Preeti Sharma Menon
Dear News Anchors and Senior Editors of Indian Television,
2015 is coming to an end; we have governments with decisive mandates in the Centre and most states; the industry is rearing to go; and the masses are full of aspirations. All this should have had the makings of a successful year and upbeat expectations. However, as is also evident through all your shows, we see that despite all ingredients being there, the recipe for a progressive India is just not taking shape.
I am writing this letter to request you to understand not only your responsibility towards India, but towards yourselves; to remind you that you are immensely talented and capable; and there is no need for you to work like slaves of a propaganda machine that’s pushing the nation towards fascism.
There are dissidents in every party, there are detractors of every party. The Bhartiya Janta Party has had the most sagacious (LK Advani), the most erudite (Arun Shourie), the most magisterial (Ram Jethmalini) and the most popular (Shatrughan Sinha) faces within the party, speak against its leadership. These persons are not just important BJP members, they are distinguished Indians, persons who through their individual achievements command an iconic eminence in their fields and are popular household names. Whenever Indian television reports of their dissidence with the central leadership of the party, it is measured and reasonable. And so it should be.
But God forbid that any ordinary, unknown volunteer of the Aam Aadmi Party raises a voice against the party and all hell breaks loose in your studios. “The party implodes, the Delhi Government drives to a grinding halt, the state of Delhi stops functioning”. Never mind that it’s the fastest growing party in India with the largest number of new joinees on a daily basis, never mind that it’s the biggest mandate government anywhere in the world today, never mind that Delhi is getting on peaceably with its business moving from one landmark reform to another. I don’t understand this malicious hatred towards the AAP, a party that is showing a way out of the murky, corrupt, black money infested Indian politics. Most times I assume you are under pressure from the powers that be and let it go.
However the JanLokpal? I am writing to you as we were partners in crime in that movement – it is the civil society and the media who together were the architects of the 2011 revolution. It is a dream of millions of Indians and Delhi is the first state that’s enacting that legislation. Your completely baseless and totally derogatory headlines and disparaging remarks have convinced an audience that a farce is being played out. On what basis did you reach this conclusion – on the basis of two dissidents who lost an attempt at power play within the party and their existence today stems around criticism of the AAP? Are these two dissidents champions of the JanLokpal – have they since their departure from the AAP demanded the Lokpal in the Centre or the Lokayukta in any other state in India?
It takes 5 minutes for you to understand that their issues are non-issues. But instead here is what you are doing.
It’s a fatwa:
It’s a bill that’s just been tabled through a due process. After approval from the cabinet, it will be discussed by 67 warriors of the JanLokpal movement who are fully capable of fighting within the party as they were against the outsiders. What kind of responsible journalism allows you to ridicule the constitutional process of this country?
It’s not discussed by civil society:
It is the most discussed bill in Indian history. Public debate began when the work Lokpal was coined in 1963 and reached a crescendo when civil society drafted the JanLokpal bill. It has been introduced 11 times in the Indian Parliament. The JanLokpal bill is available on the AAP website:http://www.
The selection process is diluted:
The selection process has removed eminent persons after taking cognizance of the Supreme Court ruling on the NJAC issue wherein a clear case was made out that the “eminent persons” was an ambiguous term and open to misuse. The current selection panel is well balanced with the Chief Justice of the State High Court, the Leader of Opposition, the Speaker and the Chief Minister. It is also open to amendment. But the conclusion that Arvind Kejriwal is making the bill subservient to the political class is such a big jump. Did you say that Narendra Modi is destroying the economy when Arun Shourie raised issues? No you said Arun Shourie raised issues. How is it that Arvind Kejriwal, easily the most honest Chief Minister, gets labeled with devious, almost anti-national motives, in a heartbeat? I think one of the reasons is that you know he cannot harm you in any way. He would not, even if he could, because he is the propagator of free press. The other is that you are not able to get over to the “too good to be true” syndrome and you spend all your time finding chinks in the armour. In the process you are discrediting India’s biggest political reform revolution.
Arvind Kejriwal can dismiss the Lokpal in a heartbeat:
Is impeachment a process where a CM or a PM gets up and dismisses people with a wave of hand? How many Judges have been impeached in India since Independence? How can you reach such an unfounded, baseless conclusion merely on Prashant Bhushan’s rant, especially after his shameful vicious attack on the AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha exposed that his entire tirade is based on personal hatred? Is there no research wing left in news studios any more? No legal panels?
The Lokpal has no investigative powers:
I don’t even know what to say here. Prashant Bhushan said “Jump” and all jumped. We are the architects of the JanLokpal movement, the people who drafted a bill that gives the Lokpal full powers to investigate and even prosecute. We are screaming ourselves hoarse that is blatantly false propaganda, that full power to create the investigative wing are described in Section 10 (1) and Section 10 (10) but no one is listening!
It cannot include central government officials:
It’s the same bill that ever was. It always included all government officials in the geographical state boundary. The Delhi Police can arrest a Delhi government employee for slapping another person, they can also arrest a central government employee for the same offence. The Delhi Anti Corruption Bureau, until it was subverted by the Modi Government, entertained complaints of both state and central officials. It was Prashant Bhushan who wrote to Arvind Kejriwal in his first tenure as Chief Minister and asked him to file a case in the ACB against Oil & Petroleum Minister V Moily; and the FIR was filed. If all other agencies have historically had the NCT geographical territory as their terrain then why does it have to change with the Modi Government? And why is Prashant Bhushan the champion of that change? Why is no attempt being made to get to the bottom of this moot point?
The Delhi Government is the first government that removed a Cabinet Minister on the basis of a corruption complaint. The Delhi Government has passed the Delhi Right of Citizen to Time Bound Delivery of Services Amendment Bill 2015 which is the entire Citizen’s Charter section of the JanLokpal. This bill is a death knell for day-to-day corruption. The government has made certificates available online and it has made self attestation acceptable. Every day, the Delhi Government is moving power from the hands of the government to the hands of the citizens through such landmark reforms.
I understand that your political masters will not allow you to highlight these reforms because not only will it show the AAP in good light, it will also expose how the political class has so far, deliberately and maliciously, kept our system cocooned in corruption.
But attacking the JanLokpal on the basis of two discredited persons is attacking the dream of corruption free India. Do none of you have the vision to realize that corruption free India will benefit the media the most – you will be free to function without kowtowing to political manipulators? Or has years of sycophancy made you think you are not good enough to run on your own steam?
Don’t be afraid, each one of you is an icon of India – you are as popular as film stars and sports stars. India is such a huge market that there is a niche audience for each one of you. Given a level playing field you will shine. I have faith in your talent and capabilities, I pray you too find the strength to trust yourselves.