Journalists accredited to Press Information Bureau were shocked on Saturday when they received an SMS alert from the central government’s press department about a function, being organised by the RSS in the national capital.
The function in question was the event organised by the Muslim Rashtriya Manch belonging to the RSS. The outfit, loosely termed as the Muslim wing of the RSS is headed by the senior Sangh functionary Indresh Kumar.
The SMS alert signed by K. S. Dhatwalia ADG PIB in Union Home Ministry, said, “Muslim Rashtriya Manch is organising Kashmiri student conference at mavalankar hall constitution club on 7.1.2017 ie today between 10am to 1 pm. Union Home Minster some MoSs along with dy.CM J&k likely to participate . More than 1000 students from J&k will participate. (sic)”
This came as a shock to many journalists primarily because promoting political event is not one of the core responsibilities of the PIB.
One journalist told Janta Ka Reporter, “The message arrived at 9.14 AM and I found it bizarre. Since when the PIB, a government agency, started promoting a political event? Will PIB in PMO send us alerts when Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarks on campaign trail in the poll-bound states this month?”
The event was attended by Indresh Kumar and Minister of State for Home, Jitendra Singh among others. Home Minister Rajnath Singh was scheduled to attend the event, but could not do so and chose to send a message instead.
Kumar used the opportunity to slam the Muslim community on the controversial topic of triple talaq terming it as “evil” and used it as a metaphor to appeal to the youth of Kashmir to divorce the gun and shun violence.
“Talaq is evil… and teachings of prophet also say no to it. So, if you want to say talaq, tell it to guns,” he told the gathering, as reported by PTI.
On its website, the PIB extensively dwells upon its roles and functions but nowhere does the website states promoting the events organised by either the ruling party or its ideological mentor as one of its defined duties.
The PIB’s website states, “…In any case, there is a crying need for an agency to inform and interpret the policies and actions of the Government to the people who are the ultimate masters. In the absence of a better agency, the Press Information Bureau (PIB), is the best suited to perform that task through the media. One cannot visualise a better link than the PIB between the Government and the media.”
When contacted, an angry Dhatwalia told Janta Ka Reporter that there was nothing wrong in PIB sending an invitation for the political event because it involved ‘Kashmiri bachche(children)’ and the Home Minister adding that Kashmir was an integral part of India.
He said, “There’s a little difference between information and invitation. Of course we don’t force media people to cover our programmes. It’s up to them if they want to cover or not. The PIB gets involved when the programme of such magnitude is held. You can go ahead and write about it. I have more than 13 years of experience in journalism. So please don’t teach me rules here.”
Modi’s detractors have long accused him and his party, the BJP, of carrying out saffronisation of government institutions. Saturday’s development will only give credence to that apprehension.
Not so long ago, Twitter handles belonging to several government departments were found to be issuing political statements aimed at the BJP’s rivals.