Last week when former President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, agreed to become the chief guest of the RSS at its event in Nagpur, his speech was telecast live by nearly all private news channels. Also joining the bandwagon was the public broadcaster, Rajya Sabha TV, which decided to provide blow-by-blow coverage to the event even though it’s not a rolling 24×7 news channel.
The channel kept flashing news related to Mukherjee’s planned speech at the RSS event on the day of the event. Its guests consisted of Hitesh Shankar, the editor of Panchjanya, the RSS mouthpiece, Rahul Mahajan, the newly appointed editor-in-chief of the channel, and RSS pracharak Narendra Sehgal.
Former President @CitiznMukherjee set to address RSS event in Nagpur. Watch the event live here:https://t.co/up3IbwCXZr
— Rajya Sabha TV (@rajyasabhatv) June 7, 2018
The channel devoted two hours 18 minutes on the live coverage of the RSS event even though Mukherjee’s speech lasted for only 30 minutes. One of the striking features of the Rajya Sabha TV’s coverage was how it addressed the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat. Journalists were stunned to see Bhagwat being referred to as Param Pujya, which loosely translates as His Holiness.
Reacting to the development, veteran journalist Om Thanvi wrote, “Param Pujya RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat ‘Ji’? The level the Rajya Sabha TV has deteriorated to. The channel is run by yours and ours money. But top-up also comes from Nagpur.” When a user challenged his assertion, Thanvi, explained that addressing someone as ‘ji’ was against the ethics of journalism let alone using ‘His Holiness.’
“परम पूज्य” सरसंघचालक डॉ. मोहन भागवत “जी”?? ये हाल हो गया है राज्यसभा टीवी का। आपके-हमारे पैसे से चलता है, पर चिलम नागपुर की भरता है। pic.twitter.com/qaGSFlLrCs
— Om Thanvi (@omthanvi) June 8, 2018
Journalist Arfa Khanum Sherwani, who was associated with Rajya Sabha TV until last year said that the development was a sign that the government gradually killing ‘India’s first objective and credible public broadcaster.’ She wrote, ” And they don’t feel ashamed. How they are slowly killing India’s first objective and credible public broadcaster.”
शर्म उनको मगर नहीं आती …how they are slowly killing India’s first objective and credible public broadcaster… https://t.co/ue0SkFqTtf
— Arfa Khanum Sherwani (@khanumarfa) June 8, 2018
The brazen saffronaisation of Rajya Sabha TV comes immediately after Janta Ka Reporter carried a report how the Lok Sabha TV had hired a known hater of Muslims, Dalits and Sikhs as its consultant. Jagrati Shukla, who justified Sikhs’ massacre, abused Dalits and called for genocide in Kashmir was recently hired by Lok Sabha TV as consultant.
The RSS was banned in 1948 following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The ban was lifted on July 11, 1949 after then Sarsanghchalak M.S. Golwalkar gave an undertaking that the organisation would abide by the Indian Constitution. The organisation was later banned during the Emergency and immediately after the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992.
India’s public service TV surrendering its editorial freedom is in sharp contrast to how an American broadcaster, ABC, dropped the entire TV series of a comedian because of her racist comments, made against a former aide of Barack Obama.