A version of the following was published by DNA on jan 12th, 2011 at http://www.dnaindia.com/opinion/column_india-is-finally-seeing-the-birth-of-alternative-journalism_1493314, and the PDF is at http://epaper.dnaindia.com/epaperpdf/12012011/11main%20edition-pg16-0.pdf

An emergent people’s journalism finally in India?

Rajeev Srinivasan on how a spontaneous movement of neutral, patriotic, non-professional citizen journalists and commentators on the Internet may be rewriting norms in media

Some journalists get confused and start believing they make the news, rather than just report it. This, and journalistic groupthink, has led to a grotesquely skewed discourse: India’s supposed ‘centrists’ would be considered ‘far Left’ elsewhere. Their conventional wisdom is curiously anti-national as well.

“All the news that is fit to print” simply isn’t printed in India, only that which supports a particular viewpoint. Besides, those who do not toe the line are blackballed: you cannot get published, period. Several people have told me about their personal experience of being excluded for their views.

This perverted system engenders a persistent anti-India bias in international media, too. When in India, foreign correspondents interact primarily with Delhi’s insular, incestuous journalist-sling-bag-wallah nexus that sneers at middle India; their endemic prejudices infect the foreigners.

At least Western media pays lip service to being non-judgmental. In India, there is an obvious industrialist-politician-journalist axis. They ‘manufacture consent’. But they were caught red-handed, Watergate-style, in the Radia tapes incident. Thereupon the entire media closed ranks, and simply buried the story, hoping it would go away: this tactic has always worked in the past. Unfortunately for them, this time it didn’t work, because Internet readers, especially Twitterati (those using the instant, SMS-like, 140-character Twitter social network), reflected popular outrage, and kept the issue alive.

Self-important scribes became concerned about their image on Twitter. When they were not given fawning adulation, they began abusing Twitterati as cave-dwelling illiterates or “Internet Hindus”, showing their habitual scorn for the ‘little people’. One even threatened people with IPC 509, “insulting the modesty of a woman”, simply for questioning her dogmas.

But the Twitterati, mostly middle-class, urban, young, tech-savvy Indians both in India and abroad, were not browbeaten, and responded in kind – and in this level-playing-field medium, they had exactly the same access as any high-and-mighty journalist. The latter, accustomed to being little tin-pot dicators, and to being able to say ‘off-with-their-heads’ and censor any opinions and retorts they didn’t like in their media, were quickly put on the defensive.

And this developed into a sort of dependency: the scribes desperately want love, or at least respect, from the Twitterati! Not surprisingly, Twitterati have utter contempt for the journos, and say so in no uncertain terms. The Twitterati – some influential commentators include @atanudey, @barbarindian, @sandeepweb, @swathipradeep2 – are the very upwardly-mobile cohort that the English-language media craves, but they are clearly not buying the same old anodyne Kool-Aid that is dished out.

One more thing began to happen: the western media picked up what bloggers and Twitter people were saying. This hit the uppity journos where it hurts the most. They fulfilled their greatest ambition – getting the coveted fifteen minutes of fame in the NY Times or Washington Post; but, alas, it was via a commentary on their (lack of) journalistic ethics and on the harsh judgment of Internet readers.

As a result, Vir Sanghvi for all practical purposes fell on his sword, shutting down his impugned column. Barkha Dutt tried the opposite tack: brazening it out and proclaiming innocence. This did not work; NDTV’s credibility is damaged and her ratings have plummeted (according to TAM data for December). An attempt at self-defense on TV boomeranged: she appeared shifty and guilty as charged, Nixon-like. She may have committed journalistic hara-kiri.

Furthermore, the IBN network, also viewed with derision as #IBNlies, was caught by @preeti86 ham-handedly fabricating fake tweets (messages) from non-existent identities in an effort to inflate support for their positions.

Pathetically, the scribes and their sock-puppets (planted supporters) are attempting to paint themselves as victims of a conspiracy among Twitterati. But this snake-oil is not selling. One of the sock-puppets, some minor Bollywood type screeching #stopabuseontwitter, showed himself a hypocrite by making crude sexual suggestions to a woman online, and then running for cover when someone brought up IPC 509.

Fed-up Internet mavens have long complained that the media in India is corrupt, sold out (#paidmedia and #dalalmedia are popular terms) and anti-national. It appears that Twitterati have finally created an alternative, uncensored, independent channel for news and commentary.

This is as subversive as the samizdat underground press in the erstwhile Soviet Union was. Even more ominously for the powerful, there is the example of OhmyNews in Korea. This little paper, initially a one-man effort, became so wildly popular that eventually it was instrumental in toppling an elected regime in 2002.

Will the emergent people’s media in India play a similar role? That would be poetic justice – he who corrupts the media falls to its new, web-enabled incarnation. The establishment, naturally, will fight this: a new push to monitor Internet usage may lead to a Great Firewall of India, stifling the new medium.

Rajeev Srinivasan is a management consultant.

825 words, 11 Jan 2011

I wrote this initially for publication in a newspaper, but on second thoughts decided they would have too hard a time with it. Hence I decided to just post it here. I omitted to add a bunch of other information I had because of the word limit, but it would be useful to think of:

a) how the media and the State always suppress information about the misadventures of Christist godmen: the Sister Abhaya case has been essentially shelved because the Supreme Court (how conveniently!) decided that narco-analysis was not acceptable, just in time for the perps nun Seffi and godmen Kottoor and Puthrukkayil to escape

b) how large-scale conversion has turned not only the Northeast, but most of Kerala and parts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh into Xtist-majority areas where Hindus are oppressed

c) how land-grab is one of the major objectives: the tribals are converted, and their land is simply taken over by the Xtists. The entire Western Ghats in Kerala, formerly tribal and public land, has been captured by Xtists

d) how Xtists are expropriating Hindu cultural artifacts and claiming them to be their own, eg. bharatanatyam, mohini attam, yoga, karnatic music

e) how Hindu leaders and Hindu children are being abducted in Pakistan (especially in Baluchistan) and there is not a peep from the Government of India about it. Most recently, the most revered Hindu monk, an 80-year-old, was abducted and hasn’t been heard from since — we should presume he has been murdered

f) how Xtist icons have started appearing with State benediction. The crosses on official Indian coins are clearly Xtist idols.

I did not have space to go into these, but they are worth considering.

Here’s the original article:

Is there a powerful mafia working tirelessly to convert Hindus?

Rajeev Srinivasan wonders if there is a malevolent design behind how Hindu leaders are consistently subjected to brutality by the State

What do Aseemanand, Lakshmananda and the Kanchi Swami have in common? They were all making things difficult for missionaries to meet their conversion targets, and they paid for that ‘sin’. There is a sinister pattern – if you stand in the way of the conversion mafia, they will liquidate you.

Aseemanand’s social and educational work for decades in the tribal Dangs district of Gujarat has been highly appreciated by the tribals themselves. But he has been jailed on flimsy charges, likely tortured, and what sounds suspiciously like a ‘confession-at-the-point-of-a-gun’ has been wrung out of him.

Lakshmananda, the octogenarian monk who worked for thirty years in Orissa’s tribal areas, was the subject of many death threats; he was physically assaulted; and finally he and others in his ashram were gunned down with AK-47s.

The Kanchi Swami was humiliated – tejovadham – on trumped-up charges; he was jailed like a common criminal (as though house arrest were unknown in India), in a deliberate effort to damage the prestige of the Kanchi Sankara Matham. The Kanchi Swami’s ‘crime’? He has been active among the scheduled castes in Tamil Nadu, ensuring their inclusion in what had long been criticized as an upper-caste institution.

The list is endless: there is the Bangalore monk Nityananda – wasn’t it quite amazing that minutes after his allegedly compromising videos were flashed on TV, there was a self-organizing ‘irate mob’ available to burn down his ashram? After all the righteous indignation, when the alleged woman in the video – actress Ranjitha – said that the whole thing was fabricated by a missionary, who is also issuing death threats against her, that was blanked out by the pliant media.

Possible reason for the wrath against Nityananda: the charismatic, lower-caste monk was seen as a role model, and was attracting large numbers of young followers from the lower castes.

Then there were the persistent allegations against the Sai Baba of Puttaparthi regarding pedophilia – it turned out that when challenged in court, the accusers simply had no leg to stand on.

There have been many attempts to damage the prestige of the Sabarimala shrine. The possible reason: there has been a lot of conversion among lower castes, especially in Tamil Nadu, by the judicious use of a Madonna cult. This appeals to the Indian weakness for mother-and-child memes (as in the baby Krishna imagery), and resulted in a rather good harvest. The growth of the Sabarimala pilgrimage halted this particular conversion juggernaut.

First, there was the attempt to physically wipe out the shrine – although that could be attributed to more mundane motives, such as encroaching on the forest land nearby. Some time in the 1950s, before the pilgrimage became popular, Christians actually set fire to the temple.

Then there was the attempt to manufacture a historical Christian presence at Nilakkal, on the route of the pilgrimage. Allegedly, a 2000-year-old wooden cross, installed by the famous Saint Thomas, was unearthed intact. That would have been a genuine miracle – 2000-year-old wood does not survive buried in Kerala’s humid earth; and Thomas had never even come to India (he died in Ortona, Italy, as certified by the Vatican). But it was a good try.

Third, there was the ‘compromising photographs’ ploy. The chief priest of Sabarimala was invited to an apartment in Cochin, where he was coerced into compromising positions, and photographed, by some Christians.

Fourth, there was the “I went to Sabarimala and touched the deity” scam by a film-extra. She claimed that, contrary to custom that women of child-bearing age do not visit the shrine, she had gone there in her twenties, and in the crush of pilgrims, had fallen in the sanctum and touched the murti by accident, thus polluting it. All of which turned out to be untrue. No surprise that she is married to a Christian.

If you put two and two together, it can be seen that there is a Vietnam, or a South Korea, developing in India. These Buddhist-dominated nations were rapidly Christianized in the post-war period; Buddhist monks were seen self-immolating in South Vietnam, in self-sacrificing protest against religious oppression at the hands of Catholic tyrants like Madame Nhu.

Similarly, South Korea, for long a Buddhist-majority nation, was turned in five decades into a Bible-thumping country. In India’s northeast, of course, converted Nagas now demand a separate Christian Naga nation. Violent Christian terrorist groups massacre Hindus – Shanti Tripura, a Hindu monk, was shot dead (ah, the signature AK-47 again) in his temple. The same with Bineshwar Brahma, Hindu Bodo leader and litterateur. Then there are the Hindu Reang tribals, 45,000 of whom were ethnically cleansed from Tripura for refusing to convert.

This pattern of abuse suggests that there is indeed a systematic, sinister plan in action.

Rajeev Srinivasan is a management consultant.

825 words, Jan 8, 2011

A version of this was published by DNA on 28th Dec 2010 at http://www.dnaindia.com/opinion/column_corruption-is-damaging-the-value-of-brand-india_1486981

Here is the original content:

The wages of corruption

 

Rajeev Srinivasan

 

The staggering loot in this year’s headline scams benumbs us to the massive human tragedy that underlies them: as Stalin once said, “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.” Still, there is a price to pay. One reason for tribal insurgencies is lack of development. And there are mercy killings and suicides. There is a direct correlation among these: people die, or live stunted lives, because of larceny by the rich and powerful.

 

The story of thalaikoothal in Virudhunagar was reported by Tehelka magazine (“Mother, shall I put you to sleep?”, Nov 20th). Apparently impoverished people in Tamil Nadu are ritually murdering their aged parents for a simple, rational reason: they cannot afford to support them.

 

This story reminds me of a powerful film, “The Ballad of Narayama” (1983), set in 19th-century Japan. It deservedly won the Grand Prize at Cannes in 1983. Set in a poor mountainous area where the land has limited carrying capacity, it illustrates a ritual called ubatse. Every time a child is born, an old person has to die, for they cannot afford to feed that extra mouth.

 

In effect, it means that at the age of 70, every old person will be taken to the snowy peaks and left there to die of starvation and exposure. In the film, an iron-willed matriarch resolves that when her time comes, she will go of her own will, not be dragged kicking and screaming. She methodically arranges her affairs, and then forces her grief-stricken, unwilling son to carry her to the mountaintop, where she will die.

 

It is an indictment of the failure of India’s leadership that something from pre-industrial Japan 200 years ago finds echoes in today’s India. But this is merely a particularly graphic illustration of the fact that the systematic siphoning off of funds from India is, literally, killing its people. In this, India is similar to some resource-rich countries, which have borne the ‘curse of oil’: the vast wealth from petroleum has often led to more, not less, misery for the people.

 

The Economist argues (“The paradox of plenty”, Dec 2005) that the reasons are massive corruption, weakened institutions, and lack of competitiveness in other industries. And just plain disdain for the masses: in the oil-rich Niger delta, it appears there has been massive environmental damage and pollution, which is suffered by the locals who have got nothing to show for the billions dug up from under the ground.

 

India’s principal wealth is in agriculture and human resources. These were enough in historic times to make India the wealthiest nation in the world, as per Angus Maddison (The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective, OECD, 2001). It was massive capital transfers by the British and the systematic dismantling of light industry by them that have caused enduring misery.

 

The underpinnings of corruption in India were also created by the British. Their buccaneer John Company types were given poor salaries, and were expected to make their fortunes through means fair or foul; most chose foul. Robert Clive, when impeached by the British Parliament in 1676, disclosed that his net worth was 401,102 pounds sterling. His annual salary had only been between 1,000 and 5,000 pounds sterling, according to P J Marshall (East Indian Fortunes: The British in Bengal in the Eighteenth Century, Oxford, 1976).

 

Nevertheless, India is an economy that still generates large amounts of surplus, especially now that its GDP is growing rapidly. This has given an impetus to corruption and the disappearance of funds to offshore accounts and into things like religious conversion. Instead of enabling the poor to claw their way out of poverty, the surplus is skimmed off. Money that could have built roads, ports, schools, hospitals and world-class universities has been swallowed by private individuals.

 

A recent report from Global Financial Integrity program at the Center for International Policy, Washington DC (The Drivers and Dynamics of Illicit Financial Flows from India: 1948 to 2008, Nov 2010) estimates that $462 billion has been stolen in sixty years, and that this accelerated to $16 billion per year towards the end of the study period. Undoubtedly, with the scams that are now coming to light, this decade’s loot will be exponentially higher: the CWG and 2G scams alone add up to $60 billion in vanished wealth.

 

The nation is turning into a banana republic. Not only politicians, but also the media, the judiciary, the armed forces and even the Vigilance Commission, are being drawn into this web of kickbacks and payoffs. In addition to human misery, it has economic consequences. A recent Stanford study (Corruption and International Value: Does Virtue Pay?, Nov 2010) suggests that firms in corrupt countries suffer a loss in market value. Surely, those corrupt countries suffer the same: Brand India is hurting.

 

Rajeev Srinivasan is a management consultant

 

819 words, 25 December 2010