While covering the eternal twists and turns in the epic farmers’ agitation on Delhi’s borders, an analysis is required from a general person’s perspective to tell this history-making story with some degree of seriousness and credibility.
Many media persons have not had to search too hard to find their respective vantage points. Some are happy to be guided by TRPs, circulation figures, or the hits they can garner in their search for the perfect perch. A great many are content to occupy a roost crafted for them by an authoritarian, micro-managing political apparatus through the agency of supine and mendacious managements. All they have to do is to suspend critical thinking, give up any pretense of independent thought, stifle the voice of conscience, and find the stomach to endlessly expand on pre-formulated scenarios, pre-fabricated information, pre-cooked conclusions.
Much of the recent reportage on the farm protests emerged from precisely such a perspective, one that cannot fathom why farmers should so stubbornly resist a policy designed by the Modi government for their well-being. It does not perceive the anti-democratic manner in which the farm laws were brought in without consulting the primary stakeholders and spirited through parliament almost by sleight of hand. Still, it is full of outrage in framing a tractor rally organized on the same day as the Republic Day parade as a blot on Indian democracy.
It cites the Red Fort events and the clashes with the police at ITO to support the protests being driven by criminal, pro-Khalistani, and anarchic, anti-national forces. Still, it has no interest in the fact that most protesters did follow the prescribed routes, attracting the adulation and garlands of supportive crowds. It insists that the protestors constitute only a section of farmers from Punjab and Haryana, turning a blind eye to nationwide support across the country from Himachal to Tamil Nadu.
When the police raided Rakesh Tikait’s camp at Ghazipur and cut off electricity and water supply, it is framed as necessary steps to maintain law and order. It portrays the Union home minister as a no-nonsense leader committed to the country’s security while ignoring the reality that India has become less secure, less united, more polarised, and more repressive under his watch. Such a perspective is embedded in power and the exercise of power. It showed a lack of integrity and independence in the media, especially compared to the “studied neutrality” of footage captured by some foreign channels. Farmers on tractors raise slogans during their protest over Centres farm reform laws, at the Delhi-UP border near Ghazipur, in New Delhi, Tuesday, January 5, 2021.
What made their coverage so significant? This takes us to the question raised earlier: how does a professional journalist arrive at the right vantage point to achieve credible coverage of a complex Story? The primary requirement undoubtedly is to understand both the cause and the causality undergirding it.
First, all the distractions of January 26 should not wipe out the central reality. Here people are waging an existential battle, not just for their present but their future – and incidentally our present and future too because the country’s food security is at stake. The voices from the ground captured in the recent reportage express this very deep, often quiet, determination.
In articles in The Wire, for instance, we come across quotes like: “We have not come to fight. One fights with enemies, not with one’s own government. First and foremost, we want to display that farmers have dignity and they have rights. We have come to claim those rights. The intention is not to destroy anything and leave Delhi as we found it. We do not want to hurt Delhi or its residents in anyway. The tricolour will fly from our tractors, as will our kisan flag, but the tricolour will fly higher!”
Understanding the causality of this crisis – the circumstances that led to the present situation and how it impacts the future – is equally essential to know to arrive at the right vantage point. The fact is that it is not the farmers but the tyrannically powerful who had created the present dilemma in the first place. As another analysis, ‘Res-Publica: The Ground We Share’ puts it, “perhaps … this is a conflict between those who wish to turn the law into an instrument of domination and those who want the law to equalise the unequal”. The pathway to a future solution lies in resolving this.
Could the farmers’ movement, just as the protests against the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act before it, “create a new language of democratic protest”? It is a question that reporters of this story may well go on to answer.
Santosh Kumar says, “Our English news channels, as usual, went overboard over a Kisan raising a Sikh flag over the Red Fort. It was seen as the ‘desecration’ of democracy. Wonder what words those anchors would have used had they been covering Ayodhya on December 6, 1992?
Or, for that matter, did they not see anything wrong when the prime minister of a secular country performed the shilanyas of a Hindu temple built on the very same plot of land where the mosque stood?
Perhaps for them, this has only supported Indian democracy! By the way, The cause of the farmers cannot be tarnished or belittled by shedding crocodile tears for democracy.
Do let us know what do you think about the ongoing farmers’ agitation and where their efforts will lead them.
Learn new words with us which we used in article:
Mendacious – Not telling the truth; lying.
Sleight – The use of dexterity or cunning, especially so as to deceive.
Res-Publica – ‘public affair’. It is the root of the word ‘republic’.