Friday, October 17, 2014

From ‘Off the Record. Untold stories from a reporter's diary’ by Ajith Pillai

When liberalization was ushered in during the early 90s, it left its impact on journalism as well. Reporting from rural India was suddenly discouraged, unless there was a communal incident or a crime that drew national attention. Issues like the concerns of farmers and health came to be labelled as subjects with limited readership ….Development journalism and rural reporting took a back seat and became an aberration in most publications

… Indian Post …… Vijaypat [Singhania] sent a note to Vinod [Mehta] which listed eight people he should not write against unless there was irrefutable evidence. The list included then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Satish Sharma, Murli Deora, Amitabh Bachchan and Sharad Pawar. Confronted by this ‘prohibitory order’, Vinod decided to quit…..

In the old days, corrupt journalists sometimes managed to sneak in a planted report or review for a consideration. Today, managements have got into the act and are cashing in on those who are willing to pay for coverage.
Paid news is now an organized corporate activity ……

The Riots …. Bombay …….
The mob rule that had taken over the city with the Shiv Sena blatantly targeting Muslims was deeply disturbing and depressing …In the days to come, it came to light that the Mumbai police were not only playing down casualty figures, but also looking the other way and allowing the rioters a free hand. The state government, it seemed, was also offering tacit support to the Sena-sponsored violence.
…..Tensions had begun to build among the two communities and journalists would learn later that there were several statements made which provoked Muslims no end. Among them was one by a Hindu Mahasabha leader who said that if he was UP’s chief minister, he would have razed the Masjid with a bomb and that the building of the temple was only the beginning – every Muslim would be driven out of the country in due course. Such provocations were hardly reported in the mainstream media but word went around among Muslims in the city.
…..killings of Hindus in the Radhabai chawls ……A Saamana editorial set the tone: ‘Hindus have been burnt alive in Jogeshwari and that is why they have taken to the streets …The people and police have been fired at from mosques using Pakistani weapons. Why are we protecting them? Muslims in India are behaving like Pakistanis. It is as if there are two countries within one. The police are waiting to shoot these people. Even they feel the anguish of innocent citizens … Hindus, open your eyes and see what is going on…..’

….had a common thread of violence perpetrated by armed mobs that came to their homes chanting ‘Jai Bhawani, Jai Shivaji’. They had witnessed horrific scenes of arson and bloodletting. Many said the violence would erupt after the maha-aartis organized by the Shiv Sena in response to the Muslim practice of offering namaaz on the streets. The aartis were said to be prayer meetings but were used as platforms to deliver hate speeches. ….The maha-aartis were finally banned ….
…The then-Congress government in Maharashtra failed to act throughout the violence, There were allegations that it was allowing the Shiv Sena a free hand. Whenever we would go to Chief Minister Sudhakarrao Naik’s residence for press briefings, he was the picture of calm…..

….a friend from Peddar Road called to report that Shiv Sainiks…. Were approaching businessmen and residents of the area for protection money …He even had a copy of one of the receipts issued by the Sainiks…

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