JNU controversy: An open letter to media houses in India

The news surrounding the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in February was widely covered by Indian media houses, both print and electronic and also across English and regional newspapers and news channels.

The Democratic Students Union (DSU) led the protest in the JNU campus, which saw a few sections of the students were unhappy with the capital punishment to the 2001 Indian Parliament attack convict, Afzal Guru. There were reports that anti-India slogans were raised and this was widely discussed for several days.

Kanhaiya Kumar, Anirban Bhattacharya and Umar Khalid were arrested for charges of sedition and were later released on conditional bail for six months. I am not going to bore you by going into the details nor will I give my viewpoint on the whole issue.

JNU students protest against the Government. Pic via Hindustan Times
JNU students protest against the Government,  via Hindustan Times

However, as the JNU sedition controversy unfolded, one thing I noticed was the difference in opinion among the media houses, particularly the TV news channels, both English and regional.

How can an incident which took place in JNU can have two different standpoints? How can there be two different versions of the whole saga? It can be debated as to which version is true, but the fact remains is that there can only be one version.

Due to this controversy, the national media houses were split into two and the anchors, the chiefs of these houses were pitted against each other. Some were brave enough to slam the other on national television, while others took the route of social media to express their views.

The primary task of any news outlet is to only and only to state facts. In the event of a debate, which generally happens in most of our news channels, the panelists will be called to give his/her opinion as the host (news anchor) has the job to make sure the debate is run without giving his/her views on the topic.

However, that is not the case in most of these news channels and the anchor is allowed to give his/her views. He/she will only try to force an opinion on you and would only spice up things to improve their channel’s ratings.

After the end of an hour or more long debate, most of the times this leads to nowhere and then we go to sleep with cluster of thoughts. The JNU controversy was followed just months after the whole “intolerance” debate.

One needs to understand that the “intolerance” and “anti-national” debate happens only on prime time television and that is something I and you generally do not experience on a daily basis.

Give a thought, take a deeper look and analyse whether do we face “intolerance” every day. Do you think you feel you are being suppressed when you walk in the streets of your city? Do you think there is a division among the people?

All these are created by a certain section of the media and also the people who sit in the parliament (not all though). The argument, the debate, the hurrah-burrah surrounding this baseless argument on TV generally leads to a quick dead-end, without any conclusion in most cases and that in certain cases forces you in making perceptions regarding a certain issue, certain political party or sometimes certain individuals.

These outlets and few politicians will be looking to spread hatred and look to create a perception on which they look to capitalise to gain personal mileage. The best one can do is not to get influenced by the whole situation and make the situation even worse by giving your two cents on social platforms, which only leads to more hatred and creates disharmony.

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