Sunday, October 14, 2012

Shame on India Today….this is a new low even for Yellow Journalism

What is emerging in the Salman Khurshid scam accusation is the irresponsible, sensationalist and overtly political manner of conduct of the India Today group. Their facts appear fudged; their responsibility towards accuracy and research overtaken by their need for speed. What is worst is the rude behavior of its journalists; looking at them, we needn’t fear about media freedom in this country…..we need to fear media anarchy instead. Media knows it has the powers to destroy a person’s reputation and at least the India Today appears to have no qualms of exercising that power.

There were a few points Salman proved conclusively. The main one was that the camps in which the equipment were donated to the disabled were indeed held. Not only did he present pictures of the camps, he also showed pictures and stories that appeared in reputed newspapers. The Joker in the political pack, Kejriwal (henceforth just called Joker for brevity) has now made some bizarre statement that the picture related to a different period. How he concluded that I don’t know. If only he listened to Salman’s wife Louise, he would understand. There are two camps organized in each district, she explained. One is the “assessment” camp in which an assessment is made of the requirements of the disabled. Someone may require a hearing aid, someone a Jaipur foot. Basis this assessment, an estimate is sent to the Government which studies it and releases the funds. Then the goods are purchased. Yes, goods are purchased “after” the assessment camp, but this does not indicate any hanky panky; this is a proof of the correct procedure. Then the final “distribution” camp is held in which the goods are distributed. The goods are bought
“before” the distribution camp. Salman’s pictures relate to the distribution camp. Kejriwal’s accusation is that the goods were purchased after the camp. He’s referring to the assessment camp. Such a Joker (in the pack) he is! Unfortunately, the rules that apply to Salman don’t apply to the Joker. Salman has to prove he is innocent; the Joker doesn’t have to prove anything. He can rant on. Be that as it may, what about the newspaper pictures, one of which was in the reputed Dainik Jagran, which is also the country’s biggest newspaper? Were they also wrongly dated? Were the newspaper owners in the hands of the Congress? (as a matter of fact, Mahendra Mohan Gupta, the promoter of Dainik Jagran is a Samajwadi Party Rajya Sabha member). But still, the Joker owes no explanations.

The second point that Salman proved conclusively was that JB Singh, the CDO of one of the districts in which the camp took place was himself present at the distribution camp. In fact, he gave away the products to the beneficiaries himself. Apparently, JB Singh has now alleged that the camps did not take place. Well, they say a picture speaks a thousand words. Let JB Singh explain himself. Let the Joker ask JB Singh that question. Let the UP government inquiry find out the truth.

The third thing that Salman conclusively proved was that it was his wife who demanded a probe to establish the veracity of the fake signatures and affidavits. It wasn’t like the Khurshids were caught unawares by the UP government probe. Apparently, Louise Khurshid wrote to the UP CM after certain stories emerged that the affidavit given by JB Singh and others testifying that the camps were held were fake. She even went and met him. This was on Sept 19th  or so of this year. The UP Government then replied back to her on 3rd October referring to her 19th Sept letter and agreeing to probe the matter. The reference to the 19th Sept letter proves who initiated the probe. If Louise was guilty, why did she seek a probe?

Salman also made the point forcefully – and for the first time that I can think of so clearly – that the India Today group and Aroon Purie should be investigated in a “Murdoch like” manner. I agree. Why should we treat media with kids’ gloves. If media is the 4th estate, then it should swear itself to maintaining ethical standards beyond any doubt. In this case, the media group’s dealings are mired in muck. Given its past record of anti-Congressism, it is entirely possible that the group went overboard this time. In any case, why should the minister’s accusations not be considered true when every accusation of the media is thought of as being true? What if I accuse Aroon Purie to be angling for a RS berth on the nomination of one of the opposition parties? What if I then expect him to prove himself innocent? What if I have to do nothing but sit and accuse him? Much the same thing is being done by the Joker and by the TV channel.

What is sad for India is that battles that should be fought in the courts are being fought in media. “Evidence” is presented in a press conference as if it is a court room. Media hounds interrupt speakers with no sense of protocol or decency in a way that would never be allowed in a court. In the end, no on gets to know what the truth is. But this is the “new” India, in which media freedom has gone so far that it is beyond even the rules of the court. Media anchors have often been accused of being even more powerful and prescient than SC judges. Now, India Today’s conduct shows that even lower order journalists can be more imperious than infamous global despots. Its time we handled media in a fair and balanced way, and not unnecessarily put it on a pedestal. Its time India Today is probed.

What is also sad is that the defendant, if one may call Salman that, is treated with suspicion in spite of his best efforts to prove otherwise. Kejriwal peremptorily said that the inquiry by the UP government will be a farce because the Congress will pressurize the UP government. This is nice. Basically no matter what Salman tries to do to prove his innocence, he cannot. The Joker has pronounced him guilty. Salman has even offered to be probed by the CAG or by a SC judge. With the proviso that Aroon Purie also be simultaneously probed. What is wrong in this? In the past, the Joker has called the CBI a Congress outfit. He forgets that even BJP chief ministers (MP, in the Shehla Masood murder case) and others (Jayalalitha in TN) demand CBI probes every now and then. If CBI was a Congress outfit, why would these guys do so? But Kejriwal still wants Salman to resign. Kejriwal is being too clever by half. He knows that if Salman resigns, the media will spin the development into a guilty verdict. Salman will lose the battle the moment he resigns.

Salman has done all an aggrieved person can do in this country. He has written to the UP Government seeking a probe. He has agreed to subject himself to an “independent” probe. He has filed a defamation case against the India Today group. He has produced “evidence” in a press conference. He has offered to debate with Aroon Purie on any TV channel. He has offered to resign if Aroon Purie also resigns. What else can a man do????

The Joker may also want to ask who it was in the political establishment who wanted NGOs to come under the Lokpal, so that probity could be ensured in their conduct. And who didn’t. In case he has forgotten, let me remind him. It was the Congress that wanted government funded NGOs to be kept under the ambit of the Lokpal; the BJP and indeed the Joker himself objected. It is this government which wants transparency. Kejriwal the Joker in the pack only wants publicity.

The real truth is that India Today has behaved in the most shameful manner possible. The group’s anti-Congress credentials have been known for long. But this is stooping to really low levels. If this is what media freedom means, I would rather not have it. India is not a case of media being gagged. It is a story of media becoming irresponsible and despotic.


  1. Thank God for once you are not blaming BJP / NDA for this!!

  2. It should also be noted that a lot of forged signatures, seals and affidavits have been reported in this case. Do you really think any government official either of uttar pradesh or delhi will dare go against the sitting law minister who has already shown his bad temper on live T.V. and specially after the entire congress has fully backed him to the hilt.