Gen. Musharraf’s Provisional Constitutional Ordinance, spent Diwali alone at his official residence here. “I used to celebrate Diwali every year in Karachi with my family, relatives and associates. This year I am not even allowed to celebrate it with my brother or (the Hindu) community in Islamabad,” he told the Daily Times.
“We gathered to show solidarity with Justice Bhagwandas. We wanted to show that we Pakistanis do care about the fact that he has been kept away from celebrating the most holy day in his calendar. Imagine someone stopping us from celebrating Eid,” said a participant at the vigil.
No TV channel focusses on stories like this. All we hear about is cruelty and fanaticism, bombings and killings. That what “sells”.
Emergency in Pakistan and the curbs on free press brought back memories of Emergency that we in India suffered about 3 decades ago. I was a child then but I can still recollect some incidents. We only had Doordarshan for news back then. It was the propaganda outlet of the ruling party. There was little to look forward to as far as news and current affairs coverage was concerned. Sanjay Gandhi’s 5 point programme and Indira Gandhi’s 20 point programme were the main issues. The comedy scenes were- D.K Barua the Congress President announcing” India is Indira and Indira is India”. Bhajan Lal the Chief Minister from the land of Ayaram and Gayaram(Haryana) shifting loyalities from Janata Party to Congress along with the whole cabinet was a sight a remember.
In the 24-hour news channels era, this is unimaginable. Now you can get the latest update on the suicide bombings at lunch, about Kareena’s new love interest during the afternoon tea and by the evening which politician is the latest to be accused of a criminal activity. Disaster sells. Feel-good, ‘positive’ news stories about grandmothers being helped across streets look fake and planted, and bombings, kidnappings and similar tales dripping with blood and brutality keep viewers glued to their seats.This might sound a slightly cynical way of looking at things, but that’s the way it is.
Satellite channels have mushroomed and the state’s monopoly over the flow of information is broken forever. Today we have a host of channels that devote all or part of their schedule to news and current affairs coverage broadcasting in Hindi, English and regional languages. In stark contrast to the good old, sanitised Doordarshan the electronic media is awash with images of blood and gore. Unfortunately, this time we don’t have to go to our correspondent in Baghdad or Kabul, for the ‘war’ has come nearer to our homes. Today our man in Bombay, Delhi and Kolkata gives us the bloody rundown of the latest incient at Nandigram, or the suicide bombing at Ajmer or Akshardham. Thanks to the 24-hour news channel format pioneered by the people at CNN International and BBC World, you can get the latest update anytime of the day.
All this is great news- unadulterated information. What bothers me is- are there any voices of sanity reminding the broadcasters that there should be a limit when it comes to showing gory content? Censorship is a nasty word and no one wants to be told what to show and what not to show but certain broadcasting standards should be sacrosanct.The truth must be told. But viewers sensitivity should be kept in mind? What is responsible journalism and what is pure sensationalism a journalist should know? Hindi channels are being more sensational than the English language TV channels. ‘Headlines Today’ and ‘Aaj Tak’ are from the ‘India Today’ group but the difference in content is apparent. The only Hindi Channel that I feel is as good as its English counterpart is NDTV India which is the Hindi version of NDTV 24×7. Political affiliation and bias also creeps into the channels’ editorial policy. No one is free from bias. Even the western networks are biased in one way or the other. Perhaps it’s the way you wear your bias that sets you apart.
This age of glasnost in the media is welcome. I hope the saner elements among the Hindi channels will work out a code of ethics amongst themselves and adhere to the principles of responsible journalism. Others will continue to engage in sensationalism and comment on the latest suicide attacks as if they were discussing a Bollywood awards function. Considering that Fox News has survived for all these years along with BBC, I guess sensationalism is here to stay.
The news channels that are not tired of showing us views of ABHI ASH wedding for days have forgotten a very important day in the history of independent India-
On June 12, 1975, the Allahabad high court declared Indira Gandhi’s election invalid . She was accused of violating the Indian law by using an officer of her government to make campaign arrangements, and by using other state machinery.The high court judgment debarred her from holding the office of prime minister.
Instead of resigning – Indira Gandhi declared an Emergency on June 26 in accordance with provisions under Part XVIII of the Indian Constitution which allow the imposition of Emergency and suspension of fundamental rights like freedom of speech. Just before her public announcement declaring Emergency, in a pre-dawn swoop her government arrested hundreds of prominent Opposition politicians, and cut off electricity connection to major newspaper to prevent them from carrying the news of the arrests. By the time the connection was resumed and they could bring out their papers, censorship had already been promulgated under the Emergency rules. People did not have any knowledge of what was happening.We were all hooked to BBC radio. That was our only source of information. Satelite television hadn’t arrived then. The Indira government enacted laws curbing the right of journalists to report . Another draconian law called MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act) was used to imprison Opposition leaders and political dissenters. There was wide spread resentment in the public but the intelligence agencies assured Indira that the opposition is demoralised and is in no state to win elections.On January 18 1977 Indira Gandhi announced elections. Roughly 60% of the electorate voted Congress out of power for the first time in Indian history. Indira and her son also lost their elctions. This was a major victory for Indian democracy.
There is one more thing worth mentioning which happened after the opposition coming to power for the first time after indepence. In a massive rally at the Ramlila ground in Delhi Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid and the leaders of erst while Jansangh shared the same platform. They were on the same side. Although I was barely in my early teens but I vividly remember the euophoria the country witnessed. One very significant statement was from ‘Acharya Kriplani’ who said in the same rally- ‘Don’t expect too much, they are all politicians’, and how true it was. The coalition of the opposition parties could not last even for 5 years and a wiser Indira was back in power.
The present generation cannot even imagine what those days were like. Anybody could be put behind bars in the name of invoking MISA. This day is a reminder for all of us who take our democracy for granted. We have to be vigilant all the time.