On 3rd October 2014, Doordarshan aired the Vijaya Dashami speechof Dr Mohan Bhagwat, the Chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, i.e. RSS, live for the first time. Even during the NDA-I regime, when Atal Bihari Vajapayee was the Prime Minister of India, Doordarshan never deemed it fit to cover the RSS activities despitethem being newsworthy. Doordarshan is facing vehement opposition for this move and predictably so. The media and social media space is full of opinions on this ‘bold’ move of Doordarshan. The usual suspects began lodging their protest even before the speech was actually aired. Usual suspects like the ‘historian’ Ramachandra Guha and ‘journalists’ Hartosh Singh Bal, Siddharth Varadarajan were among those ‘public intellectuals’ to lodge their strong protest against the move of Doordarshan to air the Vijaya Dashami speech of Dr Bhagwat. Later on political parties like INC and CPI(M), CPI(ML), DMK, etc jumped their guns and their spokespersons issued statements. What astonished me the most was that the broadcast of RSS Chief’s Vijaya Dashami speech on Doordarshan was a news item for the private news channels like NDTV and HeadlinesToday. Some channels even debated this topic during their prime-time talk shows.
So what prompted this mindless, undemocratic, hypocritical, and unethical criticism of Doordarshan?
That Doordarshan decided to broadcast a speech of the RSS Chief live was the reason enough for some to outrage. They have nothing to do with what the RSS chief actually said in that speech, as they would never care to watch his speech before airing their critical views about the speech. Similarly, they would never care to know anything about the RSS before airing their critical views on the organization. To them, RSS is the Indian equivalent of the dreaded Islamic terrorist organization ISIS. To argue with such people is the sheer waste of time as their protest is mindless.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is a Hindu Nationalist group whose areas of focus are charity, education, individual character building and nation building. It is arguably the biggest non government organization of the world, and undoubtedly the biggest of India. That it has more than 50000 Shakhas (branches where Swayamsevaks or volunteers of RSS gather daily) across the length and breadth of the nation and over 5 million active Swayamsevaks is a testimony of both popularity and reach of the RSS. As a tradition, the RSS Chief addresses the Swayamsevaks on its foundation day, i.e. Vijaya Dashami. And the address is not limited to the Swayamsevaks only as individuals like me, who are not members of the RSS, do take inspiration from the Vijaya Dashami speech of the RSS Chief. It is the right of the RSS Chief, bestowed by the democracy and the constitution of India, to be heard and of the individuals like me to hear him. Hence to protest against the broadcast of the Vijaya Dashmi speech is undemocratic.
As I said earlier, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is a Hindu Nationalist group and hence it is pro Hindu. But then, does being pro Hindu automatically mean anti Muslim, anti Christian or anti Sikh for that matter? Definitely not. As a part of the propaganda of falsehoods, being run by alleged public intellectuals like Ramachandra Guha, RSS is a sectarian Hindu group. This is a blatant lie. Unlike Vishwa Hindu Parishad which is a Hindu organization, or as Ramachandra Guha would say, a sectarian Hindu group, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is a cultural organization. Hence to oppose the broadcast of the Vijaya Dashami speech on this flimsy ground is the enormity of propaganda. Moreover, let us for a second believe that the RSS Chief, among Hindus, enjoys a position similar to that of the Pope among Christians. But then two things instantly come to my mind. Those who are now painting the RSS as a sectarian Hindu organization are the first ones to state that the RSS doesn’t represent Hindus whenever it raises its voice against the injustice that the Hindus have been subjected to during the Congress regime since the independence! Secondly, the Doordarshan, in the past, did live telecast the Pope, and religious events of Christians and Muslims. I don’t recall that any of those public intellectuals who are now protesting the live telecast of the RSS Chief’s speech lodged their protest then. So their pathological hatred for the RSS becomes a legitimate reason for these so-called public intellectuals to mindlessly oppose anything related to RSS, isn’t it? Why should the nation subscribe to their hatred?
Nothing astonished me more than the way the media other than Doordarshan reacted to the whole episode. Live streaming of the Vijaya Dashami speech of the RSS Chief by Doordarshan becomes a news item for the television and print media. Is it ethical to comment on the content a rival channel is airing? And if so, I have never heard any such display of ethics prior to this episode. When the entire media conspired to bury the Cash for Vote scam, Radia Gate and countless other scoops, where was this display of ethics? Rajdeep Sardesai, the sole moral navigator of the India media owing to his divine possession of the moral compass, bullied Gaurav Sawant when the latter asked some uncomfortable questions on the Saharanpur riots; the entire media ganged up against the young journalist and made him delete his tweets. The irony is- all those who were treating the live telecast of the Vijaya Dashami speech of the RSS Chief by Doordarshan as news item have also covered it and live streamed excerpts of it. So on what grounds do they question or criticize the Doordarshan’s decision of live streaming the RSS Chief’s speech? The media should be the last to comment on how Doordarshan should function. News channels better admit that DD News is one of their rival channels. The sooner they accept this reality, the better it is for them.
Some were foolish enough to suggest that no matter what Doordarshan, being the public broadcaster, should not have live streamed the Vijaya Dashami speech of the RSS Chief. This was the argument peddled by the outraged folks, when all other arguments of them were rendered futile. They are the same folks who always criticize the government enterprises for being sluggish, out of synchronism, incompetent, etc. While there can be a separate debate on whether we need a public broadcaster, the argument that DD should not have telecast the speech of RSS chief is naïve to say the least. Some folks are critical of the Prime Minister using the All India Radio to communicate with his own countrymen. Are we to subscribe this nonsense as well? Do these so called public intellectuals, who often pretend to be the expert on everything under the Sun, represent the people of India? Does the democratically elected Prime Minister not have the right to communicate with the people of India in the manner he deems fit? Who are these so-called opinion makers to suggest how the Prime Minister of an elected government should or shouldn’t communicate?
An average individual, living in a metro city like Mumbai, who perhaps has never watched any Doordarshan channel may think how foolish it is to attack Doordarshan while all other private channels are not only covering the same event but also live telecasting the excerpts of the RSS Chief’s speech? The answer is obvious- No TV network reaches rural as well as urban India like Doordarshan. ‘Doordarshan is the only channel with the widest terrestrial reach which caters to the remotest and border areas often neglected by the commercial interests of other channels’ were the words of former Union Minister of Information and Broadcast Ms Ambika Soni. The extent of the misinformation prevailing in remote villages of India can easily be gauged by the fact that many in those remotest villages believe that the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty was founded by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as the father of the nation. The interest of political parties like Congress and so called public intellectuals will be best served if this status-quo of the misinformation persists. It is also no secret that some media houses like NDTV act as the mouthpieces of the Congress party and mostly all media houses were/are highly critical of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the ruling BJP, and RSS. A competent rival in Doordarshan, which has the 100% reach through 24 hours satellite channels, 90.2% through terrestrial network of 1414 transmitters and a free to air DTH, DD Direct Plus, poses a grave threat to the propaganda peddled by the corrupt mainstream media on behest of their masters.
The real reason behind this blatantly mindless criticism and opposition is quite different from what they want us to believe. It is no secret that many political parties and public intellectuals are vehemently opposed to the ideology professed and preached by both RSS and BJP and rightly so. They are entitled to their belief that their ideology is best suited for nation and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But they want us to believe that ONLY their ideology is best suited for the nation and this is the principal reason behind their mindless criticism and protest. This fascist behaviour has no place in a vibrant democracy like India. While result of the Lok Sabha elections is still a riddle for them, the recent surge in online membership of the RSS has further panicked the pathological haters of the RSS and its ideology. They are afraid of the fact that people will reject their falsehoods when they come into the contact of RSS through such direct communication as there will, then, be little scope for distortion and out of context spin-doctoring.
The rules of the game have to be the same for all players, and cannot be changed overnight. Where were all these public intellectuals when Congress had blatantly abused both Doordarshan and All India Radio during the emergency? That blot on the democracy is never discussed by these so called intellectuals and opinion makers, but they have been passionately discussing all (factual and imaginary) angles of the riots that happened in 2002 in Gujarat as if those were the only riots in the history of independent India. They still spread the misinformation and propaganda that RSS was behind the plot to kill Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi despite the confession of the assassin of Gandhi Nathuram Godse himself and court ruling. If you had had no problem with blatantly anti-BJP slant of the media and motivated campaigns against the party and its ideological mentor RSS, you should not have any problem against BJP leveraging its influence over Doordarshan while it is in the office. I do not subscribe to the heavenly suggestion of those so called public intellectuals and some neutral observers that the onus of exemplary conduct while in the office is solely on the BJP. After all BJP is a political entity and it will cease to exist if it doesn’t adapt itself to the reality.
Let me remind all political parties, especially Congress, and public intellectuals that Prasar Bharti, which comprises of Doordarshan and All India Radio, is no longer the media unit of the ministry of Information & Broadcasting. That Prasar Bharti is an autonomous body is said for umpteen times by former I&B minister Sri Manish Tewari when the Congress led UPA was in power. By questioning the functioning of Doordarshan is Congress confessing that it had misused and abused the public broadcaster while the UPA was in power? Now someone would suggest that two wrongs don’t make a right. If you kept quiet or were beneficiary of the first wrong, you have the right to keep quiet now as well. And this by no means is admission that broadcast of the Vijaya Dashami speech of the RSS Chief by Doordarshan was wrong. I will reconsider my opinion if and when the Doordarshan starts spin doctoring in favour of the ruling BJP as it did in the Congress regime, or suppressing news uncomfortable to the ruling party as it did during the emergency.
To sum up, public intellectuals and political parties need to exhibit mature behaviour and accept the reality that people are not fools as they expect them to be. Also, rendering platform to different opinions is a unique feature of the democracy and hence the democratic media. You can criticize or even loathe the RSS but you can’t silence its voice and the people of India have the right to know what the Chief of India’s biggest cultural organization has to say.
Title Courtesy- Rahul Roushan